It’s never too early to gather together all the essentials you’ll need during labour and birth, but having your hospital bag packed early will mean you are ready for whenever your baby arrives.
Expectant mothers are often advised to pack a labour bag full of essentials, along with a hospital bag for after the birth with your baby’s things and going-home clothes.
Women who decide to have a home birth should also prepare a bag to ensure everything is ready and in one place should they have to go into hospital at the last minute.
Midwife and childbirth expert Avril Flynn has shared her top tips for packing a labour and hospital bag.
She said: “When preparing for the great unknown that can be labour and birth, particularly first-time round, getting all the right items to bring helps you feel as ready as you can.
“It may be tempting to feel you need to bring in a bag containing everything including the kitchen sink ‘just in case’- however with these top tips you can be sure to feel ready with a much more manageable bag in tow.”
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It is easier to locate your essentials if you pack smaller bags, claims Avril.
“Instead of bringing in one mega bag, a much better idea to is to have a small bag containing all your labour bits and pieces and then another bag with can contain everything you might need on the ward, and a separate bag with all the baby’s things,” she explained.
“This means that you are not lugging in a 23kg monstrosity, clogging up your birthing space, with things you don’t need till after.
“Once the baby has arrived and you are moved down to the postnatal ward, your birth partner can bring in your ‘big bag’ for you.”
Label your items
The role of your birth partner, support person or doula is to help you find the various items you might need through your labour experience – but this can be difficult if your essentials aren’t labelled.
The childbirth expert said: “As you have packed the bag, you will know where everything is. However, if you are mid contraction, it can be very frustrating to need your facecloth or face spritz and your support team are unable to locate it in your bag.
“Putting everything into reusable plastic smaller bags or even paper bags, with the contents clearly labelled, means that anyone can find exactly what you need within moments.
“It also means you can be super organised and put your toiletries in one container, your underwear in another – and everything you need is just an easy pooch away.”
Practicality is perfect
What will you be most comfortable labouring in? Are you going to use the birthing pool? What will the baby's first outfit be?
“Everyone will answer these questions differently, but the answers will ensure that you have what you need in your bag,” says Avril.
“Make sure things are darker in colour as they are easier to wash afterwards. Labour wards tend to be very warm so lean toward lighter cotton-based fabrics for anything you pack.
“Make sure any night gowns are front opening to make skin-to- skin and breastfeeding easier. You will need the biggest, comfiest granny pants afterwards to fit your post birth body and to fit the maternity pads.”
Keep it zen
Research has found that women have a better labour experience when they feel calmer, safer and more conformable.
Hospitals can heighten stress, so packing a few home comforts can help create a relaxed environment.
Avril recommends: “Bringing in a pillow or pillow cover, taking a scented home spray, bringing the phone loaded up with visualisations or a labour playlist, taking in a picture of a loved one or of your ultrasound to remind you why you are there.
“Anything that you know you can listen to, smell, or see that will help calm your senses and your mind and enable you to have an empowering labour journey.
“It’s also important to be able to block out external noises or bright lights so earphones, a speaker and some sunglasses or an eye mask are very helpful.”
Daisy Ashcroft, a mother who has been through labour twice, has shared her hospital bag advice to help expectant women have the best possible experience.
She said: “No matter what kind of delivery you're planning on having, I'd say to prepare for a two night stay just so that you're covered in case of any eventuality.”
When it comes to clothing, Daisy recommends a nightdress or oversized t-shirt that you would feel comfortable labouring in and loose clothing for post-delivery.
She added: “Wear cosy socks with grips and sliders, flip flops or slippers for walking around the hospital and getting that baby's head really engaged.”
Daisy suggests packing at least three sets of clothing for the baby, including a bodysuit, onesie and a hat.
“The first hat that the baby is dressed in immediately at delivery will inevitably come away a little dirty, so always bring a few spares.
“Nappies are often an item that families forget to bring, or they bring the wrong size as the baby comes out bigger or smaller than anticipated. Don't panic as hospitals will have a little supply that they can lend you if this happens,” she added.
Daisy explained there are items that can be easily forgotten – including entertainment.
She said: “Induction of labour can often take longer than some women or their partners anticipate, and they will run out of things to do while waiting for the induction to kick start labour itself.”
To help get you through the initial hours, she suggests packing headphones, chargers, books, and sleep masks.
It can be easy to overpack your labour bag, but the hospital can provide a lot of these items, including breast pumps, powder formula and sterilisers.
Daisy added: “Some birth partners do bring the car seat with them for labour, although this isn't necessary until you're actually leaving the hospital.
“If mums end up staying overnight or for a few days, a car seat will take up unnecessary space in the delivery room, so leave it in the car or at home until you've got a discharge time advised.”
There's always something that someone has forgotten, or things that have been packed which don't even make it out of the bag, but the most important part is getting mum to the hospital safely ready for her delivery.
Daisy said: “Labour is the only blind date where you know you're guaranteed to meet the love of your life.”
Avril has compiled a list of items that she recommends expectant mothers pack in their hospital and labour bag.
Hospital bag list:
- Three cotton nightdresses or loose pyjamas
- Two maternity bras
- Breast pads
- Nipple cream
- Two packets of maternity pads
- Dark-coloured towel and face cloth
- Light dressing gown and slippers or flip flops
- Six pairs of old or disposable underwear
- Shower gel
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Cleanser and moisturiser
- Hairbrush and bobbin
- Phone and charger
- Magazine or book
- Notepad and pen
- Coins for parking, snacks for mum and birth partner.
In your baby’s bag:
- Six long-sleeved babygros or sleepsuits
- Six vests
- One pack of disposable new born nappies
- Two cardigans
- Two hats
- One blanket
- Two soft baby towels
- One baby sponge
- Nappy cream
- Cotton wool.
- Copy of birth preferences
- Details of any medication/hospital notes
- Nesting materials- labour spray, pillow, comforts from home
- Sunglasses/eye mask
- An old nightgown
- Sports bra
- bikini top or tankini (for birth pool)
- Light dressing gown and socks
- Slippers with grips on the sole
- Clean nightwear for after the birth
- Hair bobbin/ head band
- Lip balm
- Bottle for water
- Snacks for energy
- Facial mist spray
- TENS machine
- Phone charger
- Toiletries and towels
- Nappy, vest, baby-grow and hat (babies first outfit)
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