Local Moms Share Hospital Essentials for Labor

Your due date is approaching, you are in full-fledged nesting mode, and you are tasked with one of the final to-dos on your lengthy maternity list: packing your hospital bag. For mothers who choose not to have a home birth (or who have been advised it is too risky), it can be difficult to discern what is really worth it to bring with you.

We consulted many Toledo moms about their experiences in addition to an interview with Shelly Varelli, a certified professional midwife. This checklist might just keep you from packing like you’re going on a tour of Europe. Enjoy!

Two different birth plans

Varelli, who assists clients in coming up with their own birth plans, thinks that a long, comprehensive one is a start, but you should eventually be able to narrow down what you need to two business cards: one for your partner and one for the hospital staff.

“What do you need? Are you talking about the different types of essential oils you like, or when you’re in the throes of labor, do you like somebody to hold your hair? Those are things that your husband or your doula might want to know about you, but your providers at the hospital don’t necessarily have time to read through all of that. So it can be helpful to have two separate birth plans,” Varelli said.

Snacks and drinks to keep up your energy

Electrolyte drinks (Liquid IV and coconut water, for example), along with high-protein, yet easily digestible snacks will help you power through the labor experience. Varelli said, “You should eat and drink throughout labor consistently to keep your metabolism and blood sugar going, and to keep the energy you need to sustain labor.” Think protein pouches, cheese sticks, granola bars, fruit, etc.

Tools to soothe postpartum cramps

Not everyone anticipates the menstrual-like cramps that come after birth, particularly when you are breastfeeding. It’s nice to have items like a hot water bottle or a heating pad.

Witch Hazel

Putting Witch Hazel on sanitary pads or investing in some liners like Tuck’s (the ones I went with), are a real lifesaver if you’ve had a vaginal birth. Another pro-tip: Freeze some Witch Hazel pads at home, and your body will thank you when you return from the hospital.

Two clothing options for baby

Most moms I’ve spoken to say the only outfit you really need is a baby’s going-home outfit; however, Varelli has some insight on packing one more. “We recommend skin-to-skin and an extra layer of clothing along with a blanket when you’re not skin to skin. Baby should always be wearing one more layer of clothing than mom is [when not skin-to-skin],” Varelli said.

Mother lovingly looking at her baby
Erin Holden and her husband with their newborn.

Admin necessities

Make sure your insurance cards, IDs, and chargers for your phone and/or camera are ready to go.

A digital thermometer

This is to make sure your baby isn’t too hot or too cold. It’s useful for getting new moms accustomed to doing it themselves at home when they feel unsure about their little one’s temperature. The hospital staff will be doing this as well, but it is not a bad idea for you to get the hang of it right away.

Diapers and/or pads for mama

The weird mesh panties they give you aren’t for everyone. “Bring some that you know will fit your body best. The mesh ones they give aren’t always good for larger bodies,” adds Varelli.

Everyone is different

Essentially, what you pack will depend on many variables. Are you breastfeeding? Did you schedule a c-section? Do you have needs that are particular to your own healthcare and personal life? The truth is, you won’t need much. The hospital really does provide most of what you need. The rest is a matter of maximizing your comfort.

RELATED: Maintaining a Healthy Pelvic Floor: Tips and Insights from a Urogynecologist 

“The emphasis should really be on support rather than stuff,” Varelli said, adding that there is a helpful website run by the nonprofit Be Her Village (behervillage.com) that has countless resources besides a baby registry. You’ll find information about her work at OHMI Midwives there, among other helpful tools. Learn more about Shelly Varelli at Shellyvarelli.com.

Toledo Area Parent Poll

What were your must-haves for your hospital bag?

Top Ten Answers:

Snacks: 43%

Hair ties/headband: 39%

Comfortable clothes for mama: 30%

Phone Charger: 30%

Pillow: 30%

Headphones: 30%

Toiletries: 22%

Chapstick: 17%

Sweater: 17%

Outfit for baby: 17%

Memorable quotes from Toledo mamas:

“Comfortable clothes for myself. Keep in mind that your new baby won’t be the only one sent home wearing diapers…” -Hannah S.

“As someone who didn’t have a bag packed for Morgan…I didn’t really need much. Really, pillows made the biggest difference! When I was first admitted, I had one tiny hospital pillow. Labor and Delivery was full, so the nurse couldn’t find any for quite some time.

Also, all the snacks for during and after! I packed some chocolate to have right after! We celebrated with peanut butter cups at 9am with my birth team.” -Caroline R.

“Flip flops for showering, boppy pillow for feeding baby (better than stacking a bunch of pillows), phone charger with a long cord, one pair of comfy pajamas, AirPods, and a nursing bra.

I overpacked the first time. Leave all baby clothes at home (minus an outfit to go home in), along with extra clothing for me (as the gowns were fine for the first couple of days). Anything else (like a tumbler) the hospital provides.” -Stacy V.

“Headphones, diapers for myself, a fine-tooth comb to squeeze and distract from labor pain.” – Jessica J.