14 Essentials for a Positive Labor & Delivery Experience

If you’re in your third trimester, the inevitable is near. Ready or not, the baby (or babies) who have been camping out in your tummy will finally make their grand entrance into the world. Therefore, it’s time to pack your hospital bag (assuming that you’re having a hospital birth). Having been there before, we’ve found that these items are absolutely essential for having a positive labor and delivery experience. 

When should I pack my bag? 

If this is your first child, you should plan to pack your hospital bag approximately three weeks from your due date. In addition to packing your hospital bag, you’ll also want to have your car seat installed. While neither a bag or a car seat are necessary in order to deliver your baby, it’s extremely helpful to have your stuff together so that your partner isn’t scrambling at the last minute. From our personal experience, being unprepared leads to a sleep-deprived spouse rushing home in the middle of the night, setting off the alarm and bringing a bunch of random stuff back to the hospital. 

If this is your second (or third, fourth, etc.) time around, then you know the drill. However, if any of your previous births were early, you may want to move your packing date ahead. For example, if your first child was born at 35 weeks gestation, you’ll want those bags packed and the car seat installed before that 35 week mark. Better safe than sorry!

The Babymoov Traveler Bag is at the top of our list for your actual hospital bag. With ample space to fit everything you’ll need, you won’t need to worry about running out of space when packing all your labor and delivery essentials. This generously-sized bag (22 in. x 12 in. x 9.8 in.) comes complete with a changing pad, pacifier holder, insulated bottle bag, and clear plastic storage tote for all of your toiletries – as well as a variety of interior and exterior pockets and compartments to keep your belongings organized for your entire hospital stay.

Keep in mind, your hospital stay could be longer than expected (particularly if you require a c-section), so it’s always best to pack your bag with enough supplies to last you for several days – and the traveler bag is built to hold all your necessities and then some. Made from a durable nylon fabric and available in Cherry (shown here), Black, and Smokey, you can select the traveler bag that suits your own personal style.

Now that you know when, let’s discuss what should go into that bag. We’ve broken up the list by category.

Labor & Delivery

1. Registration Forms, Insurance Card, and ID

Most hospitals allow you to pre-register during your 2nd trimester. This gets a lot of the paperwork involved with a hospital birth out of the way so that you can focus on important stuff like breathing. However, we still recommend that you have your health insurance card and license (or ID) available as the intake person will want to confirm that you are who you say you are. Be sure to double check that they have your information correct when you arrive. 

You may also want to bring along any advance directives such as a living will and/or health care power of attorney with you just in case. 

2. Birth Plan 

Take some time in the weeks leading up to your due date to think about the type of birthing experience you want. Your plan doesn’t have to be lengthy, but you should ask yourself whether or not you want drugs or an epidural (and at what point), who you want in the room, if you want to delay cord clamping, donate cord blood, the position in which you want to labor, etc. Remember that this is your body and your baby, so you should have a say in what happens.

These same details should be discussed with your doctor in advance and documented in your medical records, but it’s best to have your plan written down so that your labor and delivery nurses are on the same page. If you’ve given birth before, it’s also useful to share that experience within your birth plan. For example, if you are subject to precipitate labor (also known as rapid delivery, meaning delivering in 3 hours or less), be sure to tell everyone you interact with you’re going to move quickly. 

3. Birthing Gown

Here’s something you may not have even considered: what are you going to wear when in labor and during your hospital stay? Traditional hospital gowns can fit poorly (some moms need to wear 2+ gowns for adequate coverage), and are cumbersome when in labor – you’ll likely be lifting that gown up frequently for cervical checks, placement and constant adjustment of fetal monitors on your belly, and opening it up in the back if you choose to receive an epidural. And once the baby is born, if you’re planning on lots of skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding, the entire gown has to be removed or untied then pulled down… every single time. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

Enter the Melanie birthing gown from Dressed to Deliver. This gown is so incredible that you’ll want to wear it when pregnant, and throughout the fourth trimester (those precious 3 months post-birth when you and baby are bonding) – and of course – when in labor, and during your hospital stay. This gown features snaps going all the way up the back for easy epidural access, snaps going up the front for fetal monitors, and shoulder snaps to make breastfeeding easier.  

Made of the softest, breathable bamboo fabric that’s naturally anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, and stain resistant, it’s truly a pleasure to wear – unlike those worn-out, scratchy hospital gowns that have been bleached one too many times. The Melanie gown’s empire waist style is flattering on pregnant and postpartum bodies, and is uber-comfortable as your body heals (it’s very gentle on c-section incisions as well). As a bonus, you’ll look stunning in all of the first photos you have taken with your precious new little one. 

4. Warm Socks or Slippers

Hospitals typically provide a pair of non-slip socks to all patients, so technically, you don’t have to pack anything if you’re cool with using what the hospital provides. However, if you’re progressing slowly, you may appreciate having something of your own so that you can walk in comfort. If not for laboring, you’ll definitely want a pair of slippers in postpartum care. 

5. Laboring Tunes

Some women find great comfort in music while they are in labor. Again, in the weeks leading up to your due date, create a playlist on your iPod that inspires you to push. 

6. Camera

Whether you decide to hire a birth photographer or capture the big event on your own, be sure to pack your camera. In addition, be sure that your camera (or cell phone) is charged and has a memory card. Bring an extra battery, memory card, and phone charger or power bank as an extra precaution.

If you’re bringing your DSLR, we suggest bringing a prime lens such as your 35mm or 50mm that can handle low light and also be wide enough to capture the entire experience as hospital rooms aren’t typically known for being that big. 

7. Snacks 

Typically, once you arrive at the hospital, you will not be allowed to have anything to eat other than ice chips. Therefore, many women will choose to labor at home for as long as possible or find themselves stuffing their face on the way to the hospital. 

That said, if you are laboring for many hours, your partner may appreciate an energy boost so that he (or she) can help you through each contraction. Hospitals rarely offer much in the way of healthy snack options unless you want to hit up the dining room, so you might want to pack a few snacks for your partner so that he doesn’t have to leave your side. 

Postpartum Care

8. Nursing-friendly Nightgown and/or Pajamas

Once you’ve given birth, you’ll be moved into postpartum care; and when you’re up for it, you’ll be anxious to change into something a little more comfortable. If you plan to nurse your new baby, we suggest packing a nursing gown, pajamas, and a robe. Typically, hospitals will keep you for approximately 2 days if you have a vaginal birth and 4 days if you’ve had a cesarean, so be sure to pack enough for your stay.

We particularly love the Lara Blue Maternity Nursing Hospital Gown by Floressa. We first noticed this super soft, jersey cotton hospital gown being worn by Jennifer Love Hewitt on the Ghost Whisperer

It’s so comfortable that we highly recommend using it throughout your pregnancy, but you’ll especially want to pack it in your hospital bag to use during those first few days of nursing with your newborn. It features a round neckline, short sleeves and inverted pleat in the front to easily breastfeed your baby.

Another option is the Belabumbum Ondine Nursing Cami and Pant set. This beautiful and lightweight set is the perfect addition to your wardrobe during pregnancy and your hospital bag as you prepare for a night or two spent in the hospital.

The Ondine Cami is made of 100% pima cotton and features under bust pull-up nursing access while still offering support for breasts while not nursing. The cami’s ornate design and lace trim adds a delicate touch. The pants are also made of 100% pima cotton jersey, with a comfortable stretch waist band.

If you wish to be covered a bit more, or will be delivering in the cooler months, a matching robe with elegant lace trim is the perfect addition to the Ondine nursing pajama set. We chose the Ondine Robe also by Belabumbum in a pretty blue to match. The robe still allows for easy nursing access and features a self-tie belt that makes for a comfortable fit before, during, and after your hospital stay. 

9. Nursing Bra

You’ll actually want to pack a couple of nursing bras, including a sleep bra and pumping bra.

We find that a sleep bra is the most comfortable while you’re lounging in pajamas and getting used to breastfeeding a new baby. If you experience any sort of engorgement, a sleep bra will simply feel more comfortable than a typical nursing bra. If you experience any leakage, you can also attach your nursing pads to the nursing bra instead of trying to attach them to your nursing gown. 

If your baby has any trouble latching on during the first few days, be sure to request to see a lactation consultant. While you and your baby try to figure things out, you may want to start pumping to bring your milk in. Many hospitals will provide a hospital-grade breast pump; others will offer hand pumps for a fee. You’ll want to find out what is available at your birthing facility. You can also bring your own breast pump, but it’s unnecessary if the hospital has one for you to use during your stay. Either way, you will want to pack a pumping bra (just in case). You obviously don’t HAVE to have a pumping bra, but you’ll appreciate being able to pump hands free. 

10. Toiletries

Have you ever spent the night at a budget hotel? Then you’re familiar with how little the hospital provides in the way of toiletries. Therefore, plan to bring your own including shampoo, conditioner, body wash (or soap), a toothbrush, toothpaste, your skincare regimen, lip balm, a hairbrush and makeup. Also bring some cheap flip flops to wear in the shower to prevent athlete’s foot. 

If you still need to use any of these items (ex. makeup), then keep them accessible but ready to go. Your toiletries don’t necessarily have to make it to the hospital in time for delivery, but if your spouse has to go home to collect anything, you don’t want him to have to go on an “easter egg hunt” to find everything. 

11. Lactation Supporting Nutrition 

Having avoided certain foods and beverages for the past nine months, it’ll be tempting to jump head first into a glass of wine/beer or cut into a rare steak. However, if you are breastfeeding, you may want to consider what will be best for your newborn baby, specifically as it relates to the nutrients that are delivered through your breast milk. 

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you see it), a breastfeeding diet isn’t much different from a pregnancy diet. Most simply put, your goal is to drink at least 8 glasses of water a day, and to eat a variety of nutritious foods; thus, exposing your baby to a multitude of flavors. If you can introduce the taste of carrots, salsa, spices, etc. now, you may find that your child is more open to trying new foods in the future. 

In the short run, you may also want to stock up on some lactation smoothies to jump start milk production. Sweetie Pie Organics Lactation Smoothie is a ready to drink, convenient and easy on-the-go option for nursing mothers.

Organic, kosher, GMO free, and only 180 calories, with no added sugar, it includes four simple ingredients to help boost milk supply: fenugreek (widely known to help increase milk production), flaxseed, pear puree and apple juice. 

Sweetie Pie’s Lactation Smoothie can be purchased online and will also appear on Whole Foods Stores’ shelves nationwide.

Going Home

12. Outfit For Mom

In addition to all the previously mentioned items, you’ll need to pack something to wear home. Consider choosing something that might have fit you at 6 months pregnant since you’ll still be left with a fairly large pooch leaving the hospital or birthing center. 

Many of your pre-pregnancy clothes will become unwearable (at least for awhile) due to lack of ease for nursing. Therefore, you may want to consider clothing that allows for easy breastfeeding access without too much fuss. We particularly love the Favorite Nursing Dress from Milk Nursingwear. This dress is stylish, ultra flattering, extremely comfortable, and allows for discreet nursing; and the best part is that no one will even know that this is a nursing dress, due to no visible nursing openings and move aside nursing access.

The Favorite Nursing Dress not only works postpartum, but you can also wear it comfortably during the 1st, 2nd and beginning of your 3rd trimester. Made of rayon and spandex, this comfortable dress travels well and will become your go-to for looking good while lounging around and hanging out with relatives and friends who want to come see the new baby.

Looking for Un-Nursing Wear?

If you need to add some nursing clothing to your wardrobe, but don’t want to spend money on pieces you’ll only wear for a short period of time, then head on over to Melody Lane for the best in regular clothing that is versatile enough to wear before, during, and after breastfeeding! They offer trendy, classic, and comfortable clothing that is hand-picked for all the life stages women usually experience. With nothing over $100, always free shipping, and new styles featured every season, Melody Lane makes sure your “fashion meets life”.

Melody Lane | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram

13. Outfit for Baby

During your hospital stay, your baby will mostly live in some sort of kimono type of t-shirt that the hospital provides. While you can certainly bring clothes for your baby to wear, we have always found it easier just to leave the baby in those little shirts to make it easier on you and the nursing staff. However, do pack a sweet “going home outfit” and any items you may want your baby to be photographed with at the hospital (hat, blanket, etc.). 

14. Postpartum Care Kit

The hospital typically provides mesh panties, thick maxi pads, ice packs, a Perineal bottle, Dermoplast (with the blue cap) and feminine wipes for you during your stay, but you may want to also have some of these items at home just in case. You can often take these items home with you from the hospital, so be sure to stock up before you are discharged. Actually on that note, most hospitals will allow you to take home anything that isn’t bolted to the wall, including diapers and wipes so take advantage of these freebies. 

If you’re not a fan of the mesh panties, you may want to have some “granny panties,” or even a pack of Depends on hand for those first few weeks of recovery. At a minimum, get some super absorbent maxi pads with wings. 

Did we miss anything? You can certainly bring as much or as little as you’d like, but with these items in your bag, your labor and delivery experience should be off to a great start. 

Now that your bags are packed, here are a few Books to Prepare and Give You Confidence for Labor.

Photo Credits: Cookies for Breakfast, Ashley Sisk, Stephanie, Amber

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Ashley Sisk

Ashley lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children and Kitty Paw. She's a work-from-home mom with a natural light photography business and a passion for sharing everything she knows. Since leaving the corporate world, she now spends her time chasing her preschooler, nursing her new baby, writing and finding ways to enjoy life. You can find her on Facebook, Google + or on her website.

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