My Hospital Bag Checklist: What We Actually Used

When we first came home with Cal, I felt oddly energetic…the first week or two I felt like I had this random backlog of energy and got out a few posts right away, quickly jotting down my plans to get new posts up in the following week or two as well. My expectation was that I would be able to do that consistently moving forward but uuuuh…clearly I was dead wrong about what  life with a newborn would be like. Sleep deprivation catches up with you fast (for me it all came to a peak at week 5, but has gotten better since then), babies develop quickly and start requiring more time and energy (I just thought he was a big sleeper at first [which he actually is but not the constant sleeping like he did in the first two weeks!]…all of a sudden you find yourself at week 3 and they get bored fast!) and to put it simply, you have to show up & deliver for a role you’ve never experienced before & couldn’t have ever really prepared for. It’s been the most unbelievably magical and amazing time of my life and also the most challenging and non-stop, full-on thing I’ve ever done. And all set in the landscape of the pandemic with less support than I’d usually have!

Anyway, all that to say, I needed a little hiatus from the blog for a bit for a multitude of reasons, sleep deprivation and nursing, diapies, etc among them, but I’ve gotta say that for my own sense of sanity I’m really excited to start getting back to creating again, sharing more content and just getting back to my life a bit! It’s all just been a question of phasing things back in…the first thing we got back to was our long walks again, then we got our space in order(ish), I just got cleared to work out again so I’m getting back to that and now I really want to get back to doing something that brings me a lot of joy, which is creating visually and via writing. Anyhoo, I want to start with wrapping up one post you guys wanted a two-parter for—our hospital checklist! Here’s the original checklist I shared before I went into labour (Cal’s birth story here as well) and wanted to share what I actually used, and a few things I wish I’d packed! Here’s the original list with notes for each item below. 

FOR THE BIRTH

  • TENS machine—oh my God yes—this was key. Start it the second your labour starts and use it until it becomes more of a distraction than an asset (or you get into the tub). This is the one I got.
  • Flameless (battery-operated) candles—yes! Setting a soothing, calm mood was everything for us and everyone who came into our suite commented on the soft mood the candles gave. These are the ones I got. A bonus is that we’ve been using them a ton over the holidays now for all our tea light votives!
  • Fairy lights—no—it was just unnecessary with the candles but would be nice to have to or an either or type thing if you already have fairy lights!
  • Bluetooth portable speaker—a huge yes! Having music was everything. We listened to it in the couple of days recovering at the hospital too.
  • Camera + memory cards—yes but very minimally—I’d say just make sure your phone is charged up if you want pics.
  • Extra long charging cables—huge yes!
  • Portable chargers—also a big yes.
  • A little bottle of Stress Release by Saje (you can’t use aromatherapy [like a room spray or diffuser] at BC Women’s because of allergy concerns, but we were told if it’s sealed you can wave it under the mum’s nose quickly)—never used it
  • Lots of snacks: coconut water, crackers, dried fruit + nuts, dark chocolate, etc—also a huge yes—while you can order food into BC Women’s or in non-COVID times, have your people drop off food for you, if you deliver later in the evening or in the middle of the early morning, you need those snacks on hand. Also, your body is so discombobulated after birth you just need to nourish it and it’s also key for your birth partner to stay fuelled up!
  • Affirmation cards (made them myself…mine aren’t very woo-woo, they’re more just like “This is temporary” “You are strong & baby is strong” “Each contraction brings me closer to baby” i.e. pretty straightforward but I think effective for me!)—no I didn’t use them during birth (it all happened too fast) but I’d still recommend doing this and writing them down or just looking at them in the final stage of your pregnancy because it really helped me get into the right headspace.
  • A few crystals (because at the end of the day, I am a bit of a hippie after all)—I didn’t take these out (I’ll never forget Matt asking me if I wanted them in the room as I dilated 6cm in the space of minutes, so not exactly keen on a convo at that point) but I like carrying them anyway! I always carry some when I’m travelling. It just feels like a bit of a talisman.
  • A few copies of our Birth Preferences doc—we never passed it off to anyone because with our healthcare system and the way it worked for me with my midwife group, we’d had all these conversations already and they were there to advocate for me with anyone else who would’ve been part of our birth process (just our amazing nurse in the end)
  • Online but a shared Google Drive Folder with a special copy of our birth preferences for Matt (with details like the unlock code for my phone, reminders of the app [Freya] we’re using for contraction timing + meditations, our secret word/process for when to take me seriously if I ask for pain relief, etc), our standard Birth Preferences doc, our Baby Prep course book & our Hypnobirthing prep course, meditation MP3’s—never used any of these but I did use the Freya app during early labour 
  • Tablet stocked up with Netflix downloads, movies, etc + charging cable—never had time to watch a movie

FOR MUM

  • Bathing suit for the birthing pool—no I literally just waltzed in in my sports bra I was so desperate for the tub at that point! I would’ve just gone naked but couldn’t be bothered to take off my sports bra at that point. Have a top to wear but don’t worry about a full cute suit…you won’t be thinking about it at the time and you obviously won’t need the bottoms!
  • Non-slip comfy slippers—√
  • Flip flops (for both getting in/out of the pool & for showers)—√
  • 2 sets of warm, non-slip socks (packed the ones I use for Pilates/Barre)—I didn’t use the ones for barre but I ended up getting those really ugly but cozy fuzzy ones with grippy pads you can get from Old Navy or wherever and they were the best
  • 2 sets of nursing PJ’s—√
  • 2 nursing bras—√ (just one but we weren’t there for long)
  • 2 sweaters (cardigans for nursing if you have them are ideal)—√ it was chilly in there! 
  • 2 leggings/sweats —√ 
  • 2 nursing-friendly tanks or shirts—√
  • A big knit blanket—yes this is clutch—it’s chilly in the hospital and it’s a really easy one to wash. Brought a big fleece one I slept with!
  • Boppy nursing pillow—no—honestly, the nursing part was not a great experience for me at the hospital & even though I asked for a lactation consultant, one was never sent to me. I’ll always be forever grateful to BC Women’s for in general such an amazing experience but the nursing advice was not ideal for me. I was told only people really struggling would get them but quite frankly, nursing was and has still been a challenge for me! He feeds beautifully but I’ve been dealing with pain on a pretty continuous basis (it’s improved a lot but it’s still there). Biggest advice I give for nursing is to find one trusted source to contact ASAP (whether it’s your midwife or a lactation consultant) so you have one set of tips and advice so you get set right away.
  • Haaka breast pump (not sure how much I’ll need this but want the lactation consultant to help show me how to use it)—same thing, never used it, never had a chance to chat with a consultant. I love it now though when I remember to use it. My milk came in around 3-4 days at which point I was already discharged!
  • 3 pairs of big pantaloons, aka underwear—I used one pair on the way home but the hospital does give you these big mesh underwear that are awesome
  • Nursing pads—no—your milk likely won’t come in while you’re in hospital and even if it does, you likely won’t need these! I have an oversupply issue (so do leak regularly) and still don’t usually use nursing pads unless I’m going braless and just wearing a tank with a shelf bra.
  • Black out sleep masks (for both of us actually)—huge yes
  • Noise-cancelling headphones—never actually used these but I’d still recommend packing them!
  • I packed a few pads/Depends as well as my peri bottle but the hospital should have all of these on hand, at least here in BC! Packed them just in case.—no, hospital had all of these!

FOR DAD

  • 2 outfit sets + socks + underwear—√
  • Trunks for the birthing pool—no, never got in with me but should still pack if you’re going to do a birth pool as part of your labour or delivery experience
  • Flip flops—yes he had one shower while we were there poor guy!
  • 2 pairs of PJ’s—he just wore his boxers and a T-shirt

TOILETRIES (FOR BOTH MUM + DAD)

FOR MUM

  • Contacts—yes! I thought I’d maybe just be in glasses but it was nice to throw in my contacts
  • Glasses—yes—especially in the middle of the night
  • Toothbrush + toothpaste—√
  • Face wash + moisturizer—√
  • Body wash + moisturizer—√
  • Shampoo + conditioner—√
  • Nipple cream—no! The hospital provided a little tube of lanolin but honestly, he didn’t feed much to begin with and we really struggled to get a good latch in those first couple days at the hospital (and the first day home, aka the hardest day of my life when he was desperate for food and we just couldn’t get latched properly…so grateful our midwives came the next day to help us)
  • Comb/brush—√
  • Deodorant—√
  • A little bit of makeup, literally a BB cream, blush stick, mascara & tinted lip balm (very much doubt I’ll use it but you never know, maybe I’ll want to do myself up for some pics!)—uh…no

FOR BABY

  • 2 swaddles—nope. The hospital provided swaddles when we were there to keep him warm so ours stayed packed away the whole time. We just took one out to cover him on the drive home so I’d say one would be more than enough
  • 1 thicker blanket—just for the drive home
  • 3 sets of outfits (have a couple in NB size & 1 in 0-3 month size depending on how big he is!)—we only used one outfit on the way home, but I stick by my advice to pack some options! One piece of advice: even if they’re telling you your baby is in the 80th, 90th percentile during your scans (as they did with Cal)…get some NB clothing. He was actually in NB sizes until he was about 3-4 weeks old and we had to do a mad dash to get some more since we only packed one NB onesie. If you’re worried about it being wasteful, enlist friends or fam who’ve already had babies and just use their pre-loved pieces! It is true they’re in them for only a short period of time but Cal was 7lb 10oz (so not a tiny baby) & we definitely needed those NB outfits for a good long time (in fact, he still fits into a couple of the Kyte ones that stretch more so we’re trying to get the last bit of use out of them right now even though he’s pretty solidly in 0-3 now!).
  • 2 little beanies—no! We’ve discovered with beanies especially the sizing seems to run really large so that they can fit 0-6 months, so we just used the little tube ones the hospital provides. Would still be good to pack one but most hospitals will have them and they’ll fit their teeny tiny heads.
  • 2 pairs of socks—no
  • 2 pairs of mittens—yes, but a word of caution here: we were paranoid about his hands getting cold and about him scratching his face ’cause his nails were sharp right away, so we kept him in these little no-scratch gloves 24/7 for the first few days. He ended up rubbing his face raw (it settled down within a day once we took his gloves off) but a little nail scratch will heal faster than a rash. Just invest in an electric nail filer from the get go, something I wish we’d done!
  • 1 going-home cozy outfit: a knit cardigan, knit pants & knit booties—no. The nurse said it was too bulky for him to wear in the car seat so he just wore his onesie home.
  • 1 car seat (the Nuna Pipa, all installed in our car)—√
  • 1 cozy bunting in case it’s chilly—no
  • Soothers + diaper cream (hospital should have both but just in case—I was advised to put a bunch of diaper cream on his bum before we head home so that his merconium doesn’t stick so much to his little bungus when he finally expels it, if he doesn’t prematurely)—no. He didn’t use soothers until he was 3 weeks old and they have cream at the hospital.
  • A little “hello world” wooden disc for pics—no. I used this for his announcement photo that I shot once we were home but honestly, the lighting was pretty shit at the hospital so this is the time for grainy phone pics you’ll cherish forever but that aren’t maybe framers (though you may get lucky with better lighting).

COVID-SPECIFIC: WHAT WE DIDN’T PACK (BUT ORDINARILY WOULD)

So these were things I thought I’d like to pack but didn’t because of COVID…I’ll let you know below if I really missed it or not!

  • 2 pillows with brightly coloured pillowcases (to distinguish them from the hospital pillows)—√ we did end up packing these after I got a few concerned messages from you guys! And they were key. Even with COVID, just pack them since the hospital ones are truly not great. 
  • 2 towels (heard the hospital ones are tiny & scratchy but have a sense I’ll just want to dry off and jump right into my PJ’s anyway)—I don’t know if it comes from my years as a swimmer & towelling off fast or what but I’m not precious about towels. We just used theirs and honestly, COVID or not I would’ve been fine with their towels you kind of are just eager to get cozy and back in your bed!
  • A robe—I think it would’ve been nice to have & I have the nicest fleecy one but just another bulky item to add & need to wash so decided to forego it—so this is one I would’ve liked! It would’ve just been nice to lounge around in and it’s an easy one to wash too.

A FEW LAST ITEMS

Finally, a few things I wish I would’ve packed or did pack and didn’t include in my original list!

  • bellies inc. The Ab SystemI packed this & I’m so glad I did! I put on my belly band basically right away! I’ve become decreasingly diligent about wearing it but really wore it as much as I could in the first few weeks and I think it helped because any diastasis recti I had seems to have resolved itself, I got checked for my 6 week appointment this last week and pretty much all good! Think it really helped knit everything back together.
  • more snacks, specifically more fluids—something I wish I’d packed more of! I wish I had more coconut water specifically. You get super, super dehydrated from labour & delivery, I needed all the rehydration I could get.
  • peri donut—not sure if this is the right term for it but get a donut cushion! I got this cheapo one for $15 after we got home and wish I’d had it sooner. I had a really great delivery and some very minor and straightforward tearing, and I still needed this bad boy for a couple weeks, but when I really needed it was immediately after delivery. I went into it all thinking that I’d see “how bad” my situation was (lolz)…I don’t want to speak for everyone but even if things go really, really well, I think you still want one of these. Also, not surprisingly, hospital beds aren’t exactly the coziest things and my whole downstairs area could’ve greatly benefited from this out the gate.

Other than that, given that I wasn’t at the hospital for very long I was more than happy with what I’d packed! One more tip I’d have is to maybe make sure you have another support person (a family member or friend) who can be on speed dial just in case you have a longer stay than you anticipated—hard with COVID right now I know but it’ll just give you that peace of mind to know that someone can head over ASAP with anything else you need instead of stressing about it leading up to such a big event. But long story short, pack all your comfiest things, don’t short change yourself on the postpartum comforts & stock up as much as you can on treats, snacks & hydration!

To Vogue or Bust