Like any first-time mother, I was apprehensive about the whole giving birth thing. Would I be able to tell when I was really in labour? What would happen? How would I feel afterwards? I wanted to be as prepared as possible – and, of course, that meant having my hospital bag ready to go in plenty of time.
I read a lot of magazines and made a list of items they said I’d need. It was quite extensive. Of course, I realised afterwards that there’s the idealistic version of having a baby, and then there’s how it works in the real world. Honestly? You need less than you think you do, and you can always get people to bring in things you’ve forgotten.
There are, however, some essentials. Not all the items below were on my list first time round – but I wish they had been.
1Lip balm/skin cream
Hospitals can be hot, stuffy places – labour and maternity wards even more so. The atmosphere will dry out your lips and skin and leave them parched. A tube of hand and body cream and some lip salve will go a long way to helping you feel more comfortable, both during labour and if you’re staying in for a few days after the birth.
Things tend to be a bit messy and uncomfortable after you’ve had a baby. At best, there’ll be blood and some soreness, but you might also have stitches or a C-section scar. This is when you need to choose comfort over style so pack some oversized granny-pants and leave the skimpy underwear at home. They’re good for holding maternity pads in place, too.
3Snacks & bottled water
Yes, most hospitals have a shop that sells food and drink. But if you go into labour in the middle of the night or wake up in the wee small hours because your body has decided it’s starving, it’s unlikely to be open. (Speaking from experience, here.) Giving birth is hard work so snacks like dried fruit and energy bars are good, but if you want to pack your favourite treat, do. You deserve it.
If you’re hot, sweaty and tired and you’ve got long hair, it’s really annoying to have to keep pushing it out of your eyes or unsticking it from the back of your neck. It was an irritation I really didn’t need while I was having my son. Be prepared – throw a couple of hairbands into your big to keep your hair off your face when the time comes.
5Your own pillow
Having your own pillow is a welcome comfort, especially if you’re staying in for a few days – hospital bedding is pretty utilitarian, after all. When you’re tired, emotional and getting to know the new little person in your life, there’s a lot to be said for something soft and sweet-smelling that reminds you of home.
6A portable fan
We know women who swear this is the single best thing they took with them to hospital. As well as using it to keep cool while they were in labour, it was a lifesaver once they were on the maternity ward, which can be stifling. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy – a simple, battery-operated model is fine.
7Nipple cream and breast pads
Sadly, although it’s one of the most natural things in the world, many women struggle with breastfeeding to begin with. Invest in some good cream for your sore, cracked nipples to make the process a little easier, and stock up on bra pads to soak up any leaks.
8A big, baggy jumper
A dressing-gown is an obvious cover-up, but personally, I preferred wearing one of my favourite baggy jumpers. It hid a multitude of sins. I felt less self-conscious about my saggy post-baby tummy afterwards, and I could lie on the bed without worrying it would gape open. It was comfier to wear, too.
Everyone remembers their phone, but it’s no good if the battery goes flat! Whether you’re taking endless adorable photos of your new baby or playing Candy Crush at 3am when you can’t sleep, a working phone is an essential. Buy a spare charger and put it in your hospital bag right now.
If you’re usually a contact-lens wearer, now’s the time to go back to basics and dig out your specs. Trust me, the last thing you’ll want to do in hospital is faff around with saline solution. Leave the lenses in their case at home – they’ll still be there when you get back.