It was 7pm on a cool February evening back in 2018 when my husband and I were heading on a long-anticipated journey in a car packed full to the rafters with enough luggage for a month-long vacation. Except this trip would only take us eight minutes and we hoped to return home within 48 hours. We were on our way to deliver our first baby, and one might say I poured as much energy into packing my hospital bags (note the plural) that I would for a summer holiday in Ibiza – this was one trip for which I wasn’t going to travel lightly.
In the car boot was a Swiss ball, pregnancy pillow, regular pillow, a suitcase, two holdalls and a bag of sandwiches and snacks – no one could accuse me of being underprepared. We had so much luggage the hospital porter had to assist my husband up to the maternity triage floor as I waddled behind, clutching a pillow. Being a first-time mum I had packed for every scenario, but as I had arrived at the hospital doors pretty far into labour (8.5cm dilated to be exact) the bags were ditched to the side, while my husband frantically searched for my bikini so I could take a ‘dip’ in the birthing pool – even the bikini didn’t make a lasting appearance.
Now pregnant with my second baby, the packing of my hospital bag has – much to my husband’s (and likely, the hospital porter’s) delight – undergone some serious editing.
Thanks to my experience as a stylist, I’ve become a pro at packing, not packing lightly, you understand, just packing. I’m an a organised traveller. I style full outfits according to the destination, right down to accessories and compartmentalise everything into handy nylon packing cubes. And just like that trip to Ibiza, I’ve packed my birth bag as if it were stages of a holiday. These include: the labour, the after birth, and of course the most important packing cube of all: baby’s first wardrobe. I hope mums-to-be find my packing guide helpful. Don’t be like the rookie me who turned up at A&E with more luggage than Celine Dion at Paris Fashion week.
I’m planning on an all-natural hypnobirthing birth, which is reflected in my packing. Some items may not be relevant for some mums choosing alternative births but you may find some useful gems to consider. To note, I have spoken to my doctor and have her consent on using the below methods throughout my labour and would advise you do the same if you are considering introducing homeopathy or essential oils.
The Gentle Birth Method by Dr Gowri Motha and Karen Swan MacLeod
With lots of tips on labour positions, massages, guidance for husbands and birth partners, this has been my go-to birth handbook for both pregnancies and all trimesters.
Homeopathic Labour and Post-Natal Kit
From the guidance of Dr Gowri Motha, author of The Gentle Birth Method, I will take small doses of homeopathic remedies throughout my labour to remain calm, focused, and to reduce swelling. Please ask your doctor before considering homeopathic medicines.
Clary Sage Oil
This essential oil is said to keep contractions, or surges (what I prefer to call them) regular. If my labour stalls at any point, my husband will massage my bump with this oil that I’ve pre-blended with olive oil to move things along. Alternatively, I’ll place a few drops on a face flannel and inhale it to remain calm as it’s also known to reduce adrenaline.
Making a fashion statement is the last thing on my mind in the delivery room but I like to cover all the bases. This includes a comfy Nike sports bikini in case I want to use the shower as a method of pain relief. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the hospital has stopped water births but this is what I wore on my last delivery in the birthing pool. This time I’m bringing a comfy oversized T-shirt that I don’t mind getting trashed, cosy socks as cold feet are common during labour (no pun intended) and lastly, a large white robe because after my first birth, I was so high on adrenalin that I needed to be wrapped up nice and warm to stop shivering.
I’ve packed a couple of bottles of this mighty beverage to sip during labour for energy and to guzzle down immediately after delivery to replenish my electrolytes. For snacks to fuel me throughout labour, I’ve chosen dates, energy balls and oatcakes. There’s no doubt that after the baby arrives, we’ll be ordering pizza.
A pregnancy pillow, when I’m dealing with surges I can curl myself around this sausage-shaped pillow, which also doubles up as an ace breastfeeding support cushion. I’ll bring a small speaker to play my calming hypnobirthing tracks, along with ear plugs and an eye mask to block out unwanted noise and light. And, in light of covid-19, also in my bag will be Dettol wipes, face masks and gloves, which have unexpectedly become the new essentials for women giving birth in the next few months.
For my first birth, I packed everything that Pinterest’s packing guides told me to take, only to find that the hospital provided most of the necessities such as disposable knickers and large maternity sanitary pads (these were actually better than the type I had brought myself, so it might be worth checking with the hospital to see if they provide them). This time my post-natal requirements are more minimal.
This contains all the miniatures I would pack for a weekend away, sans suncream of course. I found my skin got incredibly dehydrated postpartum, so this time I’ve packed a rich face cream and face oil along with hand cream as I suspect there will be a lot of handwashing. Coconut oil, meanwhile, will soothe any soreness or cracked nipples from breastfeeding. This miracle oil is known for its anti-fungal and antibacterial properties and will help reduce inflammation and infection.
Post-birth was possibly the least glamorous I have ever felt in my life, and I didn’t care one iota because I was all wrapped up in my baby bubble. But if there’s one surefire way to make me feel semi-normal, it’s a brand new set of loose-fitting, cotton pyjamas and robe. I’ve also packed an oversized bed shirt and a nursing vest for easy access breastfeeding plus slippers.
Going home outfit
Chances are, the outfit I turned up to hospital in will have been slung in a corner of the hospital room, or will be in such a state it’s not worth thinking about. So I’ve packed something comfy with a low and loose waistband, large knickers, t-shirt and a cardigan or sweater to combat post-partum chills.
Due to the current health pandemic I’m hoping for a short hospital stay, so with this in mind I’m packing pretty lightly for the baby too.
As an experienced mother I rarely leave home without this baby/toddler staple. I plan on using cooled boiled water and cotton wool balls to clean my baby’s bottom for the first few weeks before moving onto the world’s purest baby wipe which is 99.9 per cent water. However, I will use these wipes for any sticky meconium (baby’s first poo) that won’t budge, and for giving my face a quick swipe after labour when I can’t muster the energy to get up and wash it.
A gorgeous baby blanket was top of my list as I hope my baby will have it for years to come. I picked out this one from Mamas & Papas called Happy Bee to wrap baby up in, along with a cellular blanket and a few swaddle and muslin cloths.
Baby’s first wardrobe
I’m hoping for plenty of skin-to-skin action during which baby will be naked, snuggled on my bare skin. But when it’s time to get dressed, I’ve packed three baby gros in newborn size, three newborn vests, one pair of mittens, two hats and, lastly, a cardigan for baby to travel home in.