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Packing Your Hospital Bag – What You Need, What You Don’t and What the Hospital Gives You For Free!

Before my first baby, I scoured the web to see what other people were packing in their hospital bags. Tube socks with tennis balls. Battery operated massagers. Essential oil diffusers. Most of it seemed kinda crazy, but what did I know? I was new to this whole labor and delivery thing. So I packed most of it and didn’t use half of it.

The second time around, I had a scheduled c-section. I knew what to expect, so I whittled my bag down to just the necessities. Plus, I had it packed at 35 weeks just in case the baby came early. Check out my packing lists below to see what you need, what you don’t and what the hospital gives you for free.

For You

  • Hospital Registration Forms
  • Driver’s License
  • Medical Insurance Card
  • Toiletries – Toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, hair brush, hair ties, contact lens case, contact solution, glasses, glasses case.
  • Lip Balm – This item gets its own bullet because it’s just that important. Hospitals rooms are cold and dry. Which means your lips will get chapped. I pulled this sucker out multiple times a day, every day. I use this Banana Boat Sunscreen Lip Balm with Aloe Vera, Vitamin E and SPF 45. Because Florida.
  • Dry Shampoo – This one also gets its own bullet. Seriously, what did moms do before dry shampoo??? Yes, I had a shower in my hospital room, but I didn’t take one until day three. Before that, I was too weak and tired to take a shower. But a spritz of dry shampoo on my hair in the morning made me feel a little more human. I use Living Proof Perfect Hair Day Dry Shampoo because it has a light scent and doesn’t leave a white residue.
  • Makeup Eraser – Just add water and one side removes dirt, oil and makeup (even waterproof mascara!) and the other exfoliates. I didn’t have an ounce of makeup on during my hospital stay, but this reusable Mini Makeup Eraser gave me a much needed facial each night. 
  • Snacks – After you deliver, you’ll be starving because you haven’t eaten in hours. At first, you’ll go slow, sipping the free juice and eating applesauce from the “nourishment” fridge in the hospital. But after a few hours, you’ll want something more substantial (and let’s face it, hospital food is pretty gross). I packed dried fruit, trail mix, peanut butter pretzels and granola bars. 
  • Technology – Phone, iPad, chargers and headphones. Don’t forget headphones! They were great when either I or my husband stayed up late with the baby and wanted to watch something on Netflix without waking the other one. We also watched a few movies together on the iPad during meals.
  • Going Home Outfit – I brought two outfits because I wasn’t sure which one I’d feel like wearing. The first was a casual nursing dress with a sweater because I thought I wouldn’t want anything touching my incision area going home. The second was a pair of maternity shorts with a high belly band and a loose nursing top. I ended up going with the second outfit because I didn’t feel the least bit like dressing up, even casually. I also felt like my insides were going to fall out, so I liked the security of the belly band holding things together. After you deliver, you’ll still look about 6 months pregnant, so don’t even think about trying to squeeze into your pre-pregnancy clothes yet.
  • Sleep Mask – If you don’t have one, go buy one right now. You’ll thank me later. Both before and after labor there are monitors, computers and IV machines that emit lights you can’t turn off. Also, the nurses will check on you every few hours to take your vitals (and baby’s vitals), and they’ll turn lights on and off. A sleep mask will block the lights, help you get to sleep faster and stay asleep longer.
  • Nipple Cream – Breastfeeding, as awesome as it is, is hard on your nipples. Especially in the early weeks. Think about it – you’ll have a tiny human munching on your nips 10 – 12 times a day. Of course, they’ll get chapped until they build up a tolerance. But a swab of Lansinoh Lanolin after each feeding session helps tremendously. This cream is also safe to rub on your baby’s lips if they get chapped too.
  • Nursing Cover Up – The hospital staff doesn’t care if your boobs are out while you feed your child. Heck, the guy who collects the Sharps needles came into the room while I was breastfeeding and he didn’t bat an eye. But if you’ll have visitors (especially of the male variety) while you’re in the hospital, a nursing cover up will help you, and more importantly, them, feel more comfortable when you feed the baby. Mine is made by Udder Covers. My parents came to visit me every day for our 4-day hospital stay and I didn’t want to whip my boob out in front of my dad.
  • Flip Flops – These are a staple in FL anyway, so it’s unlikely you’ll forget them, but keep them on the list. You’ll want to slip them on to go to the bathroom, the NICU/nursery (if your baby ends up staying there), the nourishment room or just to walk the halls during your recovery. 

For Your Support Person

  • Toiletries
  • Technology
  • Reading Material – Books, magazines, mail, etc. They’ll spend a lot of their time waiting. Make sure they have plenty to read.
  • Clothes – Bring at least 3 outfits including shirts, shorts/pants, and underwear for your support person. Complications can happen and you both may end up in the hospital longer than you plan.

For Your Baby

  • Going Home Outfit – Bring both Newborn and 3-month sizes because you never know how big your baby will be. My first was 8 lbs, 8 oz and went straight to 3-month clothes. My second was 7 lbs, 12 oz and wore Newborn outfits for the first few weeks.
  • Swaddle Blanket – The hospital will provide blankets while you’re there, but you may want one to tuck around your baby in the car seat for the ride home. We love the Aden & Anais blankets because they’re made of lightweight muslin. In the FL heat, that’s the only swaddle blanket we’ll use. Others tend to cause baby to overheat.
  • Gifts – In the month before I was due, I took my 3-year-old to Target and asked him to pick out a stuffed animal to give to the baby when she arrived. I also purchased a gift to give to him from the baby to make him feel like a special big brother. 

What You Don’t Need

  • Makeup – I packed a small bag of makeup with both deliveries and then laughed at myself upon unpacking it when I got home. I never touched it. It didn’t matter. Bonding with my baby mattered. Doing skin-to-skin mattered. Establishing a good breastfeeding relationship mattered. Cuddling mattered. Eating mattered. Sleeping mattered. Makeup didn’t matter.
  • Curling/Straightening Iron – No mama has time for that.
  • Nightgowns – A lot of women recommend you bring your own nightgowns with you to the hospital because not everyone likes the hospital gowns. Save yourself the trouble. Sure, hospital gowns are one-size-fits-all and unflattering. But you’ll be leaking every bodily fluid imaginable while you’re in the hospital. Do you really want to ruin your own nightgowns? Nope.
  • Diaper Bag, Diapers, Wipes, Breast Pump – The hospital will provide all the baby supplies you need during your stay, even a breast pump if you end up needing one (which, I did). 

What the Hospital Gives You For FREE!

I delivered at Lakewood Ranch Medical Center, so if you’re delivering at Sarasota or Manatee Memorial Hospitals your list of freebies might be a bit different. You can always call ahead of time and ask. Also, the nurses will ask each day if you need more of anything. Say YES. Get as much free stuff as you can. Especially right before you leave. Just ask for more. They’ll give it to you. Trust me, when you see that insurance bill, you won’t feel bad about it one bit.

  • Socks – You’ll get both compression socks and the warmer socks with gripper bottoms.
  • Maxi Pads – The nurses will slap a pad on you the moment after you deliver and you’ll wear one for 6 weeks postpartum. The medical grade behemoths are the definition of MAXI. But they need to be during those first few days. Whether you deliver vaginally or via c-section, you’ll bleed. A LOT. I’ve heard some women buy Depends to wear after labor, but why spend your money if you can use their pads for free? I went through a pack of pads in the hospital and brought home two packs. That’s $30 – $45 I saved right there.
  • Knit Panties – I know a lot of people hate on the knit panties you get after labor. Sure, they’re not sexy, but sex will be the furthest thing from your mind at that point! They’re functional. They have a job to do. Their job is to keep you from throwing out a bunch of your own underwear because you get blood all over them. They also provide a bit of compression for your postpartum belly.
  • Squeeze Bottle – Nope, this isn’t a water bottle ladies. You fill it with warm water and squirt it on your vagina after you pee. If you deliver vaginally, wiping will hurt for a while, and you may have some stitches down there. So you use the squeeze bottle instead. Because trying to aim while you’re on pain meds is the most fun!
  • Soap, Shampoo and Bath Towels – When you’re ready to take a shower, the nurses will provide everything you need. 
  • Newborn Diapers and Wipes – Most babies grow out of the Newborn diaper size rather quickly. Again, save yourself the money and just buy Size 1 diapers for home. We took home 2 packs of Newborn diapers from the hospital as well. That’s $20 in savings right there.
  • Pacifier – The hospital gave us 2 pacifiers to take home.
  • Blankets and Hats – LWR Medical Center has a number of volunteers who knit little hats and blankets for the newborn babies. They gave us 2 hats and one blanket.
  • Bulb Syringe – These are used to clean baby’s nasal passages of mucus. You likely won’t need this right away, but the first time your baby gets sick, oh boy, will you need it. So don’t throw it out!
  • Baby Wash & Brush – We also received a small bottle of Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Wash and a hair brush for baby’s hair.
  • Pump Parts – Because my daughter spent her first few days in the NICU, I had to pump to stimulate my milk production. The hospital provided me with a Medela Sonata and I was able to take all of the parts home with me – tubes, flanges, membranes, bottles, etc. Luckily, I have a Medela Pump-in-Style Advanced at home and most of the parts could be used with my own pump.

Happy Laboring, Mama!

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