Prevention & Recovery

What to pack for the birth: Labour essentials

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Prevention & Recovery

What to pack for the birth: Labour essentials

Six weeks before Rachel Lagacé's second baby was due, she made sure her hospital bag was all ready to go. The La Salle, MB, mom had thoughtfully prepared a bag that included everything from fuzzy socks for her to a gift for her older son, Maxim.

Knowing how fast her labour and delivery was with her firstborn, she didn't want to waste any time once her labour started. That could be why she forgot to pack one very important item—her toothbrush.

"I was so mad at myself for forgetting it," she says. "But because I was in a mad dash, I just didn't even think about it."

Being in a hurry is one reason Amanda Tomkins, a registered midwife in Nunavut, suggests moms-to-be pack 35 to 36 weeks into their pregnancies—even if they don't plan on a hospital birth.

"You never know what can happen," says Tomkins. "If women are ready ahead of time, it is one less thing to think about when the big day arrives." Though you may be discharged within 24 hours (or as little as three to four hours for midwife clients if all is good with mom and babe), Tomkins suggests packing enough to last for at least two days. Here is her comprehensive list of hospital bag must-haves.

For Mom
Paperwork: This includes not only your provincial or territorial health card but also any prenatal notes from your doctor or midwife. That way the doctor or midwife delivering the baby will have a record of your pregnancy, says Tomkins. Also, don't forget a copy of your birth plan. "If you arrive at the hospital in hardcore labour, you may have a hard time expressing yourself or speaking. It's also helpful for your partner because he might not remember everything because he's so focused on supporting you," says Tomkins.

Comfy clothes. Pack at least two sets of clothing for yourself—one for the stay and one to go home in. "Usually you still look five to six months pregnant when going home, so pack your most comfortable maternity wear," says Tomkins. Don't forget a housecoat or sweater wrap. "Hospital gowns can be drafty, especially if you have a long labour walking the halls," she says.

Underwear: Pack two or three pairs of underwear that you won't mind tossing if need be. "Some women will choose to wear disposable underwear offered at hospitals, but others might not want to," says Tomkins. In addition, pack at least two nursing bras, as well as nursing pads. "Even if you don't plan on breastfeeding, they're good to have in case of leakage."

Technology: A charged smartphone is a must for everything from texting and calling (if allowed) to recording the birth and taking pictures. Don't forget the charger. If you're bringing a video or digital camera, also make sure to pack extra batteries and/or a memory card.

A pen: For everything from filling out forms to writing down who brought you gifts.

Warm socks or slippers: Hospital floors can be freezing. Lagacé was especially grateful for her warm socks, since her body's temperature fluctuated greatly during labour. "In the midst of labour, my whole body got cold and I had the severe shakes."

Toiletries: You'll want anything you use at home, including hairbrush, hair elastics or clips, shampoo, conditioner, soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, contacts, contact lens solution and lip balm (hospitals can be dry, says Tomkins). Also, although many hospitals provide feminine pads, you may want to pack a few. "You're going to bleed as if you're having a heavy period for the first three to four days," says Tomkins.

Money: Handy for parking and vending machines.

Music: Whether it helps you focus during labour or drowns out the surrounding noises, pack your favourite tunes and a good pair of headphones.

Massage oil and lotions: In case your partner or midwife may want to massage your lower back during labour.

Books, magazines, deck of cards:
Sometimes labour can be lengthy and it is good to have a distraction.

Snacks: You may not be eating much in the hours leading up to the birth. Having snacks packed for both you and your partner is a good idea, especially in the wee hours when a hospital cafeteria is closed.

Photo of your other children: "This can not only keep you focused during labour, but it's also good to have on hand when they come to visit afterward," says Tomkins. "It shows them that mom didn't forget about them and isn't trying to replace them with a new baby."

For baby
Other than a car seat, you'll need to pack the following for your new bundle.

Sleepers: Tomkins suggests packing at least two or three outfits that make for easy diaper changes.

Baby/receiving blankets:
Great for cleaning spit-up and swaddling your new infant.

Socks/booties: If case your baby's outfits aren't onesies, pack one or two pairs.

Newborn hats: "Babies don't regulate temperatures well," says Tomkins. "You want a hat to keep the baby warm. They lose 80 percent of their heat through their heads."

Diapers and/or diaper cream: In case the hospital doesn't supply them.

Baby book: Having it with you makes it easy to record events as they happen.

For more baby essentials, check out our guide from bump to baby!

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Prevention & Recovery

What to pack for the birth: Labour essentials

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