5 Things You Actually Need in Your Labor & Delivery Hospital Bag

There are a lot of lists out there about what to pack for the hospital when you're having a baby. Almost all of them include things that you may or may not end up using. Everyone has a different experience when having a baby, so it's important to take any and all lists with a grain of salt. Just as no pregnancy is exactly the same as another pregnancy, your experience in labor, delivery, and recovery could be miles away from anyone else's. 

I had a lot of, to be honest, useless crap packed in my pre-packed hospital bag: stuff I never touched, or tried to use and failed, or wanted to use but just couldn't. And then, there were the things I sent Danny scurrying to Target to grab or asked my mom to buy for me. 

1. A Hands-Free Pumping Bra

I saw these in Target before I had Forrest and I thought, "how silly!" It just seemed ridiculous. But 24 hours after Forrest was born and I was producing less than 1 mL of colostrum every two hours. Forrest was eating donor milk or formula as a result. My nurse told me I needed to pump, every two hours, and massage all the glands to get my milk to come in. She recommended a hands-free pumping bra--not so I could surf the 'net like the woman on the box (although, admittedly, I'm writing this post while pumping thanks to this very bra), but so I could use both my hands to self express.

You never know if your milk is going to come in immediately or dilly-dally for several days, leaving your baby in a lurch where you have to supplement and frantically pump to up your supply. So pack your pump (or double check that your hospital has pumps available to use!) and pick up one of these bras. The one Danny got me from Target is available here--I like it because it's adjustable, which means you don't have to worry about sizing it correctly ahead of time (and it will still fit after your milk comes in), but there are cheaper options on Amazon as well. If you don't want to drop $30, you can buy a cheap sports bra and cut slits in the front; it's less discreet, but works just as well.  

2. Pads

No one told me a lochia. Ok, I'd read on message boards and packing lists about postpartum bleeding--I'm not entirely dumb. But no one ever mentioned the word lochia. Have you heard the word lochia? Well, lochia is the technical name for the 6-8 weeks of bleeding that you have after giving birth. I know. You can read more about it here, but basically it's not just from any lacerations or tearing you might have from childbirth. Even women who receive c-sections have lochia. The point I'm trying to make is: you're going to need pads. Lots of pads. Good ones. The word around the mom boards these days is that Always Infinity Flex Foam pads are the absolute best that money can buy--and from personal experience, they aren't wrong. Also, stock up because you will need way more than you think you will. And if you haven't worn a pad since you were, like, 12 years old, then I'm really, really sorry. 

3. Easy Access Tank Tops & Packaged Underwear

I'm against specialty clothing on principal. I refused--flat out refused--to buy nursing tops. I think they're a waste of money when you can easily augment or alter existing clothing to do the exact same thing. That being said: the absolute best tops for quick pumping or nursing are tank tops. You can pull them down or up easily and not have too much fabric bunching around your business. Plus, they're super comfy. I've said it before, but the absolute best camis are from Forever 21 and they're dirt cheap. Buy at least 10 of them. 

Speaking of things you haven't had to wear since you were about 12, invest in some cheap packaged underwear, about 2 sizes bigger than you usually wear. Pick at least two varieties in case you end up hating how one kind feels. As a heads up, you're going to love the little mesh underwear they give you post-delivery and you'll be very sad when they won't give you anymore. 

4. Non-Tech Entertainment

The morning I was surprise induced, I shoved my Kindle into my purse and trotted out the door. I wouldn't go back to my house for seven days and not once did I consider asking anyone to grab me an actual, physical book. The thing about having a baby is it makes you super tired--and then you don't really get to sleep because you have to, you know, take care of the baby. There were times where I needed something to do in the wee hours of the night, but if I looked at another screen for even a minute, my head probably would have burst--and all those lighted screens don't help you drift into a 40 minute power nap between feedings and pumping. So grab a book or a journal for your bag. Trust me. 

5. A Notebook 

No, you're not going to have time to wax poetic about your birth experience or anything in the days in the hospital. You might have time to jot down a quick journal entry or doodle or write a to-do list. But this notebook isn't for that. It's for writing down when you feed baby, what side you feed them on (if you're breastfeeding), how much they ate (if you're bottle feeding), how much you pumped, etc. This is information that nurses will come in and ask you about every 2-4 hours... and if you haven't slept in about 30 hours, you probably won't remember a single thing. You'll know you fed the baby. You'll know they had some kind of dirty diaper (wet? soiled? I don't know?), but you won't remember. You'll need to write it down... and you'll need to keep writing it down, post-hospital, because the pediatrician will ask you the exact same questions. Try remembering how much you fed your baby four days ago--I dare you. 

A few things I absolutely did not need include a robe, extra pillows, and real shoes (until I left). Of course, remember to pack a good, moisturizing lotion. I'm not talking about something that smells amazing. I like Babyology Daily Moisturizing Baby Lotion for both Forrest and I. In the hospital, the air is so dry, you'll end up putting on lotion every other minute and slathering your face with lip balm every chance you get. 

What did you absolutely need in the hospital--and what did you wish you'd left at home?