This article is the culmination of my birthing experiences. It includes a comprehensive list of items you will need, along with tips that I’ve developed as a result of these experiences.
These tips are here to help you navigate as smoothly as possible through the inevitable pain and aggravation that are part of the hospital birthing and recovery process.
I’ve had multiple births, in multiple states. They ranged from the classic hospitals, a dedicated midwife center, a hybrid midwife center inside of a hospital, and even one water birth at home. Some births were with medical intervention and some without (stay tuned for a comprehensive comparison of birthing solutions in a separate- to-be-published article) and I hope to impart some of this wisdom to you via this list of items to bring to the hospital with you when having your baby.
(please scroll to the end of the article for a quick bullet pointed summary of important items minus the added commentary)
These moments are priceless. Your birth is wondrous. Your baby coming into the world is miraculous! Try to capture the moments as best you can.
Personal care Items:
The hospital, unfortunately, does not provide a complete solution for all personal care items that you will need throughout your stay. While most hospitals will provide some basics such as hand towels, toilet paper, soap, (oversize) sanitary pads, as well as diapers and wipes for the baby, there is not much else that they will be supplying. Therefore, it is important to pack the rest of your sanitary and beauty regimen to fill in the gaps. Plan to include basics such as travel size Shampoo, conditioner, body wash, toothpaste, toothbrush, hair brush (wet brush is the best for gentle detangling), lotion, contact solution, razor, sanitary pads etc.
They have online now really cute, refillable travel containers that are leak proof and squeezable. I wish that I had invested in more user friendly dispensers for the hospital showers. It would have saved me a lot of frustration. What’s cool is that with this set that I’ve found you can stick them up onto the shower walls or hang up onto hooks. I wish I had known about them earlier!
Anything that assists in keeping things flowing internally and helps with postpartum digestion/elimination is important. After the birth your nurses may try to push you to use Senna tablets as well as stool softeners. The concern with Senna is that Senna can cause painful cramping and diarrhea, while the stool softener uses gelatin that will not comport with vegan, Halal, or kosher diet requirements.
Being well hydrated will help you more confidently feel that you can keep your body’s fluids moving without the need of such interventions. Of course, we can’t forget that soon you will be literally leaking fluids out of every orifice in your body. To get graphic for a moment, there will be blood, colostrum and breastmilk production, tons of sweat (hormonal) as well as tears of fear, relief and Joy! It’s a marathon and hydration is the name of the game.
Coconut water is said to have natural electrolytes. I found it very helpful to bring along a fresh carton, and this can do double duty for hydration during labor – especially if you don’t plan on using an IV with fluid. Also, it won’t hurt to bring your own water bottle with whatever fluid you like best.
Throw a pinch of sea salt or pink himalayan salt in there too for more electrolyte balancing. You can add a couple drops of Stevia to sweeten it up to make it more palatable. I love Stur as my water enhancer. A tiny bit goes a long way. I find that I am able to drink literally three times the amount when the water has some flavor to it. Also bring tea bags of your favorite healing selection like “Mother’s milk” or Chamomile, Lavender, Ginger etc.
The more you can tune into the calm and peace within your own body, the better your body can fully relax and effectively take on all the hard work of labor. And you’ll want the relaxation to continue as you move into postpartum mode. Bring along your most relaxing items that help you create a healing environment. Bring your Hypnosis CD or download it onto your phone. Bring your headphones to listen and tune other noises out. Take along a white noise machine (an actual internal fan creates a fuller, pleasing sound), or download a white noise app onto your phone. Don’t forget your phone charger (and an extension cord)!
A nice eye mask can block out any unwanted lights, help you to focus inward on your breathing and help you to catch some much needed sleep. A Lavender spray can help transform the labor room as well as postpartum recovery room into a much more pleasing and calm environment. I have found a lavender spray that not only masks scents, but completely eliminates them – naturally. Positive Essence Lavender Aromatic Room and Linen Mist brand from Amazon is really good! It is natural, hand mixed and doesn’t have that terrible synthetic headache inducing smell that many of the chemical based air fresheners still use.
Confession: I still use this spray daily for whenever there is a diaper change. I even pack it along on day trips just in case we need to freshen up. It is also great for helping you fall asleep more easily. Just lightly mist your pillow before heading in. But remember; spray away from eyes and face!
Healing Comfort Tools:
Heat is the absolute main thing that heals and soothes postpartum cramping. A heating pad filled with natural herbs and seeds or cherry pits feels so wonderful! The heating pad that I discovered has a soft cotton cover and is easy to pop into the microwave for a couple minutes. I love the instant penetrating heat and weighteness to this pad. It conforms to the body rather than laying flat and unbending like other electric pads on the market.
The pad that I used constantly for my last birth was SacksyThyms heating pad and it gave off a soft herbal scent when it was heated in the microwave. The nurses in the hospital were all intrigued by the heating pad since it smelled so nice and it seemed to be replacing my need for any pain medication for the intense postpartum cramping (which is triggered btw when nursing your baby)
Another great tool to use when trying to go all natural is a powerful handheld massager. It was a lifesaver for two of my pregnancies when going through lower back labor pain. If your spouse or doula are with you to help, they can place it right on the spot on the lower back where you feel the most discomfort. It really helps!
A very useful little item for when your are experiencing discomfort from breastfeeding is a little container of natural nursing cream. This is especially important to have on hand if this is your first baby or if you have had a long break from nursing between babies and are starting fresh again. Also, if you don’t have someone guiding you how to latch and position your baby for feedings, you will have a higher chance of needing something soothing to get you through the initial learning phase. (My first baby was nursed without the help of any nurses or lactation consultants and we were totally on our own at the hospital in terms of postpartum care. The level of breastfeeding pain experienced in the first few days was on par with my labor pains!)
A cozy multi tasking comfort item is the nursing pillow. I used the Moonlight Slumber Butterfly Pillow before, during and after birth. While in my last trimester it was great to use as a sleeping aid. It served as side lying support between my legs and was just slightly tucked under the bottom of my pregnant belly to lift and support there as well. At the hospital It was much better than any of the thin and flimsy pillows they have on hand. I was able to lean into it while in labor and use it for resting and breastfeeding support afterwards. The cool thing about the butterfly pillow is that its ends are like flexible wings that fold underneath to create a height that easily lifts the baby into proper breastfeeding position.
One more suggestion for you that might come in handy is the kneeling pad. If you are planning on laboring in the hospital and avoiding medical intervention, the kneeling pad or gardening/yoga pad which is basically a thick piece of foam will allow you to position yourself in an ideal kneeling down position while leaning into a hospital birthing ball. Make sure to get one that is meant to get wet so that you can use it afterwards when kneeling down and bathing your baby in the bathtub at home!
It takes a lot of energy to give birth! You burn many calories while in labor. Just when you think you are done needing extra energy, all that constant nursing demands even more! So, it’s good to have extra calorie-packed healthy snacks as a backup.
Energy balls or protein packed energy cookies are a must! Another great alternative is to make your own trail mix of whatever nuts, raisins, cereals you prefer and having that on hand as backup. The hospital provides the basic meals but there is no guarantee that they will fit all of your dietary needs. Personally, I have a pretty narrow selection of what I can eat since I stay away from gluten, dairy, soy, and also keep kosher!
For you and the baby. You will need underwear and nursing tops. I recommend having on hand a comfy cotton nursing bra, nursing tank top, and nursing t-shirt or sweatshirt. A pack of absorbent nursing pads are also very useful in case you leak a lot in the beginning. You can get both washable and disposable pads and see which ones you like better. As a rule, everything feels better when it is cotton and sweat absorbent!
For the postpartum belly a good tight abdominal binder wrap can hold in your loose belly and help bring everything back into place. It will also help you feel more alert and confident in the way you walk and look.
Don’t forget, you will need a baby outfit too! My favorite brand is Burt’s Bees baby clothing. I noticed that they have such beautiful cotton outfits.
My hospital provided a shirt and a small receiving blanket and diapers, but you can’t put the baby in his/her car seat without something covering their legs! A backup baby wrap is not a bad idea to have on hand as well. Aiden and Anais wraps are wonderful in their generous size and breathability. The hospital wraps are very small and difficult to get a good tight swaddle without it unravelling.
You simply cannot have too much comfort at your disposal when going through labor and postpartum recovery.
The sooner you start building up your body and warding off any impending infections or illness the better! The stressful experience of birth places you in a fragile state of health. A good quality sitz bath with some therapeutic bath salts is important to have on hand as you are more prone to IUDs and hemorrhoids after giving birth. A well run hospital should have extra sitz baths on hand to let you use and bring them home. I successfully treated IUD infections in the past using Epsom salt and a couple drops of tea tree oil in very warm water.
I usually just purchase the tea tree oil from Trader Joe’s and the epsom salt from my local Giant Eagle or CVS. However if you want a nice prepackaged mix, I recommend Recovery Ritual Sitz Bath Salt. this is what I used last time I was in the hospital. It is not as cost effective since it does not last as long, but its small size is very convenient for taking to the hospital and it has a good amount of different gentle therapeutic ingredients added in.
You will also want to bring along a LaVie lactation massager to help prevent impending engorgement and breast infections. Engorgement can be a very frightening experience when you wake up one morning and realize you are unable to nurse your baby since your breasts are hard as a rock (and sore to boot!) This situation often occurs in the first weeks postpartum. Using the LaVie lactation massager will help to dislodge the hard lumps and get the milk flowing again, therefore alleviating uncomfortable engorgement which will enable your baby to latch on to nurse. I recommend a three pronged approach 1) hot moisture 2) hand expression 3) deep massage. Performed in sequence, these 3 steps pack an effective punch against engorgement.
One other area of preventative care is your iron levels. Very often women lose a lot of blood in childbirth and it can place them in a precarious situation. I was very anemic in my fifth pregnancy and was told that I need to have a blood transfusion if my iron levels dropped any lower. That scared me enough to convince me to take my own iron supplements and invest in a supply of my own trusted brand. I have successfully used Vitanica iron extra supplements along with Mary Ruth’s liquid drops B complex. I like using Mary Ruth’s since this supplement is methylated which is especially important if you have any MTHFR mutations in your genes.
Thankfully, even though my last pregnancy was not that far apart from the previous birth, and I was concerned that I wouldn’t have enough time to build up my blood stores, my iron levels improved and went back to the normal range!
The less things you have to figure out and struggle with in your new exhausted state, the better! Make sure to bring along a car seat if your spouse or doula don’t plan on going home to bring it back to the hospital. There is not much more to say except maybe double check that you know how to install the car seat properly before heading out to the hospital.
There are super smart strollers out there like the Doona Stroller (I haven’t used this yet but I am intrigued). The carseat stroller is basically like one of those transformer toys. The wheels simply fold back inwards when you want to fit the stroller onto your seat in the car. Especially useful if you need to take a taxi home and if you live in an urban area without your own car. This stroller is small and can fit in between narrow aisles if travelling on board a bus or plane. I imagine if Batman were a dad he would have one of these cool stroller/car seats in his batmobile!
I know. A doula is a person and not a thing, but I cannot overstate how important it is to bring a support system when going to the hospital (besides for the one you will need when you return home). There are times when you will be in too much pain or just too tired to speak up for yourself.
Your doula can be your spokesperson/advocate and let all the nurses on staff know what important details you put into your birth plan. She will remind any personnel that enter your room to be quiet and respectful. She will tell them that you don’t want an epidural unless you give a certain sign. She can ask them to allow you to have space to breathe down the baby in pushing mode instead of pressuring you to do the forced vein popping breathing.
She can be there to help give your spouse or partner a break to go and get something to eat or to go home and take a much needed nap. There are pearls of wisdom that your doula can share with you to give you reassurance and insights about what to expect when you are in labor and give you real comfort measures to help you cope better with the pain. She can even help you to come up with positive affirmations to help you to deal with any birth fears that you may have.
A doula is basically an invaluable helper that will literally hold your hand throughout the most intense physical and emotional roller coaster ride of your life. When the ride is over, you have a higher chance of feeling empowered exhilaration and relief rather than feeling upset or helpless about the birth.
Sense of wonder for new life:These moments are priceless. Your birth is wondrous. Your baby coming into the world is miraculous! Try to capture the moments as best you can. Everything turned into a blur for me after having the baby and being sleep deprived for weeks on end. Bring your camera or your best phone for taking pictures. Cherish these moments. Life is a huge miracle and we are blessed to be able to bring new life into the world! Hug and kiss your baby. Hold your baby close against your warm skin, and enjoy being the wonderful mother that you were meant to be!
- Shampoo (travel size)
- Conditioner (travel size)
- Body wash (travel size)
- Refillable squeezable bottles
- Hair brush
- Contact solution
- Sanitary pads
- Coconut water
- Water bottle
- Sea salt
- Pink himalayan salt
- Stur water enhancer
- Mother’s milk tea bags
- Hypnosis Cd or download
- White noise machine
- Phone charger
- Positive Essence Lavender Aromatic Room and Linen Mist
- Energy balls
- SacksyThyms heating pad
- Handheld massager
- Nursing cream
- Moonlight Slumber Butterfly Pillow
- Gardening/yoga pad
- Cotton nursing bra
- Nursing tank top
- Nursing t-shirt or sweatshirt
- Nursing pads
- Abdominal binder wrap
- Baby outfit
- Aiden and Anais Baby wrap
- Sitz bath
- Epsom salt
- Tea tree oil
- Recovery Ritual Sitz Bath Salt
- LaVie lactation massager
- Vitanica iron extra supplements
- Mary Ruth’s liquid drops B complex
- Doona car seat stroller
- Good Camera