The photo below shows what was in my hospital bag for when I gave birth to Everly in September 2017.
I wasn’t sure how hot or cold the hospital would be (although I was told to expect all sorts of ‘seasons’ even during my 3 day stay due to the aircon working/not working). I had Everly at Mediclinic Pietermaritzburg, and had my husband and doula present through the entire labor (it ended up being an awful long time….nearly 36 hours!) and unfortunately ended up in an emergency ceasar. I feel as though I pretty much experienced both types of births (i.e. went into labor and laboured naturally, with no pain meds and then had the recovery for an emergency caesar) and would like to share what I packed and found useful, as well as the things I will definitely be packing this second time around.
I’m now 35 weeks pregnant, and have been told it’s probably a good time to get all my bags together (you know, just in case things start happening earlier than expected). So whether you are hoping for a natural birth or planning on having an elective caesar, this post should give you a good idea of what to pack. I
Not everything I packed last time is pictured above, as I had two separate bags, one for labor and one for my stay in the maternity ward afterwards. It helped separating everything and not having to dig around in one huge bag, and it really helped Farmboy and my Doula find things when I wasn’t able to be very coherent. I’m also going to mention afterwards what I plan on packing this time around, so you will be able to see what I actually ended up using, what I wished I had, and what I would highly recommend packing in your bag.
What I’m packing this time around:
As I’m not sure how this birth will go (I’m planning on/hoping for a natural delivery and spontaneous labor) but have learned from my first birth to be prepared for everything. Because of this I’m going to make sure to pack for both a natural & a caesarian…what you would pack isn’t very different, but if you have a natural delivery you might only spend 2 nights in hospital, whereas a caesarian is generally a 3 night stay.
You still need ALL of those maternity pads (I thought you only needed them if you had a natural delivery!) and those mesh panties WILL become your new best friend.
I am also packing two bags again, one for labor and the other for the time I spend recovering in the maternity ward.
What I’m packing in my ‘recovery’ bag:
Feeding bras (I actually only ended up wearing one when I had visitors, and the rest of time was far more comfy without one). My favourite ones are the soft nursing bras from H&M. I also really like their nursing tops (strappy tops that have a built in bra that you can lower the straps down to breastfeed). These tops are amazing for layering under your clothes and give your tummy more support, while also making you feel less exposed when feeding.
Comfy Pyjamas: last time I packed about 4 different sets of cute pyjamas, and ended up wearing the same one. I packed long night dresses that buttoned up the front, but found the buttons to be a pain to keep having to do up. This time around I am packing one ‘nice’ sleep shirt that buttons up, a soft cotton/viscose nightie (these ones from Woolies are my favourite as they are easy to pull down to feed) and this top and bottoms from PerryWinkle…see below:
Breast-pads: Generally your milk only comes in around day 3 or 4, and before that your body is only producing colostrum and so you don’t generally need to worry about leaks. My milk came in when I got home, and from the very beginning I had a very forceful let down. What this means is your milk pretty much comes gushing out (of both sides) as opposed to it flowing in a slower, more manageable way for baby to be able to drink nicely. Often, women with a forceful let down have problems with baby having lots of wind as they are trying to drink as fast as the milk flows and end up gulping lots of air. There are lots of things you can do for a forceful let down (different feeding positions etc) and it’s generally considered a positive problem to have. But one of the effects of having such a strong letdown was a lot of leaking, and so went through boxes and boxes of breast-pads (the Pigeon ones were my favourite disposable ones, and the Biddykins Breast Pads were my favourite washable/re-useable pads). Having to wear breast-pads was always such a pain, and the worst was forgetting to pack a stash of them when leaving the house. I always make sure to keep a whole stash in the car for those ‘just in case’ moments.
Breastpump & Nipple Shileds: While it isn’t advised to start pumping before your milk supply has properly established (usually around 6 weeks) I highly recommend taking a pump with you to the hospital. I had a few moments when my boobs were so full and uncomfortable, and while I didn’t really know what I was doing with the pump, it did help relieve them a little. Ideally you would want to pop baby straight onto the boob rathe than pump, but Every was placed under the lights to treat her mild case of jaundice for a couple of hours a day, and so it was during that time on our last day in hospital that I found the pump really handy. All that I was able to pump was a teeny bit of colostrum, but it did help.
What pump you buy is a very personal choice. I didn’t want to invest in a really expensive pump as I didn’t know how my breastfeeding journey would turn out. Personally, I would recommend buying a manual pump in the beginning, and then depending on how your breastfeeding journey goes, and if you have to go back to work, then perhaps you can invest in an automatic one if you find the manual one too time consuming/frustrating. I did pump quite a bit of milk and ended up building quite a large stash of milk in my freezer that I didn’t ever end up using. I donated my frozen stash to one of the Doula’s in the area who was helping a new mommy and her very prem baby. This was so special for me.
The reason I didn’t end up using the stash I had so lovingly built up was because I work from home and so was always around to be able to feed Everly directly. When she got older and I did leave her with Granny, she didn’t every really take to a bottle (I didn’t force this issue because I realised I didn’t really need to and while it may have been nice and convenient to have hubby feed her, I really cherished our special time together). Once baby gets older they go longer and longer between feeds, and so you do end up being able to leave them for longer periods of time without needing to worry about feeding. In these instances it was me that ended up suffering more, as my boobs adjusted to not being ‘drained’ and so I made sure to pack my pump in the car with me just in case I needed to pump for my sake. This is another bonus of having a smaller, more compact manual pump as you can pop it in your bag for emergencies. I really liked the Avent Manual pump, but have heard from loads and loads of mums that the Clicks Manual pump is just as good and about half the price. I have also heard amazing things about the teeny tiny and compact silicone breast pump (you can buy this one online from Biddykins or Faithful To Nature.
Before having Everly, I had no idea what a nipple shield was. It just sounded like some sort of weird kinky object, but now, after using them, I would recommend them 100% and strongly recommend friends pack them in their hospital bags for just in case. While a lot of the very ‘pro breastfeeding’ groups don’t recommend the use of them (they say they can cause nipple confusion and make your breastfeeding journey harder when it comes to weaning baby off them) I just feel that if they help you continue to breastfeed (even if they require effort to wean baby later on) they are 100% worth it. Breastfeeding isn’t always easy, and doesn’t always come naturally to a lot of moms. I wrote a post on my own 13 month breastfeeding journey (click here to read it) and offer lots of tips and encouragement for new moms. I say pack a set of nipple shields in your hospital bag for just in case. You don’t have to use them by any means, but if you have them then at least you have the option if things get off to a difficult start with your little one.
Gown & slippers: definitely pack a comfy gown & slippers to wear while wondering around the hospital. Just bear in mind the time of the year (in Winter you might want to wear a fluffy gown and fluffy slippers vs Summer…although the hospital will be temperature controlled). As with all the clothes I packed for hospital, I washed everything in a baby friendly detergent. Newborns have such a sensitive sense of smell, their teeny little bodies haven’t had any time to adjust to their new life outside of your tummy, and so you want to try and ensure they aren’t going to get a rash/reaction to the smells on your clothes (the same goes for body washes, perfume etc). My favourite baby detergent is the W.LAB brand from Woolworths. I washed all of Everlys clothes in it until she turned a year (she only officially started crawling then and so before then her clothes didn’t really get very dirty) and after that started washing all her clothes and blankets in the same washing powder we use for everything else in our home (Ariel). You don’t have to use a baby washing detergent, it all depends on how reactive your baby’s skin is.
Pads & Panties: whether you have a natural or a caesarian birth, you will bleed (for up to 6 weeks postpartum) and so will need to have a stash of pads on hand. I am so thankful to my sister-in-law who told me about this, as I had no idea. Maternity pads are your best bet (the Carriwell and Dr White ones are great) and then I recommend having a smaller stash of regular pads for later on when the flow lightens up. You will be given a pack of pads to use during your hospital stay (I was also given a pack in my Dischem Baby Bag and in the Baby Bag given to me when I had Everly in hospital) but if you want to stock up, you can buy maternity pads at most pharmacies, and then Clicks and Dischem have a really good selection. You can also buy lots of the Carriwell range on Takealot. Then I have to mention the mesh panties…these bad boys will become your best friend! They are gently on your tummy (especially if you’ve had a caesarian) and are big and stretchy enough to be comfortable. They are basically designed to hold your maternity pad in place, and while they aren’t the most glamorous of things around, they are super comfy! They come in packs of two, and you can either throw them away after each use, of you can gently handwash/machine wash them and re-use. I gave them a good wash in the shower between uses and then they dried really fast as they really are just a soft mesh material.
Pillow, extra pillow cases, a couple of dark coloured face cloths & 3-ply toilet paper: I really, really, really loved having my own feather pillow in hospital. If you do pack your own pillow, make sure to pack an extra pillow case (it’s so nice to put a clean and fresh one on) make sure they are brightly coloured so you don’t loose it during your stay. Dark facecloths are so you can freshen up nicely in your first few showers postpartum (you won’t want to use a white facecloth during that time, trust me!) and then my absolute MUST PACK is soft toilet paper. Maybe it’s just me, but having something soft to use when on the loo felt like a HUGE luxury after my long labor. My mom was the one who thoughtfully brought me a small pack of 3 ply paper for my stay. Needless to say it’s not something I would have thought about before hand, but it makes such a difference to use that instead of the horrible and scratchy 1-ply that is usually in the hospital loos.
Snacks: while you will get a good 3 meals a day during your stay (as well as tea/coffee mid morning and afternoon…gosh those first few cups of tea were heaven sent!) I was hungry ALL of the time, and often just wanted something handy to snack on and drink. I really enjoyed those small juice boxes from Woolworths, home baked bran and raisin muffins, biltong, nuts and those yummy oat bars from Nature Valley. I made sure to stock up on all these things for home (we stay about 1.5 hours from the nearest grocery store) but while in hospital, it was easy for hubby to pop out and grab me snacks and drinks during my stay.
Comfy going home outfit: I packed one of my Cherry Melon maternity dresses to wear for the car ride home as it was loose fitting and nice & cool. Bear in mind you will (probably) still have a tummy for the next good while (I read somewhere that you still end up looking about 4-5 months pregnant after baby) and so I knew I wouldn’t want to wear anything tight. If you have had a caesarian, you will especially not want to wear anything that is tight on your scar. A dress was really comfy.
Toiletries & Makeup:
wet wipes: my absolute favorite are the Garnier Skin Active Micellar Oil Infused Cleansing Wipes as they are super soft, gently, smell amazing and leave my skin feeling wonderfully soft and moisturised) .
Face Cleanser, Cream & Tonic from Skin Creamery. Their all natural & organic range of facial products smell amazing, and are really gentle on the skin. I love that they contain no nasty additives and leave your skin feeling wonderful. Just what every new mom needs. I also use the Oil-Milk cleanser & Everyday cream on my body.
Shampoo & Conditioner
Concealer/BB cream, Pressed Powder, Blus, Lip balm & Mascara: just a few of my favourite makeup products so I feel a little more like myself, especially for photos during my hospital stay.
What I’m packing in my labor bag:
2 Big fluffy towels: during my labor with Everly, I was in and out of the hot shower constantly. The hot water really helped with the contractions, and I really didn’t enjoy using a wet towel every time I came out the shower. The hospital did supply one towel, but I really liked having my own.
2 gowns: I wore one gown while things were ‘easier’ in the beginning of labor (this is the same pink gown I had packed and used for my stay in the maternity ward), and then really liked having my fluffy gown on hand to use in between showering. It also was the only thing comfortable enough to wear that actually made me feel covered up, and at the same time was easy to take on and off when needed.
Slippers: I packed one pair of slippers that I had in my labor bag, and then used those same ones once I was in the maternity ward later.
Dark coloured face cloths: these were absolutely essential during labor, and my Doula used two for cooling me off and keeping me comfortable when things got tough later on in labor.
Snacks: I didn’t want to eat much while in labor, but devoured a whole bag of Woolworth’s soft gummy sweets. I also enjoyed being able to drink apple juice in the beginning, but later on only wanted to suck on ice chips and drink water. Having some of your favourite snacks and drinks on hand (this is hospital dependant and not always allowed especially if you have an elective caesar booked but pack them anyway, you’ll get to eat them afterwards in any case).
Music: having something to listen to when things really started heating up was essential. It helped me to stay relatively ‘out of my body’ and focus on my breathing. Make sure you pack your charger for your phone/ipod and that you have comfy headphones too.
Nice smelling candle: this was another MUST have for me. I had a very special candle from South Korea which I just love and always makes me feel nice and calm when lit. Some ladies prefer some essential oils for massage or their favourite hand cream.
Toiletries: I’ll have my toiletry bag with me during labor with everything packed as specified above. As I was in and out of the shower, it felt great to be able to put cream on every now and again, and to use face wipes as the time went on.
There you have a full run down of what’s going into my hospital bags this time around. It’s on my To Do list to make a video of the above, and if I get around to it I’ll post it below. I am also writing a post on what to pack for baby next, so keep an eye on the blog for that. I’ll link it below when it’s up.
Please feel free to leave me a comment below if you have any questions or comments, I love hearing from you! Also, let me know if I’m leaving anything out!