When Pinterest is already bursting at the seams with birth bag checklists what more could I possibly offer? Well as a newborn photographer I meet lots of parents in the days immediately following their baby’s arrival and I’ve seen the full gamut of go-bags. From over prepared to travelling light I’ve seen it all - and I’d really like to help you figure out what YOU actually need!!
Of course, everyone is different. So I asked three “industry insiders” to weigh in with their ideas on the most useful items to include in your hospital go-bag.
Dr Kira Brent, a mother of two and Obstetrician with Origins in Auckland, admits that she takes a “less is more” approach herself.
“In my own case I just made sure [my husband] knew where to find my comfy clothes and knew where all the baby things were at home in case I wanted him to bring more in!”
But when it comes to advising the mothers that come through her doors at Origins she says that the basic idea is that everything should fit in one bag.
“Include a couple of changes of very comfortable clothes, your phone charger, toiletries and maternity pads. Bring lots of merino for baby. At least 3-4 of everything so that you don't have to think about doing the laundry until well after you get home!”
And what about the actual birth itself? Well, Dr Brent says that most parents need and use very little of what they bring in so it’s ok to pack light for that.
Sharlene Poole (of Little Miracles) is a mother of two and is well known as New Zealand’s “Baby Whisperer”. As a postnatal advisor she offers parents precious advice and guidance to help them enjoy the early years.
”I always think it’s best to take more than less, to save family members carting in more bags after the baby is born! A small cabin luggage size bag should be enough for you and baby”.
Sharlene recommends having one separate “going home” bag that someone can bring in for you containing a comfortable, breast feeding friendly outfit and loose shoes for swollen feet!
But if you want the Baby Whisperer’s ultimate secret to making sure your hospital stay is comfortable, it’s this
“Limit the number of visitors your have. This is your chance to bond and to learn the art of breastfeeding and establishing milk supply, and this takes concentration and time without too many disruptions. It’s hard to not want to “share” your joy but there is plenty of time for that in the days and weeks ahead!”
Similarly Sharlene recommends reading up on information, like her invaluable “Baby Whispering” book, before you leave home, but don’t take it with you she says. You likely won’t have time to read and your focus will be to feed, rest and bond with your newborn.
I recently had the privilege of photographing Lisa Hyde’s family after the arrival of their newest addition. Lisa is a Paediatric Nurse and mother of three. She gave me the skinny on what she considers to be the must have items in a hospital bag.
First to mind was your favourite snacks and a drink bottle.
“I didn’t have much of a hospital bag, but I did have a few snacks in there, which I added to as I waddled our the door to go to the hospital ... and it all got eaten!”
Working in a hospital has also given Lisa lots of practical tips to share.
“Something with your NHI number and LMC details on it would be helpful on arrival” she says.
And what if you end up admitted to hospital for any length of time? Lisa recommends
“...having your own pillow, jandals (for shared showers), comfy PJs and your phone charger with you. But leave anything expensive and non-essential at home she says because sadly patients’ stuff often ‘goes missing’.”
So with those ideas in mind, here is the expert approved…
Ultimate Hospital Bag Checklist
A Kiwi Mum’s Guide
A snuggly cardigan or zip-up hoodie & easy access PJ tops
You will spend an inordinate amount of time with your boobs out. Make it easy in your sleep deprived state to get them out and pack them away again.
A comfortable Nursing Bra
If you plan to breastfeed or express make sure you invest in a nursing bra that fits well and is comfortable. Look for easy to use clasps that clip on and off and wide stretchy shoulder straps. Personally I love the range at Hot Milk.
Warm socks, slippers, leggings and/or track-pants
If you haven’t cottoned on already I’m talking about comfort! You are not Kate Middleton. You will not be making an appearance for the press just hours after giving birth. You will be mooching around eating all the cookies, attempting to sleep sitting up while you feed or express, and wondering just how long it will take for that spongey pillow of extra padding around your middle to finally be reabsorbed by your body. Loose waistbands are in fact Tres Chic at this time.
Witch Hazel Pads
These life saving cooling pads are Dr Kira Brent’s top tip for mums having a vaginal birth. I found these ones online.
Hydrogel Disc Pads
If nipples could talk they would thank you for these little gems. These breast pads are a salve for cracked skin, cooling when your milk comes in (especially if you keep them in the fridge) and they help create a barrier against bacteria.
Sharlene Poole goes one step further recommending Nipple Shields, which can help prevent damage to begin with.
Maybe its the panting during labour. Maybe it’s hospital aircon. Whatever the case your lips will dry out and that will cramp your snacking style. I personally swear by Lucas Paw Paw cream .
On a similar note, you can expect to do mucho mucho hand washing in those early days. To prevent your skin drying out make sure a moisturising hand-cream is on your list. All the better if you can get something natural and perfume free to avoid any nasties transferring on your your baby’s sensitive skin.
I’m talking about sensible soft cotton knickers with stretchy waistbands. Depending on how you’ve delivered your lady parts are going to have a massive hangover. If you have to wear maternity pads for any length of time you’ll be glad to have sensible, wide Nana Knickers to adhere them to. There’s also a good chance that you’re going to want to throw these knickers away once things have “returned to normal”, so just buy a bulk pack of cheap cotton undies, preferably one size up from your normal size for maximum comfort.
Shampoo, Conditioner and Body Wash
Chances are you’re going to feel less than optimal. Washing your hair and body with something that smells nice (and not like a hospital) will at least make you feel 30% more human. Of course you’ll want all your other standard toiletries too.
Bring all the snacks. Feeding burns calories and not sleeping very much drains your reserves and nothing beats having your favourite snacks on hand when you feel a pang at 2am. Sharlene Poole recommends bring a batch of protein boosting breast feeding cookies!
Phone, Charger, Camera (with battery)
You WILL take a thousand photos of your new baby. And you WILL be expected to text them to your family immediately. Make sure you have what you need to capture the moment and stay in touch with people.
Eye Mask & Pillow
This might not be a necessity, but if you have trouble sleeping when it’s light then an eye mask will help - especially if you end up staying in hospital for any length of time. Likewise if you have an extended hospital stay you may want your own pillow.
Pen & Paper
If you do find yourself with time alone it can be nice to write down your early thoughts on motherhood or to take notes on what things are working for you.
Something special JUST FOR YOU
This will look different for every mum but I believe you should pack a little something that is just for you. Personally for me it was my iPad loaded with episodes of the Vampire Diaries that I watched while feeding at 3am! But maybe for you it’s some light magazines. Sharlene’s suggestion is your headphones and music. Whatever the case you’ll need something that is your little refuge.
LOTS of warm clothes
“Bring at least 3-4 warm merino outfits. This applies at any time of year, but especially during winter” says Dr Brent.
Make sure you include at least 2 of each of these:
All in one jumpsuits or Body suits
Singlets (a mix of cotton and merino is good because it can be warm in hospital too)
Outer layers (cardigans and jumpers)
Hats and booties
Nighties (long nighties are so much easier than fussing with domes and buttons over night)
And at least one of each of these:
Merino wrap or a light wool blanket (I can’t recommend these gorgeous ones from Heirloom Baby highly enough)
Personally I can’t go past the merino bodysuits from Nature Baby but there are plenty of affordable options to be found elsewhere.
Whatever you bring in the way of baby clothing, make sure it’s easy to take on and off! No new parent wants to be wrestling clothes over their newborn’s delicate head or fart-arsing about with those ridiculous dome up suits that never seem to line up once you get to the crotch. Instead, do yourself a solid and pack simple to fasten singlets and jumpsuits. Bonus points for pants with feet so you don’t need to constantly find tiny socks.
Sharlene Poole also recommends bringing a dummy to help with settling, and your own biodegradable nappy liners which you can wet with previously boiled water in lieu of wipes.
Sharlene also suggests bringing a stack of old fashion square cloth nappies (if you stay at a Birthcare unit they have these on hand). And in my personal experience those cotton squares are useful for so much more than their original purpose. You can buy them in bulk online.
A Capsule Carseat
In New Zealand the hospital midwives will insist on checking that your baby is correctly secured into their carseat. And they also won’t let you leave just carrying them in your arms. So your best bet is a capsule carseat that you can bring into the birth suite with you.
FOR YOUR PARTNER & OTHER KIDS
Their wallet, phone and charger
Dear partner/husband/wife/spouse/support person - it is your role to be the person that goes out and gets this new mum the sushi platter she’s been craving for the last 9months, even if she wants it at 10pm. Be prepared for short notice emergency runs.
If you’re planning on having your partner stay with your make sure they also have a couple of changes of comfy clothes and PJs (the nurses and midwives don’t need to see your partner roaming around commando).
Entertainment for visiting siblings
If you’re staying for a while and have your other children visiting then something simple to keep them entertained is helpful. As are more snacks!
In Lisa Hyde’s experience a few books and toys can keep enquiring minds busy (although medical equipment is inevitably much more fun to play with than toys!). This might be something your partner or another family member could bring in to save you taking up hospital bag space.
So there you have it. My ultimate checklist, with a little help from those in the know. Why don’t you go ahead and Pin this as your reminder.
I hope this Kiwi Mum’s guide is helpful. Have I missed something vital? Let me know in the comments below.