When you’re pregnant for the first time, it’s almost like you’re a newborn, yourself. Your body is changing day-to-day; you have aches and pains and excretions from places that you never knew existed; you lose control of your emotions, and your vocabulary rapidly expands (hello, toxoplasmosis!). It turns out there is a universe out there that you never really knew about, bustling in plain sight! As you move through pregnancy to childbirth and then raising a kid, the universe just keeps expanding.
The amount of information out there for pregnant women and new moms is overwhelming, especially in this age of social media and technology. Everyone – and I mean everyone – has an opinion. Stories and recommendations fly at you from all angles, at all times of day. You didn’t ask the woman behind you at the grocery store checkout about whether she had a natural birth, but she’ll tell you about it anyway, and throw in some judgment about epidurals just for fun!
In the last four years, I’ve had two kids – a girl, then a boy. I remember feeling so lost the first time around. That’s why I started taking notes about what worked for me. When my friends ask (and sometimes even when they don’t), I pass along my jewels of wisdom. Some of my friends have agreed with my ideas and some have not. Others have added to my lists with their own go-to must haves. Now, I want to share this all with you, in a series of posts that I wish had existed in one place when I was new to it all. Hopefully, some of these tips will take some of the stress out of the crazy, amazing, wild ride of parenthood!
In this first installment, I share some thoughts about the hospital stay after childbirth. Not medical advice, or opinions about birthing styles, but the practical advice for your first couple days as a parent that comes only with experience.
- Lip Balm – hospital air is super dry, and you are doing a lot of deep breathing… plus, you need soft lips to smooch your little one!
- iPhone/iPad/Camera & Charger(s) – how else will you be able to document every moment of your newborn wrapped like a burrito and peering out at you with gremlin eyes?
- Robe – the hospital robes are awkward and you are likely to flash people. Wear your own robe during labor if you walk around, and wear it during recovery for warmth and easy access to breastfeeding. This one has pockets, and a belt that is attached to the robe so it won’t fall off and get lost in the bed sheets.
- Nursing tops (tanks, bras) – You only need two or three, depending on how long you’re there. If you nurse, you will do so every 2-3 hours, and you will be tired and sore (nursing tips in a future post!). Minimize effort by wearing a top with easy access.
- Comfy bottoms – whether they’re leggings or pajama pants, something with a forgiving waistband is good. Plan to be the size that you were when you were about 6 months pregnant. I liked leggings with a wide waist band because they gave me some compression.
- Water bottle – the hospital may provide you with one, but if not, you definitely need one that you can drink from while you’re in bed. Preferably one with a straw, so you don’t have to always sit up (your abs will not feel good, and the beds make a lot of noise going up/down). DRINK LOTS OF WATER! It will help with breastfeeding, energy, and going to the bathroom!
- Toiletries – pack shampoo/conditioner/razor/soap/lotion/basic makeup. Also hair ties or a headband.
- Flip-flops are great for the shower. Slippers may be useful for walking around the hospital floor during recovery.
- For baby, you only really need an outfit to go home in. I also wish I’d brought an emery board to file the baby’s nails (you don’t usually trim baby nails when they are super tiny, you file them), since babies are often born with sharp nails and scratch everything without meaning to.
Did Not Need
- Your own pads or underwear. Hospital pads are bulky and weird, but bulk actually helps and makes you feel better “down there.” Hospital undies are weird (gauze material) but they do the job and you don’t have to worry about ruining your own undies.
- Socks during delivery – I don’t know why that’s such a big one on most packing lists. My feet were never cold, I never wore socks.
- Lots of my own clothes. This isn’t a fashion show… comfort and functionality will be your friends!
- Your own towels. I thought I’d want my own fluffy towels, but hospital’s were fine, and I didn’t have to worry about bleeding on my own stuff.
- Your own diapers. Hospital will provide you with newborn diapers, a bulb syringe, and other goodies for baby.
Things you may want to ask for
- “Donut pillow” to sit on. It really helps to relieve pressure on your cha cha.
- Ice packs to sit on. Feels great. You can also make your own!
- Cleansing bottle. They will probably give you one, but basically it’s a squirt bottle that you use when you go to the bathroom. It really helps.
- Stool softener. Ask for this even if they don’t offer it. The first couple times doing a #2 are kind of scary, and you don’t want to bear down at all because it’s painful.
- Meet with a lactation consultant! Most hospitals provide free consultations.
Here’s a printable version of my must haves, so that you’re ready to go when baby is.
What’s missing from these lists? I know you have an opinion, if you’ve been to this rodeo! Share it in the comments!