08 November 2011

Packing to Have a Baby: Your Hospital Stay

Every pregnancy website and magazine will provide you with a list of things to pack for the hospital, but we learned a few things about this packing list we wish we had known before we threw a week's worth of stuff into our suitcase.  Just be aware that this entry is based on our particular experience at the hospital: being induced, having a vaginal birth to a singlet, and only nursing once our baby arrived.  If you are reading this and had a different experience in labor/delivery (C-section, baby stayed in NICU, birth to multiples, bottle feeding, extended hospital stay, etc.), post your "what I wish I had thought of" ideas in the comments section below!

What we SHOULD have packed:

  • Laptop or iPad.  We don't have either one of these, but it would have been nice to have access to the hospital's wi-fi to email the first photos of our newborn to those without Facebook.  Our cell phones had to suffice for most of the contacting we did with the outside world.  Plus, if your hospital has a photography service, you may be able to access the pictures online within hours of the photos being taken and want to show them to your visitors.
  • A pen.  Sounds kind of stupid, I know, but you will be signing and filling out a lot of paperwork.  It's best to have one or two handy.  Thankfully, my father-in-law had one on hand when I filled out Mallory's Social Security papers.  I would have been too embarrassed to page our nurse for a writing utensil.
  • Body wash.  I don't know how this was forgotten.  I would have rather had my own cleansing gel than the bar of hospital soap we ended up having to use.  I blame pregnant brain for this one.
  • A button-down shirt for Daddy.  Dads need skin-to-skin contact with their babies, too.  Michael wanted that with Mallory, but was uncomfortable going sans shirt in order to do so.  His wish?  That he had brought a button-down shirt so he could stay fully clothed while experiencing this special bonding time with his daughter.
  • Packing more than one shirt for Daddy.  He wore the same T-shirt the entire time we were at the hospital.  Wives, you might want to check behind your man to make sure he has enough to get him through your stay.  There's no telling what could get on your man's clothes while he's holding your newborn, and he's not going to want to wear a pooped-on tee for 2 days.
What we wish we had left AT HOME:
  • Books.  Michael and I both packed books in our suitcase, thinking we would have time to enjoy a few pages.  Yeah, that didn't happen.  During our labor, I was in way too much pain to want to read, and Michael was spending his time doting on me.  Once the baby arrived, our time was devoted to greeting guests, learning to nurse, changing diapers, signing papers, and trying to get some shut-eye.  I promise you won't get any dumber because you left a stimulating page-turner at home.  There's just too much going on with your newborn, and you won't want to spend it reading a bestseller.  Heck, who wants to hold a book when you could hold one of these?
Hold that newborn.  They're this size for what feels like only a nanosecond.
  • iPods.  OK, so I'm sure there are those of you out there that simply cannot do without your tunes.  Some women in labor want music to help them focus.  Others need music to help lull them to sleep.  But my iPod was not always within reach, and it just wasn't worth an extra trip out of my hospital bed to find it, make sure it was charged, pop in my ear buds, and search for a playlist.  Not only that, but listening to music via earbuds would mean you're not tuned into your baby's vocalized needs.
  • Non-nursing tops for Mommy.  Enough said.  They were never worn until after I got home.
  • Diapers and wipes.  I packed them in the diaper bag, but the hospital provides them for every new mom.  Why?  They have to be prepared for someone walking in off the street to give birth with nothing in hand.  PS--Take the unused ones the hospital provides home with you.  
  • Your camera.  Duh.
  • Infant car seat.  Double duh.
  • Boppy/nursing pillow.  Not only did I use it to assist me in holding my newborn for extended periods of time or to keep her steady while nursing, it also made a great between-the-knees pillow when I slept.
  • A nursing gown (or a top making those milk tanks accessible).  The hospital gown makes you sweaty and uncomfortable, and I was more than ready to be in something that wasn't a one-size-fits-all garment.  Not only does a nursing gown give your neonate easy access to their version of a salad bar, it also makes it easier for you to change out the padding you'll be wearing around your nether regions.  The nursing gown I purchased also came with a robe, helping me regulate my body temp.
  • Lanolin cream.  Your nips are going to be sore after you start nursing.  This stuff sure does help.
  • Lotion.  After your belly starts its deflate mode, your skin will be incredibly itchy.  I could not stop scratching my belly skin--even before the epidural completely wore off.  Don't bring the really smelly kind that has alcohol in it.  You'll only make it worse!  Bring a lotion with healing ingredients, like vitamin E or colloidal oatmeal.
  • A girlfriend's take-along kit.  Let me explain this one because it includes a heck of a lot of good stuff.  My teammates bought me a cute tote (red and black in color, of course) and filled it with items I would need in the hospital.  I can confidently say we used everything in it.  The items included: ChapStick (used a lot), lotion, my favorite snacks (Goldfish, almonds, granola bars), hair ties and clips, chewing gum, and quarters for the vending machine.  All I had to do was throw in my wallet and compact!
  • Baby blankets.  Whether they are used for burping baby, swaddling them in their bassinet, or to have as a background for photos, you won't want to be without them.
  • Baby clothes…and lots of them.  Your newborn doesn't know if she's wearing the brilliantly monogrammed onesie your neighbor had made for her or the $2 consignment store find.  Be ready for many wardrobe changes after she spits up or her diaper leaks.
Have it ready at home:
  • Maxi pads.  You'll get some in the hospital, along with the chance to wear their super fashionable mesh boy-short panties to hold them up.  Be prepared to bleed and pass clots for the next 6 weeks.  Since your bleeding will taper like a normal period, make sure you have a variety of absorbencies.
  • Stool softener and/or fiber supplements.  I thought I'd be one of those lucky new mommies who didn't get hemorrhoids after squeezing a human out of my hoo-ha.  Boy, was I wrong.  It's no fun to have them, but using these supplements is a way to give your pooper some much-deserved TLC.
  • Witch hazel wipes (aka--"Tucks").  Your hospital will most likely provide you with some, especially if you have an episiotomy like me and are given Epifoam as a topical analgesic (applied to the wipe, it holds the foam on your lady parts and gives you relief right where it hurts).  But in all things swollen, Tucks are great to have around for your distended derriere.
  • Pain reliever.  Whether it's prescribed or something OTC (make sure it's doc-approved first), you will most likely need it.  When my epidural wore off and I could feel my stitches, a couple of ibuprofen each day helped ease the pain.
  • Plenty of groceries.  Seriously.  Do yourself a favor and stockpile your cabinets and fridge as if you're ready for Doomsday BEFORE you go to the hospital.  Once home, leaving the house may not be an option for a very long time.
Final words of wisdom:
  • Be nice to your nurses, doctors, technicians, etc.  As Jim Croce so eloquently put it, you don't pull on Superman's cape or spit into the wind.  The hospital staff involved in your care are trained and experienced.  Thank them for any little thing they do for you during your stay.  This includes the tech who helps you into your first pair of post-baby mesh panties and makes you try to urinate in front of her to make sure the epidural wore off properly.  For so many of them, they chose this career because it is their love and their passion.
  • Don't be afraid to ask questions or for assistance.  Doctors and nurses realize that this can be an incredibly overwhelming time for new parents, so they are prepared to be on broken record mode if they have to be.  I called my nurse to ask if I was allowed to take a shower.  I was permitted, but I didn't realize I would need my IVT covered so as not to get it wet.  With any question or concern, it's better to be safe than sorry.
  • Don't be afraid to turn visitors away.  You might be nursing and don't want to do so in front of your husband's best friend.  You might be napping.  You might be throwing up because you had a bad reaction to your medication.  You might just not be in the mood for company.  Your visitors will understand.  They can always come back another time.
  • It's OK to cry.  Whether it's tears of joy at the sight of your neonate or tears of feeling frustrated by the massive amounts of information you fear you'll forget once you leave the grounds, let it out.  It certainly won't be the last time you'll cry as a parent!
  • It's normal to be afraid to leave the hospital.  Leaving the hospital as a new parent must be how animals in captivity feel when being released back into the wild: unsure and feeling lost without their caretaker.  I mean, who gave us permission to go into the world with a newborn?  We had never done this before!  I was perfectly happy having a nursing staff tend to my needs any time of day.  Food was brought to me either by the food service department or by family members.  My hospital bed was comfortable and had all those light-up buttons to transform it to my liking.  Now we are 3 weeks into being parents, and so far, we have made it without a fancy schmancy robotic bed.  Even though we are much more confident in our parenting skills than the day we were kicked out, we are no longer terrified to the point of wanting to call 9-1-1 every time the baby farts.


A. Hab. said...

Thank you, Vik. This was exactly what I needed to read--I start my third trimester next Monday, and I'm starting to hit panic mode. You calmed me down. I actually think I'll print off your list of recommendations and put it on our fridge at home so we can check off the things that we definitely need. I haven't even thought about my hospital bag yet, let alone Robert's! I have given some consideration to Melanie's...but who knew Daddy would need one too? Lol. I really loved the recommendation for the button-down shirt. I'll make sure to pack one of Robert's non-work-related button-downs. Or maybe we can go to a thrift store and find a cheapy one that won't mind a little baby excretion getting on it.

I had a question about turning away visitors. Telling people "no" or "not right now" is something I'm not particularly adept at...I'm only just starting to come to terms with having to wiggle plans around in order to accommodate my pregnancy needs. So, my question is this: what is the best way to turn away hospital visitors when you have trouble refusing on a normal day? (I don't want to offend my friends or seem like I'm acting completely out of my usual character.) Did you yourself do it, or did Michael help steer them out of the room when you needed some time?

Oh, and a related follow-up question to that: did you have any trouble putting up boundaries for female family members who may have wanted to or may have expected to stay in the delivery room? How did you set your boundaries? I only want Robert and my delivery team in there with me, but I'm not sure how my immediate female relatives (all of whom I love and value very much) will take the news when they're told they can wait by the vending machines. Again, I don't want to hurt anybody's feelings.

I'm so grateful you posted this! :) Thanks for being so honest and revealing.

V-Dub said...

A. Hab.!
So glad you'll be able to use this entry. Some things we have to learn the hard way, but if this helps a new mommy pack the things we forgot, then my job is done!

There were only a couple of times where we had to ask visitors to wait to see us while we were in the hospital, and it was usually due to the fact that I was nursing Mallory. Michael would meet them at the door and kindly ask them to wait outside until we were done. Just about everyone you'll find, though, won't want to overstay their welcome because they realize you're in a vulnerable state. Your hormones are out of whack, you may have drugs coursing through your body, your newborn may be fussy, etc. We noticed that guests would recognize these things and would go on their merry way before we would be forced to ask them to leave. It's nice to know your loved ones are sensitive to this type of situation. If you are uncomfortable in asking visitors to leave or to come back another time, your nurses won't hesitate. Ask them to do the "dirty work" for you if you're afraid of hurting feelings.

As for keeping folks out of the delivery room? I let our friends and family know that the delivery part of our hospital stay was just for Michael and me. It's stressful enough to have doctors and nurses swarming about the room, seeing you splayed out on the delivery table. I was not willing to share this kind of vulnerability with anyone other than Michael. I was responsible for telling my mother this, and Michael took charge of telling his parents. (Again, though, you could use a nurse to do the turning away if someone is insisting they come into the delivery room with you). They understood and patiently waited for the "all clear" text from Michael in the L&D waiting area. We allowed them in the room once I was stitched, cleaned, cathed, and covered, and the baby was clean and swaddled. Between the time she was delivered and the time they came in, almost an hour had passed, giving Michael and me the chance to have that incredibly special bonding time with our newborn. And what do you know? Our families respected the decision and still love us!

You're in the home stretch now. Can't wait for your big day!

Julie Snyder said...

Vikki, This was a great list for new moms and dad. My second grand-baby comes in about 10 weeks. I took some notes of things we need and I'll make sure my daughter-in-law takes a look at this also. Your little Mal is beautiful. It makes me smile to see that you are so happy and full of life. Love ya!

Anonymous said...

I wish I had remembered a hairbrush and blow dryer. I felt fine after having my first little one and wish I would have been able to pull myself together a little more. My mother-in-law also brought me facial wipes which felt great to wash my face half way through labor.

Lisa Rusczyk said...

I like your its ok to cry comment. I agree!



Anonymous said...

This is a good list, The only thing I would add is bathroom supplies like your own shampoo and soap if you do not want to use the hospitals, Once your in labor you will find its a lot easier to tell people what you want done. I had my first and I was afraid of the whole visitor thing too because I have some pushy family members, but they all complied. I think that next time around I may not call people until my little one has arrived or I will have a family meeting expressing visitor issues and whom I want in the delivery room.
I would however bring a couple diapers and baby wipes with me, when we had our little girl she was so small and the diapers they had at the hospital had really hard plastic strap things and they cut into her legs. wasnt the best experience but next time i will be more prepared.

Anonymous said...

Good list. I would definitely pack your personal grooming supplies and a little makeup. Nothing like a little eyeliner, mascara and lip gloss to make you prettier for pictures. Also something easy for your hair like clips or headbands. I know the last thing you will think about is how you look right after birthing baby but for a little later you will want to make yourself a little more presentable. For the baby, the only thing I brought was the car seat and nail clippers (all three of mine had claws). My mother brought the coming home outfits each time. I let her pick them out after the baby was born since we did not know the sex ahead of time. Plus she likes to shop. I took advantage of the hospitals supplies. Also, the hospital supplies you with little gowns for the baby. They will be swaddle up most of the time so nobody will really see what they are wearing anyway. Why start a bunch of laundry for yourself before you even get home. A friend changed her baby six times and was only in the hospital two days. Remember you are not going on vacation...you do not need a bunch of stuff. Oh, I did not notice but don't forget slippers or flip flops and a pair of socks.

V-Dub said...

Hello everyone! Thanks for leaving suggestions in the comments section. I probably should have mentioned that I had my basic essential toiletries--shampoo, deodorant, razor, make-up, contact lens care, brush and hair dryer, facial lotion. Heck, there's no way I would have made it 3 nights in the hospital without my saline or my toothbrush. I could have kicked myself, though, when I left my favorite body wash at home! Facial wipes ARE in fact a wonderful idea. Those were packed for me in the bag my girlfriends at work gave me. Much easier to use than face wash, especially since you can use them in your hospital bed. They're also the perfect way to wash when you go camping. :)

I lived in my slippers while in the hospital, which I forgot to mention in the post. My feet and ankles were so swollen that I had trouble getting into even a pair of flip flops, so slippers were about the only thing I could manage to get into and out of without cutting off circulation.

I completely understand the need/want to bring diapers despite the fact the hospital will always provide them. Some babies are super small. Others develop rashes or allergic reactions. I think it's one of those things that if you didn't bring them because you didn't want to or because you just plain forgot, it wouldn't make you turn the car around because--unlike your camera or your phone--the hospital is going to provide you with back-up. We weren't cloth diapering (yet) at the time, so parents who start cloth diapering from the moment their baby arrives would definitely want to bring their own diapers.

The suggestion for having multiple outfits for baby was more out of sheer need for preparedness. Sure, some mommas want to dress the baby up for pictures (and rightfully so--document that baby's arrival!). We dressed our newbie in 2 outfits for professional photos, but we hated changing her clothes because we were new at the whole parenting thing, and she seemed too fragile to put into and take out of clothing. Unfortunately, the diapers we brought with us were not the best fit for her super scrawny legs, so there were a couple of meconium leaks onto onesies and receiving blankets. We limited changing her clothes only to the times she truly needed it. So whether you pack 3 outfits or 30, the laundry piles up anyway. But you know what? That baby is totally worth stain-treating, washing, drying, folding, and putting away the same onesie 10,000 times.

You guys are AWESOME! Keep those suggestions and personal experiences coming!

Anonymous said...

A great list for new moms! For those that end up with stitches, I will suggest a couple of items to take from the hospital if possible. I took home several of the plastic squirt bottles they provided for perineal cleaning. I put one in each of our bathrooms so that I had one handy no matter where I was in the house. I even kept one in a ziplock bag in my purse for outings in those first weeks post delivery. I also took as many of the bed pads as I could. I used them on my bed at home to try to save the sheets. No one seemed to share too much about this side of the new mom experience!

V-Dub said...

This is a great suggestion! I didn't know about the peri-bottles until I had to have stitches. Thank goodness the hospital provided one. I only had the one, so I love your idea of having multiple bottles around the house. I did keep pads in every bathroom, the diaper bag, my purse--wherever I could hide a stash. Beside the bed is a great precautionary tactic. Thanks for your share!

Carrie RNC said...

Excellent and much needed advice for new moms. I am an OB nurse/lactation counselor. Your ideas and added comments are perfect. From my end, don't be afraid to ask your nurse for anything, we are there for you. Take a good breastfeeding class if you plan to nurse, not all OB nurses are experts in that area. It will help to know what to look for and how to fix it before it's a bigger problem.
I will add...pillows. Bring yours from home, they are much nicer usually than the hospitals and that one familiar thing might make the difference in getting some sleep. A sign for the door "new family sleeping/resting" with suction cup hanger. Works good for home too. We can't police the door. You do need your rest.
Happy birthing and parenthood to all.

Anonymous said...

One i'd like to add is depends :) Yes, thats right adult diapers. They actually make them very underwear like these days and let me just tell you..... it is awefully nice to just tear them off and throw them away. This way you dont have to wear the net undies from the hospital and and keep the massive pads in place PLUS have extra absorbancy if the pads isnt just right or you are in the middle of something more important, like snuggling a sleepy newborn, to go change :) These can also be used at home for those first few days post partum when the bleeding is at its worst. It may save you some underwear :)

Anonymous said...

oh yeh.... and witch hazel (which is the active ingredient in the tucks pads). Refrigerate a bottle or a container of tucks. Your 'stiches' will approve of the cool relief :)

Kristie said...

One thing I would add, is tell your family and friends that there will be plenty of time after you get home from the hospital to come and see the baby. I outlawed everyone but my hubs, kids, and grandmas/grandpas at the hospital. It was the best thing I ever did. And I wouldn't worry about offending anyone. Also, if you know you will be having visitors, tell your nurse/aide that you only want them to stay for a short time. The nurses are wonderful at telling people that you need your rest. And in my experience they will tell people to go away. Use the few days you have in the hospital to sleep, recoup, take leisurely showers, watch tv, and figure out your baby. The visitors will be nice when you get home and they want to hold the baby while you shower, or they can hold the baby while you provide an older sibling with a few minutes of mommy time.
Awesome list. Thanks for sharing it.

Anonymous said...

I have to say its nice knowing the nurses dont have an issue telling your family no...im halfway through my first pregnancy and my family is ok with being told its only me and my guy in the del. room but my boyfriends mom has already told me she doesnt care what i say and will be in there no matter what...good to know ill have some back-up on the issue.

Anonymous said...

Something to add, a bathrobe! I lived in mine at the hospital! Also, I had Awesome nurses my second time around, so I sent my hubby to Target to get a card and chocolate for them. We left them for the nurses when we went home. They do so much for you, why not show them a little appreciation!

Anonymous said...

I've read somewhere that you can put some witch hazel on maxi pads and put them in the fridge (probably in a ziploc) before use so they're nice and cool. Expecting my first this fall. Thanks for all of the great tips!

Stephanie said...

Something I am remembering this time around (numerous tires for me!) is breast pads! I didn't leak with my first, but I did with my second (who knew, right?) so I'm bringing them along! If I don't need them, OK, but if I do, woo hoo!

Christina Guida said...

Great and realistic list...wish i had it 4 years ago! Especially the home ideas!!

Heather said...

Some extras that are soooo helpful to have:

Plastic bag or sack for dirty laundry
Extra camera card/ rechargeable battery
Pillow and blanket...I always FREEZE under those lightweight hospital blankets!

Vaseline...this is for putting on baby's entire bum the first few days...makes those sticky, tar-like meconium poos wipe right off without irritating sensitive skin!!


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