Photo by Melissa Young
Pregnancy is essentially nine months of preparation to welcome a new person into your family. At the early part of pregnancy, there’s a lot of dreaming and hypothetical planning. Then somewhere toward the middle of pregnancy you start getting more serious and what once felt like too early to plan suddenly starts to feel like more of a rush! Packing your hospital bag may seem silly when you have months before you head to the hospital – can we be TOO prepared? How early should we reasonably start packing?
If your baby comes early:
Most women carry their babies to term, and we should never stress or worry about things that “might” go wrong. Move forward through your pregnancy with health and ease in your mind. But you can casually, in a matter-of-fact way, prep a small bag for yourself for the hospital in the event that it’s needed. No one plans to have their baby early, so when it does happen, no one is prepared. After around 25 weeks your baby begins to have a better chance of survival outside the womb, but a long hospital stay is expected. To have a small bag ready by around 25-27 weeks is reasonable. The hospital will provide for you your basic needs, but having some of your own home comforts is what you’re going for. Include a few things that would be comforting to have if you were staying at the hospital for an extended period of time and keep in mind your needs if you had to have a Cesarean.
Homey Comforts You might enjoy having nice lotion, lip balm, soap and shampoo, a journal, a couple books (for you and even a few children’s books so you can sit and read to your little one), your own water bottle, snack bars, hair ties, extra phone charger, pajamas, robe, slippers and a cozy sweater. Include a list of emergency contact numbers, in case someone else is grabbing your bag and needs to call people for you. Breastfeeding bras (also nice to wear when pumping), comfortable cesarean friendly pants that are gentle on the tummy area, tops that open in the front for easy kangaroo care/pumping/nursing are all smart to have packed and will be useful regardless of when or how long you are at the hospital. A soft blanket for yourself and your own pillow will be really comforting and are recommended by most moms, whether or not you go early!
For Your Baby The hospital will provide almost everything they need and a premature baby often can’t have anything not hospital-sanctioned (clothes, stuffed animals, etc) until a certain point in their development and health. If you want to pack something for the baby you could include a simple Muslin blanket that you put next to your skin and then put with the baby when they’re ready.
If your baby comes on time (ish):
As it gets closer to your due date, you can reassess what you’ve packed. By around 36 – 37 weeks, you should have your bag officially and seriously packed! You may still have 4-6 weeks of pregnancy left, but you might not! Not only might you naturally go into labor but you might have a baby that is large enough and ready enough to be able to go right home with you.
Prepare Get that car seat installed now, so it’s already there when baby makes its arrival. You might think about removing some of the extra items you had in your bag that were preparing you for a longer stay, such as books, extra toiletries, and you could probably get by without some of the extra comforts like your own shampoo and pillow, if you prefer to travel light. And you can now pack items for the baby, such as clothes, hats, blankets, a pacifier, diapers, mittens, soap and diaper cream.
Pack for yourself and baby early enough to be prepared for anything, but don’t let yourself stress over the details of what may happen. You’re making your life a little easier just to have things ready to grab and go, and they’ll be there waiting for you even if you don’t go into labor until 42 weeks!