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Packing your labor bag, L&D nurse style

Keep your Labor/hospital bag simple!!! As a Labor & Delivery nurse and seasoned mom, I promise you less is more. Most hospitals and birthing centers have everything you need for your stay. It’s very tempting to pack EVERYTHING you think you need PLUS some, but realistically it’s more to keep up with and more to haul around than it is practical and actually gets used.

Essential items need to be with you at all times! Going to Work, to the grocery store, errands? Have it on your person! You should always have your ID and insurance card on you!

Grab a note card or piece of paper and write the following down on it: your name, date of birth, your OB/midwife’s name and clinic, as well as baby’s pediatrician’s name/clinic, allergies and reactions (medications, food, and LATEX), pregnancy complications, medical history/complications, or anything else that is significant to your care (no blood products due to religious beliefs). On the back- LIST ALL YOUR MEDICATIONS that you take regularly. Please list prescribed meds, over the counter meds, supplements, and herbs (including teas) that you regularly take or the ones you take occasionally (once or twice a week). If you have a prescription that is not available in the hospital (your prenatal vitamins that are the only ones you can keep down or specialized thyroid medications), make sure to have those available but please do not take until your provider or nurse OKs it. KEEP THIS NOTECARD IN YOUR WALLET! Make a copy for you partner. Below is a sample of a notecard. This will help out in emergencies, or if your labor is intense, or sometimes just plain ole placenta brain!

If you have a birth plan-have a copy in your purse.

An extra-long phone charger is a must keep in your bag (one for you, one for your partner). If you wear contacts or glasses, it is wise to have those supplies readily available. Your essentials are the things that you can't buy from the convenience store (and yes you can get chargers from the convenience store, but you'll pay an arm and a leg).

Mom’s: plan your bag according to your birth plan!

-Going natural or delivering at a birth center? LESS IS MORE!

If you plan to stay the minimum of nights in the hospital-less is more!! (1 night-one extra set of clothes for mom and baby, not 5 outfits each)

-planning on utilizing all hospital resources (epidural, the max nights, or possible c/s)? Plan for three nights worth of clothes.

Toiletries should be minimal, and again, based on the amount of time you will be spending in the hospital. Most of the time travel sized shampoo and conditioner are plenty.

Don’t bring your cute pregnancy undies, and padsicles, and depends, and the other things you think you need, unless you are choosing to use special items, they will be provided! Bring your jammies or nightgowns, nursing/sports bras, and a robe! That’s all you need! Most hospitals and birthing centers readily have birthing balls, peanut balls, or labor tubs. If you are unsure if these are available, ask your doctor/midwife or call the delivery hospital to see to what supplies are available!

Packing for baby-car seat and essentials only!! Trust me, I know how tempting it is to pack every cute little thing that you have purchased for your bundle of joy, but it is unnecessary!! Pack 2 outfits per day, no more. I know you think that playing dress up is a high priority, but sleep deprivation and avoiding making that little one cry is going to quickly step up to priority number one!!! If you are planning to strictly breastfeed and no known potential complications (i.e. flat or inverted nipple or complications with breastfeeding your first child) do not pack anything other than breast pads. You will not need anything. Utilize the lactation consultant and hospital personnel for breastfeeding assistance. Unless you plan on using a particular brand of diapers and wipes, do not over pack these items! Pack what you need to go home. That’s it. Nothing more.

Partners-again, keep it simple! Look at mom’s list, pack the same way! Add entertainment items, if wanted. (iPad's, laptops, books)

I would encourage partners to pack the snacks in either their bag or a bag that they are responsible for! Make sure you pack a sweet snack (a special treat for mom after delivery, honey sticks, granola bars, etc.), salty (chips, crackers, nuts, etc.), a protein rich snack (beef jerky, cheese, peanut or other nut butter, protein bar, etc.) and if you have a small cooler, or the hospital rooms have fridges or a patient fridge, fresh items (like fruits, veggies, meat and cheese, etc.) or apples and oranges if not.

EXTRAS: the extras are just that! Extra!

Most people use their smart phones for pictures, but if you or your partner has a really nice camera that you want to use (the partner should know how to work camera efficiently), bring it.

Bottles and such are ONLY IF YOU ARE NOT PLANNING TO BREASTFEED AT ALL! If you plan on formula feeding, it will be provided by the hospital. Unless you have had a child that had a severe allergy to regular formula, do not bring special formulas. Unless you have had a child that had severe reflux or other problems, do not bring your special bottles. Most pediatricians will recommend the infant to be started on regular formula and bottles.

Pillows and blankets are comfort items-if you are expecting a long stay or need an item for comfort or security, leave them at home. They are often left behind and are bulky to carry.

Hospital gown? Buy the CHEAPEST one! Do not buy that expensive, adorable gown for labor!!! Don't do it!!! Birth is messy!!! It will get destroyed and tossed before you even get to the postpartum unit!!! Make sure it unbuttons from the back and halfway down the front or the straps unbutton for skin to skin. Spend your money on a comfy breastfeeding friendly gown for after, or matching newborn gown and mom robe for after, or that expensive but ultra-comfy and convenient nursing bra (for after)!!!

If you plan on cord blood banking, the kit should be with you on admit or immediately after. Some hospitals have extra kits (if you thought about it and didn't chose a company, forgot it and your home is too far away to get before delivery, or baby comes earlier than expected). The cord blood banking (not donating or storage) is solely the parents responsibility. The nurses and doctors collect the blood, but then it is your responsibility to call for the courier.

Breastfeeding pillows, we all know them as the uber cute and multitasking Boppy, but it can be an inconvenient to lug around and use if not readily available (i.e. partner just fell asleep, cluster feeding, ect). Unless you are planning to stay awhile, leave this one at home.

Refillable water bottles are a convenient extra! They are a true extra but this one I would say is pretty important.

Peanut balls, birthing balls, labor tubs, and birthing stools should be readily available to use. Please ask your OB or midwife if these are available at your delivering facility, or feel free to call the L&D unit at your delivering hospital! (Also, if the hospital is offering tours, take advantage of them!)

Nurse/staff gifts-this is an extra item that will probably bring more happiness and a boost of morale than you will ever know or understand!! L&D staff do not expect this! But boy is it cherished!! A good, thoughtful basket is sometimes a literal life saver, being an only source of nutrition for long periods during those hectic days!! A great basket includes essentials like hair ties, lip balm, gum (you'll also appreciate clean breath!!), or mints, granola bars or nutrition bars, trail mixes, crackers or pretzels, chocolate, and some form of caffeine! I promise you; this does not need to be extravagant or expensive! It will be loved and cherished and should only be done if you budget for it! ALSO nurses love cards!!! Another thing to note: you will not receive better care if you provide one! It is purely just a nice gesture.

What not to pack?! Valuables! Leave your diamonds and irreplaceable items at home! Things happen and then things get misplaced. Large amounts of cash, just don't. Grab about $20 bucks in change for vending machines and such.

If you are planning on breastfeeding only, I strongly encourage you to not bring pumps, pacifiers, bottles, formula, or any other item that will discourage breastfeeding! Pumping (unless you have a premature infant) is not necessary in the hospital. Bringing bottles or pacifiers with the "just in case" mentality can also be harmful to establishing breastfeeding. If you have flat or inverted nipples, it is fine to bring, but you should be strongly encouraged to attempt to establish breastfeeding without these tools first and to have a lactation consultant to assist you with latch before using them.

Planned Cesarean Sections (Or probable ones)- Pack the same way but expect to be in the hospital for at 3 nights. The minimum is 48 hours, the max is 4 nights (these are no complication standards). Make sure your bottoms and panties are c/s incision friendly, in other words HIGH WAIST! Some people love abdominal binders, most hospitals have them, if you are having a lot of pain when walking, it may be worth giving this a try. Other than a few extra clothes, don't pack too much else.

Natural Childbirth (or delivering at a birth center or wanting minimal hospital stay/care)-LESS IS BEST!!! Bring the minimum items needed for quick and effortless (and worry-free) discharge to home! Have a conversation with OB, midwife, or call the hospital to see about available labor tools are readily available.

What do you think? Anything I forgot, or should address, or anything else you felt was necessary?

What would you like to hear about next time?


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