17.1.16

Hospital bag necessities and non-cessities

I meant to post this in good time so my lovely amiga could learn from my 'wisdom' but then she went and had a baby 3.5 weeks early so it was not to be. Hopefully someone else might benefit from this! 

Before I start, I'll say that I knew I was going to be in hospital for at least 3 nights, so my list might look a little different to someone who expects to be out within a few hours of birth. As it turned out, I spent 5 nights in hospital, but I got the bag packing mostly right. Matt had to bring in extras of things like nappies and clean clothes, but I did pretty well. 

The essentials: 
- the obvious: toothbrush and toothpaste. These are some of the first things you'll want, especially if, like me, your labour ends with a good puke 
- nappies, obviously. Size 1 for sure. 
- comfy pjs and nighties. If you're going to be in for a few days then I'd allow for one or two sets per day for the first couple of days (you'll bleed, sweat and leak milk so you're going to want to change them pretty frequently), then one pair per night thereafter, once you can move on to... 
- comfy clothes for the daytime. Leggings and nursing vests (H&M do fab, cheapish ones) are your friends. Don't attempt jeans, even on going home day. And especially don't attempt non-maternity jeans. You don't need to feel bad about yourself just yet. 
- maternity bras. These are amazing. I have all three colours. They're supposed to be for sleep and hospital, but I'll be honest - I started wearing mine while pregnant and only stopped recently to move onto some prettier Hotmilk ones. These are fab - soft, absorbent for any milky leaks and super super comfy. You will not regret buying some of these bad boys. 
- maternity pads. I found the Boots own brand ones to be pretty good, but I got on best with Kotex maxi towels. Tres absorbent and tres comfortable. 
- hairbands if you have long hair. No one wants hot, sticky hair in their face when they're trying to push. 
- snacks. Not so much for labour (I felt sick the whole time and couldn't eat) but afterwards you'll want something with a good sugar/carb content. I baked a loaf of banana cake right before I went in (not so practical unless you know when you're going in or have a long first stage) and sliced it up and put it in a Tupperware to take with me. I think that may have been the single best idea I have ever had, ever. That banana cake kept me going through the sleepless nights and gave me a quick energy boost during those many midnight feeds on the postnatal ward. 
- phone/iPad charger. You're going to want to call/text people to tell them your wonderful news, and you're probably going to want to while away the midnight feeding hours with an Internet fest. Running out of battery power would not be fun. 
- Water Wipes. However much you think you won't use wipes straight away (see below), you will. These don't have any nasties so can be used on brand new bottoms without causing any irritation. They're also great for a quick underarm/face freshen up between showers. 
- giant granny pants. I took in a few pairs of the mesh postnatal pants you can buy, but found I got on better with the big knicks I'd bought from Marks and Spencer. Buy 'em big (1-2 sizes up from your non-pregnant size) so they can accommodate a flabby tum and mattress-like maternity pad, and black so they disguise any lochia leaks. 
- flip flops. Not so much for the showers, which turned out to be a lot less grim than rumoured, but more just for pacing the halls when your little one is crying all night. 
- basic clothes for your baba. Short sleeved vests, babygros with built-in scratch mitts (John Lewis, Mothercare, M&S and Jojo all do them). Newborn size should be fine, unless you know you're expecting a particularly small/large baby. Don't be fooled into thinking 0-3 months really means from birth. It doesn't. Annika didn't fit 0-3 month clothes until about 7 weeks, and she's a fairly average size baby. 
- cotton baby hats. Pack more than one hat as it's the first thing they'll put on your baby when they've passed him/her to you, so the first one will get covered in blood/vernix/general labour goop and you'll want a clean spare for later. 

The 'nice to haves': 
- your own toiletries. I took in miniatures of shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant and moisturiser. I used the shower gel (though the hospital's offering was fine) and the hair stuff (but probably wouldn't have bothered had I been going straight home) but the rest was pretty redundant. As was the make up I'd taken in - I applied a tiny bit to go home, but that was it. No one cares what you look like and everyone else looks just as awful as you. 
- arnica pillules. I used these - I have no idea if that's why I healed quickly but I did, and it could well have been down to these little things

The things you're told you'll need to pack but you don't: 
- your own birthing ball. Hospitals have these. Leave yours at home unless you're particularly precious about these things. 
- fancy things for labour. I took in aromatherapy oils, rosewater facial spray and a special relaxing room spray I'd got from my YogaBirth class. I managed one application of the room spray before the pain stopped me caring about where I was or what it smelled like. I figure it's the same for music - I didn't make a labour playlist but I'm sure that, if I had, whether Ed Sheeran or Adele crooned along in the background would have been the least of my worries. I imagine the only exception to this, at least for me, would be a planned c-section. 
- things for postpartum healing like tea tree oil and witch hazel. You won't get a chance to bathe, unless perhaps you're giving birth in a fancy schmancy private hospital, so the tea tree is out. The witch hazel on pads idea might be a good one (I was lucky and had very minimal damage down there so never had cause to use the bottle I'd bought) but probably one for once you get home. I carted all that stuff in and...carted it right back home again. 
- your own towels. Every pregnancy website under the sun will tell you to pack your own towels as it's nicer. Is it? I packed one, used it for my first shower, got it covered in blood and spent the remainder of my stay using the hospital ones. If someone's towel is going to get covered in blood, I'd rather it wasn't mine, thanks. 
- cotton wool balls. I know you're supposed to top and tail with cotton wool and use them to clean up baby poop, but you won't. You'll use Water Wipes like any other sane person would. Plus cotton wool + meconium = the baby butt equivalent of tarring and feathering. 
- cute outfits. This holds true for both you and the baby. I didn't bother getting Annika a 'going home' outfit (sleepsuits are so much easier and in my opinion look way cuter on tiny babies than 'proper' clothes) and all I wanted to wear was maternity leggings and vest tops. Yes, I looked like a tramp, but comfort is king when you've recently birthed another human being. 
- socks. I have no idea why every book/website about labour tells you to pack socks in case your feet get cold. Postnatal wards are hotter than the sun. And if you're stuck in one long enough to need socks, they'll be forcing you to wear the super-unsexy compression stockings anyway. 
- a dressing gown. See above. The surface of the sun is no place for superfluous layers. 

I'm sure I've forgotten loads of other important stuff, so please let me know I'm the comments what you found useful/pointless. I foresee another edition or ten of the post in my blog's future... 

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