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The cot is bought. The buggy is on order. You have your due date circled in your calendar. Even so, packing for the hospital can suddenly make everything seem very, very real. But don’t put it off. Start getting everything together at about 36 weeks so if your baby decides to come early, you’re ready. This is our compete checklist of all the things you’ll need in your maternity bag, so you can concentrate on your breathing.
Your birth plan and maternity notes. Knowing you’ve got these packed and ready means no last minute panic.
A dressing gown. For pacing your way through labour or as a cover up once you’re in the post-natal ward, a dressing gown is a must-have. Go for something lightweight as hospitals tend to be warm and choose dark colours or patterns to hide stains.
Socks. Your feet can get cold when you’re in labour. Make comfort your priority with soft, cosy socks you can wear with slippers.
Slippers. You’ll want to be able to pad up and down the corridors just for a change of scene so choose slippers that are easy to slip on and off.
An old nightdress or tee shirt. You want something easy to wear in labour that you don’t mind getting messy. Again, think comfort.
A new nightdress or pyjamas Once you’ve given birth you’ll want to get back to feeling yourself again (as best you can). New pyjamas are just the thing especially for those very first mum and baby pictures. Go for something front opening if you plan to breast feed.
Entertainment. All births are different but you might find yourself with quite a long wait on your hands. Books and magazines are good standbys. But hospitals can be noisy so take your own music. Audio books are also a good idea so you can close your eyes for a little.
Chargers. Your partner may be planning to take photos or video your first moments of parenthood. And you’ll want to let everyone know your happy news. Although you can’t pack your phone four weeks before your due date, do put a spare charger in the bag so you’re not worrying about low batteries.
Things to make you more comfortable. Take some massage oil if you’d like a massage during labour. But remember the simpler things like hair bands and lip salve (gas and air can dry your lips). Think about taking your own pillow – if you have a V shape pillow they can really help when you’re first breast feeding.
Birthing aids. If your hospital doesn’t provide a birthing ball, consider taking your own but remember the pump too. Also if you’ve hired a TENS machine, make sure it’s in the bag.
Snacks and drinks. Giving birth is a marathon not a sprint (usually!) so take some snacks to keep you going. Isotonic drinks or glucose tablets will help keep your energy up. And pack enough for two so your partner doesn’t have to nip out to eat (better still, make sure he has his own bag packed with the essentials he’s going to need).
Nursing bra and pads. We recommend you buy a nursing bra that looks a little generous in the cups as your breasts will grow when your milk comes in. For advice on what to buy, read our maternity and nursing bra guide.
A washbag. Pack all the usual things as well as a couple of packs of maternity pads. Also include an eye mask and ear plugs to help you sleep if the ward is noisy. And if you have a clock/watch you can read in the dark then you can see how long you have til the next feed.
Comfortable pants. This is the time for big pants, especially if you’re having a caesarean as you want something that won’t irritate your scar.
A going home outfit. Choose something you wore earlier on in pregnancy that will be comfortable but not too loose. Bear in mind that you might get through a few outfits either because you’re staying in longer than anticipated or because… well babies are messy!
For the baby. Take lots of nappies, several sleepsuits (babies are messy!), a baby blanket and baby hat.
And finally… as if there wasn’t enough to remember, make sure you have your baby’s car seat as you won’t be allowed to leave the hospital without one.