by Olivia Herrera, RN, BSN
Whether it’s your first baby or your third, it is never too soon to pack your bags. Babies have plans of their own and can come sooner than you think so it’s always good to be ready!
After working in both a hospital setting and a birth center, I have compiled a list of some things you may want to consider:
- Music: Come up with a couple of different playlists. Are you needing to feel grounded and calm, or to harness your wild mother birther energy? Think about bringing some headphones too! Maybe you want to blast music but also be mindful of people around you, or maybe you are in a space where you can connect to a speaker and make the room yours. Spotify is a great spot to find music and create a playlist for whatever your mood, or to find an existing playlist and just enjoy!
- Loose clothing (bring extra too!): Postpartum should be about treating yourself to snuggles and self love. Skip the unforgiving waistbands and tight fitting clothing, and go for soft, flowy and cozy. Baby messes happen and recovery can be a little messy. Have some layers! Hormones can do wild things to our bodies in labor, so think about layers you can shed and put on throughout your labor and recovery/discharge.
- Toiletries you can’t live without. We have shampoo and conditioner for you at Dar a Luz, but if you are a creature of comfort, make sure you do you!
- Essential oils can help with a multitude of things. According to essential oil experts, a couple of drops of mint oil in the toilet can help with urination, lavender oil can help bring calm, and inhaling clary sage can help increase uterine contractions, and mint on the temples or jaw can help relax those parts of your body, and can also help with nausea.
- Hot water bottle heat packs can be filled anywhere! They are great for relieving back pain during labor, or uterine cramping post-baby.
- Rice packs that can be microwaved work too! We do have one at DAL for patient use.
- Instant coffee and creamer can be a life saver for your support people when labors or nights are long. Skip the facility coffee, and bring some you know you will like. Little creamers (like the ones you get at a diner or gas station) are great too! As a birth companion, I can attest that there have been a few times where coffee was just what everyone needed to stay present and supportive.
- Fan/mister: Some birthing people enjoy a fan or a spray bottle to help them feel cool and refreshed.
- Battery operated candles or little strand lights can make a room feel peaceful and safe. I’ve seen hospital rooms go from sterile and uninviting to lovely and homey with just a small lighting adjustment. Make that room look like somewhere you want to be. After all, it is a birthday party!
- Bringing a blanket from home can add a touch of familiar comfort. Whether in a hospital or at the birth center, it can be nice to smell and feel something safe from your own space.
- A pillow… the pillows at our birth center, although comfy, probably don’t compare to the ones you have at home. Feel free to bring in your favorite pillow in a distinctly-colored case (just don’t forget to bring it back home).
- Extra pads and undies! Bring some options. Although we will provide you some while you are here, it can be nice to have a couple of options. Some people like wider thicker ones for sleep, and some prefer lighter ones. Your bleeding will change in your postpartum recovery, and your needs could change too.
- Bring lots of snacks. You might alsso think about downloading a food delivery app or having someone bring you food that is delicious and nurturing to you. Labor is a marathon, and you will need energy to fuel your and your baby’s journey together. Nausea isn’t uncommon during labor, so consider some options that are easy on the tummy, like juices, smoothies, or crackers. Then think about what you want to eat after… lots of birthing people feel SO hungry afterwards.
- Are you taking home your placenta? If you aren’t having someone come pick it up for you (like a doula service who will prepare it for you), then you should consider bringing a cooler, or a lunch box with an ice pack. Even though you may only be at the birth center for a typical 4-6 hour stay postpartum (up to 12 hours if you are GBS positive), labor and recovery can run longer than you might think.
- Pack your cell phone and your charger so you can figure out logistics, snap cute pics, and announce the arrival of your new babe when you are ready to share the exciting news.
- Clothing… Baby will need a couple of outfits too. I can’t tell you how many times a new parent has put their baby in that super sweet going-home outfit, when… BAM! A true poo emergency. Figuring out the correct diaper size can take some time too, so messes can happen. If you are wondering what kind of baby clothes to pack, one layer more than you have on will typically do. Don’t worry about winter jackets or hefty sweaters, since they aren’t safe for babies in a car seat anyway. Focus on things that are easy to take on and off, and blankets for the car ride home.
- Baby’s carseat! Amazing isn’t it? You arrive with an empty carseat and leave with a baby in it! Take Nancy Anthony’s Carseat class, and make sure your carseat isn’t expired and that it is safe for your tiny human. Smaller babies may need a special carseat meant for teeny littles. Get familiar with your carseat. Nothing like a 3 am discharge after a sleepless night to make you feel overwhelmed and unfamiliar with straps, buckles, and seat belts… oh my!
Additional things to consider:
- Do you have someone who can step in and care for kiddos, pets, house plants, pick up packages/check mail if your stay is longer than planned?
- Check the guidelines at your place of birth (some hospitals won’t let support people come and go due to Covid, and you may need to set up a backup person to eliminate stress if that comes up).
- Have pain medications readily available at home. Ibuprofen and Tylenol are recommended to reduce swelling and discomfort. Dar a Luz has options for pain while you are here, but make sure you have some on hand for 2 am, if pain sneaks up on you. Think about packing some for a support person too! Hospitals can often only provide meds for their patients, but maybe your partner or support person needs some too.
- Check your Birthing Your Baby Book for a list of other medications you may want to have on hand postpartum.
- Hospitals sometimes require proof: bring driver license(s) to get the birth certificate done. Better to just bring them so you don’t have to go all the way back home.
- Put your packed bag near the front door so it is in plain sight and you remember to grab it.
- Avoid leaving things to pick up or remember to pack on the day of your baby’s birth, as much as possible.
Don’t forget, plans can change, but you, my friend, are adaptable and wise! Labor may be more intense than you ever thought, but you are also stronger than you ever knew. You are ready. You’ve got this.
Olivia Herrera, Birth Assistant, BSN, RN, attended the UNM’s college of nursing in 2017, and focused her studies on childbirth and women’s care. Following nursing school, she spent a challenging and insightful year in a hospital setting as a postpartum nurse. She established a fierce advocacy for her patients, and honored her journey in becoming a self-assured nurse, but she knew that the hospital was not her home. Being in a natural birth center felt important to her, and she wanted to be part of a team that focused on holistically loving and healing through evidence-based care. She feels deeply honored and grateful to be a part of this birth center.