WHAT TO PACK IN YOUR HOSPITAL BAG
Beverley Turner hosts her own talk show on LBC Radio; writes for the national press and has monthly columns in Smallish magazine and City Kids. A self-confessed 'birth junkie', she established The Happy Birth Club ante-natal course in West London in 2014. Bev is married to Olympian James Cracknell and has three children. Here she writes and shares some honest and invaluable advice on what to pack in your hospital bag.
"It's very easy to get anxious about the contents of your overnight Birth Bag, but like much of the whole event, staying relaxed, trusting your instincts and keeping it simple is a good idea. Some women, of course, arrive at hospital in labour without very much warning and without their huge suitcase of stuff. And guess what, they still have their babies and manage to send other people out to buy the nappies! However, in an ideal world, you'd arrive at your place of birth equipped with everything that makes you feel safe, prepared and ready for the biggest day of your life. If you’re choosing to give birth in a hospital or birth centre, you’ll probably want to have a bag packed and ready to go from about 37 weeks (or sooner if you are keen and organised). It's a good idea to pack one bag with a view to being in for no more than 24 hours. But maybe put aside another bag or pile of things in case you have a longer stay. This will avoid any conversations that begin, "I didn't mean THAT cardigan!" when your partner collects the extras. Don't take anything into hospital that can't be hot washed. So leave your beautiful cashmere goodies at home! If you’re having a home birth, you may still want to pack a bag in case of transfer to a hospital during labour.
There are some items which are obligatory, including your Maternity notes – if you forget these your partner will be sent home for them and take at least two copies of your Birth Preference Sheet so that you can hand a fresh set to your midwife if a shift changes. If you intend to Breastfeed (and you may not know how you’ll feel until your baby arrives), pack a feeding bra. Your wash bag (containing perfume-free shower gel) and a couple of packs of maternity pads should also go on the necessary list along with a change of clothes for you (forget skinny jeans, you’ll still look 7 months pregnant for a while) and a few pairs of cheap, huge, stretchy knickers that you won’t mind throwing away. Another top tip is to pack a pair of flip-flops. Sadly these aren’t for the beach, but for the shower – these aren’t cleaned after every use - and can be slippy which poses a fall risk when you’re feeling shaky on your legs after birth.
Another addition which women on The Happy Birth Club course rave about is a sports drinks bottle filled with ice. Hospitals are very hot and a very cold drink can feel heavenly especially if you use a birthing pool. You may find you get yourself into some bizarre positions during labour and it’s easier to drink from a sports bottle than a cup – your partner can lift it to your mouth without you even having to open your eyes!
I’d also recommend putting some anti-bacterial wipes / spray in your bag. If you have a private midwife or doula they will often whizz round the room with these when nobody is looking. Feel free to do the same. Hospital cleaners are busy. They may not have time to match your high standards.
Don’t forget any tools for pain-relief: TENS machine are fabulous; aromatherapy massage oils and Hypnobirthing downloads may be all you need to manage your own anaesthesia.
You can wear whatever you like to birth in. You do NOT have to put on a hospital gown unless you are heading for an epidural and need your back exposed. So choose a loose cotton / button down shirt and two pairs of cheap pyjama pants (you may leak on them!) A comfy dressing gown will also be a godsend, especially if you don’t have your own bathroom and must totter down the corridor.
Take two pillows in distinctive pillow-cases. White ones will go missing! There is a bizarre shortage of pillows on maternity wards. You will love having them to get comfortable before, during and after birth (and your birth partner may use them for a snooze in the chair!)
Snacks for both of you should go in the bag– anything you might fancy to keep your energy up. Birth is a marathon, not a sprint.
And of course, the fun bit is packing your baby clothes. You will need vests, babygros, cardigans and a hat. Take 3 or 4 complete changes. And enjoy picking out the ones that you love! 10 Newborn nappies should suffice and a packet of cotton wool (you may want to use wipes but cotton wool and water is a tad kinder to brand new skin).
I always recommend our mums take in two large, soft muslins such as those made by Marloe . They can act as a stylish shawl for mum as she sits in bed; they can offer some privacy if that’s important to you when learning to breastfeed and they are perfect for wrapping up new babies in a comforting swaddle. Oh, and I also suggest you pack a small bottle of champagne. You’re not off to war; you’re going to meet the love of your life. You may as well celebrate in style!
The Happy Birth Book is also available now to purchase on Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/