Packing the Perfect Hospital Bag
Whether you’re getting ready to have a baby or preparing for major surgery, packing the right hospital bag can help you feel more comfortable during your stay away from home. Remember, you don’t need to pack much. In fact, the less you bring, the better. Here are some tips about what to pack (and not pack) for your hospital stay.
Comfort is key, so when you’re packing, remember pajamas, a robe, front-button shirts, sweatpants or leggings, non-slip socks or slippers, a pair of shower shoes or flip flops, and a hoodie or cardigan. You’ll need clothes to wear home with a pair of comfortable shoes. Short-sleeved shirts are easier to accommodate any potential IVs. And if you’ll be receiving any type of physical or occupational therapy, comfortable, easy-to-move-in clothing will be helpful. New moms, remember to pack soft cotton shirts that open in the front for nursing ease.
Insurance Card and Important Information
Even if you’ve pre-registered or had pre-admission testing, you’ll still need to bring your insurance card, Medicare card, photo ID and pre-certification to the hospital with you. Also, you’ll need a list of your allergies, health conditions, immunizations, special dietary requirements and any prescription or over-the-counter medications you’re taking. And you’ll want to bring the names and phone numbers of your physicians, especially your primary care physician. New moms, don’t forget contact information for your pediatrician, who needs to evaluate your baby before you leave.
If you have a preference of brands or if you have specific pharmacy items you like to use, definitely pack your own shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, feminine products and lotions. Travel-sized items are more practical. New moms should consider using the same natural products as their babies for safest skin-to-skin contact.
CPAP Masks and Other Items
If you use a CPAP mask or any other device to help you sleep at night, pack it. The hospital may not be able to provide one for you, and sleep disturbances can interfere with your recovery. While packing light is key, your favorite music playlist, earbuds or headphones, a good book or magazine, and pen and paper might come in handy.
This one’s specific to new moms. The smartest thing to do is pack long before you feel your first contraction. This packing needs some thought and preparation.
In addition to the items mentioned above, it’s helpful to pack your birthing plan, birthing ball, nursing feminine products, nursing bra and supplies, nursing pillow and of course, a camera for baby’s first photos. Both you and baby will need clothes to wear home. The hospital may or may not have a pump for your use, so ask before you arrive. And if you’re picky about your pillow, bring one from home.
Essential oils, a back massager, soothing music and other comfort items are nice to have, but not required. Your partner might want to pack some healthy snacks such as trail mix or granola and sports drinks with electrolytes.
While this is your first time packing for your baby, try not to go overboard. Bring what you’ll need for baby’s first sponge bath, including natural baby products if you have a preference. The hospital will provide diapers, but it’s always helpful to have a few extra on hand. (Hint: Instead of packing a huge case of wipes, consider putting just a small quantity inside a freezer bag to save space.)
Pack an outfit for going home, based on the weather and baby’s size. A back-up outfit is always helpful, just in case. Save the toys, stuffed animals, rattles, slings and baby books for later. You’ll have plenty of excursions to show off your new baby gear.
Before you leave the hospital, you will be required by law to have a rear-facing infant car seat installed in the back seat of your car. Learn how to install an infant car seat, or call your local police or fire station for help. Also, Northwestern Medicine offers free certified car seat safety checks in the western suburbs.
Stuff to Leave at Home
Hospitals can’t be responsible for personal belongings, so leave your make-up, perfumes and jewelry at home. High-end portable music players are better left at home, too. Essential oils are probably fine for a good foot rub, but strongly scented products may offend your care providers and can interfere with your recovery and medications. Loads of cash won’t be necessary – bring only a small amount for a newspaper, magazine or cup of coffee. Check the hospital’s policy about the use of cell phones and any type of electronic items. Remember, you’re there to recover, so that’s where your attention needs to be. And if you’ve just given birth, you’ll be busy feeding, caring and bonding with your baby.
Packing for the hospital is a lot like any other road trip. Packing the right things can make your time away from home a little more comfortable; packing too much can just be a burden. And more importantly, the less you have to unpack when you return, the happier you will be.