My sister’s daughter is exactly six weeks older than my eldest son. This was rather fortuitous for me, because once she’d given birth, my sis was able to give me lots of incredibly helpful advice as I prepared for the experience myself in my last few weeks of pregnancy (and ’cause we had a right old time on maternity leave together).
I remember feeling confused, though, when she told me not to pack my hospital bag without including a few small cartons of fruit juice. And get your husband to put the cartons in the fridge when you get there, she added.
Why on earth would that be essential?, rookie-me wondered. Shortly after my son was born, I knew exactly why Wise Old(er) Sis had given me this seemingly random, and hugely helpful, piece of advice.
I was fortunate enough to ‘successfully’ begin breastfeeding (engorged boobs, cracked nipples, rubber shields, recurring mastitis and all – yes it’s amazing and it did/does get better, but first it was owwwwch!), and quickly realised how thirsty* being the sole source of nourishment for a brand new human can make mums feel. (*Very, as it turns out!)
Sipping one of those cold cartons of juice in the middle of the night helped quench my thirst and give me a wee hit of sugar, and even when we left the hospital and went home with baby, my husband (shout out to all the amazing partners out there!) quickly got into the habit, in those early days, of automatically going to the kitchen and returning with water or cordial for me whenever The Boy woke for a feed.
The NHS’ guide to packing your hospital bag is a midwife-approved and totally amazing comprehensive guide to all the things you might need when labour day finally comes.
But here are a few more off-list items other mums have found helpful during their hospital stay with bub that you might not have heard before and may well want to add to your bag, too:
1. Lip balm
For some reason, it’s a common complaint for new mums that their lips can become dry or chapped during or shortly after labour. In case you find this happens to you, pack a good-quality lip balm in your hospital bag so you can apply it throughout your hospital stay to help stop any potential dehydration from happening.
You might like to pick something gentle – Burt’s Bees, Dermalogica and Lanolips all have beautiful lip balms formulated with natural ingredients included in their ranges.
2. Loose change
Great for so many things you might find useful throughout your hospital stay – from using a pay phone; to finding something tasty in the vending machine as you pace the halls to encourage active labour in the middle of the night; to sending your birth partner down to the hospital shop for a quick coffee, paper or magazine – having some small change in your bag is a handy thing.
Pop a few coins in a ziplock bag and place it in your hospital bag, or give it to your partner to mind.
3. Sucky sweets and essential oils
There are many great distraction tricks that can help you cope with labour pain, including listening to music, talking and laughing with your partner, introducing a new sensation such as getting in the bath or having a warm shower, and focusing on a taste or smell to get through a contraction. During labour with my second son, I sometimes sucked on a Murray Mint or Werther’s Original when a contraction started to come on, just so I had something nice to focus on other than the pain.
Essential oils can also work as a good distraction, and while it’s not recommended you add them to the birth pool if you’re using one, placing a few drops on a handkerchief or using an electric oil diffuser is fine. Ginger, mandarin, lavender and lemongrass are all suitable essential oils to use during labour.
4. Warm socks
As well as the unexpected chapped lips, some pregnant women find they become cold during or after giving birth. You might also experience the ‘postpartum chills’, an involuntary shivering that happens to some women shortly after delivery.
Pack a few pairs of extra-warm socks, with non-slip grips on the soles, in your hospital bag so you can keep your feet cosy and feel comfortable throughout your stay.
5. Portable speakers
Some hospitals supply CD players or iPod/iPhone docks in their birthing suites, but if yours doesn’t, ask if it’s okay to bring headphones or portable speakers with you instead.
Listening to music, podcasts or recorded meditations can be a great way to help you relax and distract you from labour pain.
6. Maternity clothes
Even after baby has vacated your tum, your beautiful bump might linger for a while to come. It’s not unusual to go from looking (feeling, and being) nine months pregnant on admission to the labour ward, to signing out of the maternity wing with a baby in your arms and a seven months pregnant-style baby bump under your – hopefully soft and loose! – top.
For most women, maternity clothes are still a great fit after baby is born, so pack some lovely loose-fitting items to head home in.
7. Spare undies (for your partner)
Almost every hospital bag list out there makes mention of clothing to pack for mum and baby, but the labour might be long and, if someone is coming with you – husband, wife, fiancé, girlfriend, sister, mum – it’s a good idea to have a few fresh items of clothing stashed for them too in case they don’t have a chance to go home for a while.
Don’t worry too much about a whole new outfit, but if you have the room, a spare pair of undies and a fresh top or tee will be a welcome surprise for your partner in crime.
What must-have item were you delighted you packed in your hospital bag?
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Moment Health is a technology company that aims to prioritise Maternal Mental Health and provide new parents with the tools and knowledge they need to sustain good mental wellbeing – from pregnancy through to parenthood.
The Moment Health app has been developed with clinicians and healthcare professionals. It screens for perinatal, postnatal and associated anxieties, and includes additional features such as a helpful guide to practical and accessible coping strategies.
At Moment Health, our mission is to make maternal mental health mainstream #MakeItMainstream.
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