“Good Lord! What are we going to do with all these bags!?” I remember the exasperated look on my client’s face as her husband came up to their hospital room with not the first bundle of travel bags, but the THIRD. Their nurse and I tried our best to tuck each of the 10 suitcases, duffle bags, and backpacks into corners and under the bed and tables – but eventually we ran out of places to stash things and had to ask my clients to take a few bags back down to their car.
They eventually decided that 2 of the camera bags could go, and I was able to reassure my client that she would not likely leak enough breast milk that first day to need the entire box of nursing pads, nor would she need two Costco sized boxes of sanitary pads. We worked our way through the bags until we had culled the necessities down to 1 suitcase, one backpack, and 2 camera bags (dad was a photographer and really wanted to keep his gear close) – one with items for mom and dad, and one for baby.
It’s not easy trying to pack for labour!Sometimes people get a little caught up in trying to prepare for everything that might happen and before they know it they’ve packed enough to need a Uhaul! There are so many unknown variables with birth – how are you supposed to know what will be useful and what would be overkill?
Many parents ask me about this during our prenatal visits. What should I take to take to the hospital for labour? What should I pack for the baby? What will my partner need during labour? What labour tools will the hospitals in Calgary provide? Do hospitals in Calgary give you pads and diapers?
If you find yourself caught between whether to bring a tennis ball AND an infinity roller, or trying to decide exactly how many diaper shirts your baby will need, just..pause. Take a breath, walk away before you accidentally fall into a bucket of your pregnancy craving of choice, and double check the lists! You’ll find downloadable, printable PDF lists to help you sort out what to pack for labour for a hospital birth on my downloads page or by clicking the title of each section below.
- Your Photo ID and Alberta Health Care Card
- List of birth preferences (I recommend only writing your top 3 to 5 critical preferences, but if yours is more detailed that’s great as well!)
- A bath towel. The shower is an awesome place to spend labour and we doulas are so grateful that every labour and delivery room in Calgary hospitals (Foothills Medical Centre, South Health Campus, Peter Lougheed Hospital, and Rockyview General Hospital ) has it’s own bathroom for moms including a SHOWER!! What they don’t have is actual towels. You can have as many teeny postage stamp sized hand towels you want..but that’s exactly what they are. Hand towels. I don’t know what pregnant body they think these are going to wrap around but it certainly wasn’t mine! BRING A TOWEL.
- Chapstick, hair ties, and a toothbrush/gum/mints. Breathing hard for hours on end can make for an uncomfortable face. Add hair falling all over the place and getting caught under IV tubing and it’s definitely enough to be a distraction. Every doula knows that distracting a labouring woman from coping with her contractions is labour enemy number 1. You wouldn’t think these things would be significant, but not having cracked, bleeding lips and a gnarly breathed mouth full of hair definitely can be!
- Robe, slippers, or other clothes that you will feel comfortable roaming the halls in. Unless you’ve invested in some really comfortable flip flops it’s probably best to steer clear. Good support and non slip (especially in case of leaking amniotic fluid!) grips are helpful. Short of that, some really cozy socks (maybe two pairs) are helpful.
- Phone and charger. What can I say? It’s the world we live in these days. Having your phone can help you feel connected to more support people, can be a source of helpful distraction in the early stages, or a helpful resource for looking up information when making decisions.
- Labour tools: A FreeMom TENS machine, a rebozo if you know how to use one (ask your doula if she is Rebozo trained!). One hot water bottle (Sometimes these are available at the hospital, but empty they don’t take up much space so I do recommend one), something hard for massage (a tennis ball, infinity roller, an apple..), maybe combs for acupressure. The hospitals ALL HAVE birth balls! They also have ice machines and rubber gloves (a great substitute for ice packs), and bendy straws. If there is anything else that you have purchased or borrowed specifically for comfort measures by all means bring it! These are just the items that I see used most frequently.
- Snacks for labour! The official policy at hospitals is that labouring women should only have clear fluids, but some women choose to snack lightly. Gum, mints, and clear fluids are also usually green lighted! Labouraide is a great clear liquid choice to help you stay energized!
- Essential oils, hypnobabies tracks, or music if you are planning to incorporate those tools.
- A cooler for your placenta (if needed)
- A small package of pads if you have a preference. At the hospital you will be provided with mesh fabric undies and thick pads for use while you are there, but you will may want a few. Count on one per hour or so for day two (so 12 to 24). Unless you were already leaking quite a lot of breast milk you DO NOT need to bring breast pads for the short stay! If you are staying for a few days due to a planned cesarean, by all means bring a few.
- Clothes to wear home. Maybe pajamas for the evening.
That’s about it.
Some people bring their own toilet paper, but after birth you will be given a squirt bottle to rinse after using the bathroom, and I haven’t seen very many women care a lot about the type of toilet tissue available mid birth. If it matters a lot to you, by all means bring a roll. You may also want to bring shampoo and soap, but the hospitals will have hotel sized bottles available as well.
Should you be admitted for longer than average (18 to 36 hours) your partner can always bring a few other things (extra clothes, toiletries, etc) later on, or left in the car to be brought in once you are settled after baby is born!
The bag for your support partner is all about their self-care. A well cared for partner is more able to keep their focus directly on you without being distracted by the aches and pains of standing for long periods of time, and the emotional and mental exertion involved with supporting a birth.
- Cash or Credit Card for Parking. Currently (as of 2015) the Calgary Hospital daily maximum $14.25/day. Multi-day passes are also available if you are expecting a longer stay.
- Food. Nothing smelly, greasy, or that will give you bad breath later on! This is the time to eat well – support your body nutritionally and you will find that you have more endurance mentally, emotionally, and physically. This is particularly important if labour runs a bit longer than you had anticipated. Consider bringing extra cash for a quick cafeteria run if needed.
- Cell Phone and Charger
- Camera, extra battery, and an extra memory card!
- List of important phone numbers (or at least put them in your phone!) including your doula, placenta encapsulator (if applicable), and any friends or family members who you would like to announce your baby’s birth to first!
- Book, tablet, or other outlet for a bit of mental downtime. Taking 5 minutes to yourself to recharge can make a huge difference, particularly if you are in the early stages or if your partner is resting later on.
- Gift for your nurses/medical team fall under the responsibilities of the support partner, but this can easily be brought up after your baby is born if you prefer.
- Comfortable For real.
- Mini Med Bag. This should include Tylenol, Advil, any prescription medications. If you would benefit from a brace for an old knee injury by all means bring it! The hospital is not able to provide pain killers without doctor’s orders and if you develop a headache or shoulder pain with all of the hip squeezing and massaging going on you will be glad to have a mini med packet available.
- Swimming clothes if you plan on being IN the shower with your partner.
How in the world do you pack for someone you haven’t even met yet?! If this is not your first child you probably have a better idea of what is actually NEEDED in a day and what you can likely get away without having to haul up, but if this is your first….it can be a little bit more nerve wracking. Here are my suggestions!
- Car Seat. Technically this isn’t on the list for labour as it is brought up when you’re nearly ready to go home, but I’ve added this here to help ensure you have good information around car seat safety BEFORE you’re trying to buckle your brand new bundle into it You will need to bring the bucket seat up to the postpartum unit before you leave so make sure it’s in the car and SAFELY installed (please consult a professional if you have ANY doubts about car seat use!)
- Diapers and wipes/cloths. The hospital will put one on your baby in the labour and delivery room before you move to postpartum but after that you are responsible for bringing your own baby changing gear. You can count on about 2 diapers per day of life up to day 5, so bring 6 just in case! Some parents choose to use coconut oil or another barrier cream and so you would need to bring your own if you plan to use these products.
- This one is where a lot of people go overboard. I recommend: 2 Undershirts/Diaper shirts. 2 Pajamas/Sleepers. 1 special/going home outfit if you plan to use one. That’s about it! If you are staying longer then of course add more clothing. Some also choose to bring scratch mittens. Also if you are having twins or triplets (or more!) you can add more clothing as appropriate.
- Swaddling Blankets. You will need 2 to 4 good sized blankets for swaddling, and one for keeping baby warm. The hospital WILL provide blankets for this but if you prefer to bring your own (they are not very soft) by all means do so!
- Winter Clothes. If it’s winter please bring a couple of extra blankets, a hat, and mittens. It is UNSAFE to buckle your baby in a carseat with a snowsuit or winter coat on so be prepared to bundle around the safely adjusted harness.
- Feeding Supplies. If you are choosing to formula feed you will need to bring your formula, bottles, and nipples. Some parents bring a nursing pillow, but this can stay in the car until you are on the postpartum side of parenting!
- Cultural Items. If there are any cultural or religious items your family plans to incorporate very shortly after birth be sure to include those!
Again, that’s about it. Babies are pretty easy to please in the first weeks!