One of life's “little” surprises is when your baby might come. There's no way of predicting the day or time. Only about 5% of births happen on their due date at 40 weeks, and a baby is not considered preterm after 37 weeks. About 80% of women deliver between 37 and 42 weeks.
We were told to have a hospital packed by about 35 weeks to be well prepared. At the very least for the last month before your due date, you should be ready to go.
Granted, once your contractions start, you are likely to have some time to pack. That's when last minute items can go in the bag. Depending on how strong your contractions are though, you're not going to be in the best frame of mind.
Here are a few items to bring to make your labor & delivery plus postpartum stay more comfortable. Even if you live close by, unless you have extra help it's unlikely you'll be able to grab something from home if you really want it.
Labor & Delivery:
In many hospitals you will be delivering the baby in a separate room and recovering/spending your first days with your newborn in a different room. You can pack separate bags and leave the postpartum bag in the car if you wish.
- Pillows – Hospital pillows aren't the most luxurious or supportive so you might want to bring a:
Breastfeeding pillow – Personally I suggest a flat supportive pillow that your tiny newborn can stay on without slipping off as easily.
Buckwheat pillows – These pillows can be molded and even stand up by themselves. My nurses even asked about them.
- Birthing Ball – Ask if your hospital provides these or if you can alternatively bring your own
- Small focal object
- Cellphone and charger – You may have music to stream on here
- Camera – I've heard of some going in with a GoPro to film births though this may not be
- Music / Hypnobirthing / Affirmations
- Robe – Replace your hospital gown if you wish
- Slippers – Postpartum you might be bleeding, so having a pair of disposable slippers from the dollar store comes in handy
- Lip Balm – Staying hydrated is important but your lips might still get chapped
- Birth Plan
- Breastfeeding accessories – While nursing pads may not be necessary until your milk “comes in”, you can always bring a pack of disposable ones. Nipple cream can help early on though
- Snacks – Your wife may not be able to eat much but you're going to need some replenishment during longer labor! Just try not to eat your wife's favorite foods right in front of her.
- Toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, comb)
- Change of clothing and Sleepwear
- Cellphone and charger
- Instructions from Mom – Especially if you're the primary support person for Mom, you may want to discuss a plan during labor. Can you apply counterpressure to her back or remind her to do lamaze breaths? What should you do if your wife is unmedicated but is in excruciating pain
Postpartum For Mom and Baby:
- Nursing bra
- Maternity clothes to wear home
- Baby clothes to wear home
- Diapers and Wipes – Just in case, for the ride home
One of the most important pieces of gear to get is the car seat for the ride home. Once you get home, aside from the baby stuff you will need heavy maxi pads for the bleeding if you delivered vaginally. For C sections you will likely be given items to help with recovery.