Hospital Checklist: Part 1 Labor and Delivery

As labor day draws nearer, most families begin preparing for the things they want to bring with them to the hospital, both for during labor and also for after labor. It can be a daunting task with all the variables of birth. Most people are left feeling like they don’t want to bring too much, but are also worried that they might not bring enough and every person you ask has a different list of must-have items, which can further complicate the packing process. Below you’ll find some information about things you might need or consider when packing your labor bag, but keep your own personality, needs, and situation in mind when making your final lists.

Things for labor

Food and Drink: Labor can be a long, draining process, and many hospitals have done away with the old idea of only allowing laboring people ice chips. The current evidence shows that there is no medical harm or benefit for healthy pregnant people to eat during labor, but being able to eat can certainly help make a person feel better. Bring things that can be eaten easily between contraction and provide good nutrition for the hard work of labor! Hard candy or honey sticks can also give you a quick burst of energy, and can sometimes be just the thing you need to get you to your baby. Drinks should be offered between each contraction and should be consumed as the laboring person desires, It can be helpful to have a water bottle with a straw for ease. Water can be a great option or some people make a LaborAide drink with vitamins and nutrients to help sustain the work of labor.

Socks or slippers: Many people find themselves walking the hospital halls or around their room while in labor to let gravity help things along. While shoes might not be uncomfortable, most people may find treading in bare feet inadvisable in a hospital. Socks, especially those with grippies on the bottom, or slippers can be the perfect middle ground. You can even find socks with labor affirmations or cute jokes (PUSH IT REAL GOOD!) on the bottom.

Birthing outfit (if desired): it is not necessary to wear a hospital gown at all while you’re giving birth. Many people wear their own clothes or even make or buy a special labor gown. If you’re wanting to forego the hospital gown, make sure your own outfit is easily accessible where needed. Most people find a flowy dress or nightgown sufficient, especially one that buttons down the front for easy access to breastfeed. Snaps or buttons on the back can be helpful if an epidural is chosen. Many people also find they wind up spending a lot of their time laboring naked or semi-naked, and that’s ok too. 

Clothes for the water: if you plan to use a labor or birth tub or shower, you may also bring items specifically to get wet. A two piece swimsuit or a sports bra is often the clothing of choice as they aren’t likely to get in the way or be uncomfortable when wet.

Bathrobe: With all the hormones of labor, it isn’t unusual to be burning hot one minute and then freezing cold the next. A bathrobe can easily be worn or shed as your temperature needs change.

Labor tools: Labor tools are things you want to bring to help you cope throughout labor. There are many things you might bring like massage oil, heating pad, tennis balls in a sock, essential oils, or even hair combs. There are many websites and books that can give you some ideas of things you can try. Your doula might also bring labor tools for you to use in her doula bag.

Phone Charger: You’d hate to have your phone with your labor music give out just as you go into transition. Birth can be a long, slow process, especially if you have an induction, so tucking an extra phone charger gives you the assurance that you can get a little more power when you need it the most.

Copy of birth plan: If you have something written out, put at least one copy in your bag. This is something you can hand to each nurse or anyone that is helping you in your birth space get an idea of what your goals and hopes are while you labor. Try to keep it brief, with the most important points clear and easy to identify.

Things to think about: Chapstick, as hospitals are often dry, and you’ll be doing a lot of breathing during labor. Extra hair ties, since labor is not usually a time you want hair in your face. An eye mask, to help keep your world dark and peaceful. Depending on your hospital, you might need to bring official ID and you insurance card. 

Things you likely won’t need: a birth ball or peanut ball. Many hospitals have a large selection of these items.

Things for partner

Your birth partner will also be with you and might want to pack their own bag. It’s impossible to tell how long labor will take, so a little planning can make everyone feel more comfortable and confident.

Pregnant couple with doula at home

Snacks and food: It’s hard work being the birth partner, and you’ll need plenty of energy too. You may find it difficult to leave your laboring partner to grab something to eat, so coming prepared is important. Focus on quick, easy items like sandwiches and trail mix that give you a lot of sustainable energy and can be eaten quickly between contractions. Bring a water bottle or other cup for drinks. Consider including your favorite instant coffee or other caffeine source. You may have access to some vending machines, so some loose change or dollar bills might be helpful as well. Be mindful, however, of the smells you bring into the labor room. Many people find they are extra sensitive to smells while in labor, and may not appreciate your tuna fish sandwich.

toothpaste/gum/mint: You may find yourself very close to your partner’s face while in labor. And remember how they might be more sensitive to smells? Having something to freshen your breath can be a huge help! You might also bring some deodorant for other smells too.

Extra Clothes: Did I mention that birth can be a LONG process? Having a fresh pair of clothes after being up all night can help you feel like a whole new person. It can also be nice to have something to change into after the birth if you don’t want to go home. If your partner is planning a water birth or to use a tub or shower during labor, you might want some extra clothes in case your first pair gets wet or something specifically to get into the tub with your partner.

Phone charger: You may want to take pictures, call family, or have access to your music and other apps on your phone. You might be using your phone a lot during labor, so having the option to recharge your phone may be very important!

Copy of the birth plan: You might be the first contact person for nurses, doctors, and other people in the labor room. You should know the birth plan and be able to share a copy with the birth team.

Other things to consider: a printed list of people to call (in case your phone does die). A camera for photos.

Coming up next week: What to bring for your postpartum hospital stay. I’ll be including a free downloadable hospital checklist too!

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