Four family-sized boxes of Reduced Fat Wheat Thins, and the novel Bleak House by Charles Dickens: that’s what my husband brought to the hospital when I unexpectedly went into labor with our first baby three weeks early. At that point in the game, I’d found a suitcase to pack for the hospital, but hadn’t yet gotten around to packing it with diapers, booties and items that would have made sense—and in a nervous panic, my husband decided that day seemed like a better time than any to get cracking on a 700+ page novel he knew I’d never read. Um, pass.
Here are the items he should have brought—and items I made sure to stow away several months in advance before I went back to the maternity ward for a second and third time.
- Nursing/maternity pajamas and a robe. You could be in the hospital for a few days, so make sure you have something you’ll feel comfortable in when visitors drop by. Not every hospital will provide you a gown that’s easy to nurse in, so having your own easy-access pajamas will be important.
- A few very small baby outfits. Even if you give birth to a 9 pounder, those adorable size 3-6 month outfits you got at your baby shower are likely to be way too big. And average to small newborns will barely fill out size 0-3 months. I’d buy one or two size newborn items to get you through the first few weeks. Also, pack a few side-snap T-shirts in case your hospital doesn’t supply them or is running low. But one thing you probably won’t need is hats—from what I recall, hospitals are overflowing with little knit caps, supplied by volunteers.
- Breastfeeding aids. Get a pillow like My Breast Friend or Boppy—especially if you have a c-section (I had 3), you will want a little help supporting your baby as you get used to breastfeeding. I’d also pack a lanolin cream like Lansinoh, and breast pads for leaks, which will likely happen when your milk comes in. You can go with washable ones (Avent’s are nice) or disposable ones. I used to sleep with the washable ones and wear disposables during the day.
- Maxi pads. You’ll be shocked by what they give you at the hospital: disposable paper panties and these enormous, diaper-like pads. You’ll feel cleaner and a little more modern with regular maxi pads with wings—Seventh Generation has an overnight variety that’s super-absorbent and is also chlorine free (so you can be an eco-friendly mama!).
- Soft, fuzzy socks or slippers. You might have been hot throughout your pregnancy, but there’s a pretty strong chance that during those postpartum night sweats (ugh, don’t ask), you’ll suddenly recall how much you hate having cold feet!
- Moisturizing cream. The hospital air can be really dry, but be careful about using any kind of heavily scented, chemical-filled body lotion—you never know if your baby might have a bad reaction to that latest pastel “passion flower potion” from the mall. A safer choice is Alba Botanica’s Very Emollient Body Lotion (get the unscented variety), which is incredibly lightweight and hydrating.
- Luxurious shampoo, conditioner and bodywash for The First Shower. Even if you’ve run a mud race in the past, you’ll never feel as dirty as you will feel after giving birth. (Especially if you had a c-section and were not allowed to shower for several days afterwards.) Get rid of oil, dirt and icky hospital residue with tea-tree infused Giovanni Tea Tree Triple Treat Shampoo and Conditioner. Pamper every inch of your exhausted post-partum body with Giovanni Salt Scrub Cool Mint Lemonade. The citrusy mint will make your skin tingle.
One last thing—bring some sort of modern technology with you, whether it’s your tablet or smartphone or a laptop. Because, you will probably want to update the world about your beautiful new baby, and it feels good to get hundreds of “congrats!” from your family and friends of the past and present.
Or perhaps you won’t want to update the World Wide Web after all…there’s something about looking into those sweet, sleepy eyes that makes almost everything else around you seem pretty insignificant in comparison!
Jorie Mark is Vitacost.com’s Director of Marketing Communications and mom to three kids, ages 2 to 10.