There are a million and one lists out there – but Helen, founder of the awesome Mothership blog, tells us what you really need to remember when packing your hospital bag.
Here in the UAE we’re pretty lucky when it comes to the maternity ward – mamas get to enjoy private rooms, en-suite bathrooms, movies on demand and more. But what essentials can you take to make the birth a little easier? Apart from drugs, of course.
1. For the baby
Most hospitals will provide nappies and wipes for the baby, so don’t fill your bag with those. Do pack around five basic vests and sleepsuits for the sprog though, plus hats. My bump was massive and all signs pointed to a big baby, but she was smaller than we thought, so taking a few sizes (eg tiny baby and newborn) might be helpful. Include a swaddle blanket too – don’t worry, the midwife will show you what to do. If breast-feeding, a pump can help to get things going. If you’re planning to bottle-feed, pack some sterilised bottles and preferred formula. Newborns only take a tiny amount of milk at first, so leave the 240ml mega bottles at home.
2. Clothes for you
Taking a nightie (ideally in a dark colour) for you to wear during birth will make you feel more like a person and less like a patient in a hospital gown. If you have an epidural or C-section then you’ll be in blue cotton, I’m afraid. Some comfy pyjama bottoms and maternity vests (try H&M), plus cardigans or a light dressing gown will be useful too – as well as clothes to go home in. Hint: don’t even think about packing your pre-pregnancy jeans – that ain’t happening.
City Hospital provides giant mesh underwear to hold your giant maternity pads (good grief, I’m having a flashback) but you might want to take your own giant knickers – I went to Splash and bought a multi-pack in a bigger size that I could bin quite happily. Take some maternity bras (and breast pads) – the softer the better to start. Mothercare sell lovely stretchy bra-tops with clasps. Socks are a good plan, too, to deal with vicious AC, as well as slippers or flip-flops for going to a breastfeeding class or a walk around the ward.
Your level of boredom will depend very much on your birth. Some ladies are in and out like a dose of salts, as my Grandma would say, while others might spend days in hospital waiting for the little one to make an appearance. Most rooms (for pre, during and post birth) will have a TV – I had an epidural and spent the first few hours of labour watching a movie and reading on my Kindle (my husband went to Wafi for some lunch as there really wasn’t much happening). An iPad might be useful for Skyping the family, as well as playing TV shows and music, but don’t forget the charger and maybe an extension cord just in case plugs are in awkward spots.
5. Food and drink
During our tour of the hospital, the midwife explained with a wink that they won’t check the mini fridge that’s in your room – I interpreted this as permission to take bubbles. The mini fridge is also great for milk for teas and coffees (take that too, if you’re particular with your favourite brands), plus boxes of juice. Anything with a straw gets the thumbs up, and a sports bottle for water is recommended. We hit Spinneys hard in the week before my due date and stocked up on snacks. The room service menu at City is adequate and well-priced (and the chicken biryani is excellent, according to my husband) but we ordered in from Sumo Sushi one night – the midwives will have menus for takeaways that will deliver to the maternity ward.
Basics are provided, but a nice smelling shower gel or body lotion can make all the difference to your mood, so take your own. Face wipes and/or micellar water (Bioderma is the best) will freshen you up, too. I also took dry shampoo and makeup as we had some visitors and I looked like a horror show without (and while I don’t love the photos of me taken over those first few days, I don’t hate them either). A hairdryer was an inspired last-minute addition to my hospital bag, along with hairbands, lip balm and a nice soft towel.
7. Home comforts
I loved having my own pillow, but even taking some pillowcases will make your room feel more like home. Some mums take battery-operated tea lights, which is nice touch, but I forgot.
8. For your husband
Comfy clothes, phones and chargers, entertainment, snacks, an extra pillow, and more snacks. Keep throwing Mini Cheddars at him.
9. The practical
You’ll need your doctor’s notes and insurance forms, plus cash for room service (smaller denominations are best). Don’t forget the baby’s car seat for what will be the most terrifying drive home of your life. You can hire TENS machines from Health Bay, and while we didn’t use it (thank you, drugs) friends have reported that they really do help with pain relief. We also took an extra tote bag for any gifts that arrived during our stay…
10. Your birth plan
Just joking. The best plan is no plan (but do make sure your doctor knows your preferences). My birth plan was: music, drugs, whatever the doctor says, skin to skin.