This being my third baby I pretty much thought I had the drill down by now. But having this 3rd baby in a different country than the previous 2 has really thrown me some curveballs. I’ve previously mentioned my surprise about the differences in maternity wards in the US and UK. I thought I’d figured out all of differences and either planned around them and or made peace with them. That is until yesterday….
Ok UK Mums, please humor my naivety for a moment – it’s not based on a feeling of entitlement, rather, in my experience of having babies to date – this is how it’s been done (in the US).
When you pack your hospital bag in the US – it’s pretty much just for you. It’s stuff for the labor and after delivery, change of clothes etc. For the baby, pretty much the only stuff you need to bring is outfit for leaving/and or photo and a car seat or carrier (even then if you can’t afford one generally one will be provided). Everything else – and I mean everything is provided for baby. In fact – so much has been provided, you’re even supposed to pack up all of the extra diapers they give you to take home.
So they provide the little onesie, hat and blankie they put the baby in just after delivery. The nurses make sure you pack up the diapers, the wipes, the pacifiers, and nasal aspirator and comb etc. You seriously need to bring an empty bag to hospital with you for the baby stuff.
When perusing UK baby site yesterday I came across a few discussions about packing the hospital bag and couldn’t believe what I was reading. “You need to bring what? No they must be joking!” So I asked around in my office, and then to some Mum friends on Facebook and they confirmed it for me. You need to bring EVERYTHING for the baby – from the cap and outfit for just after birth, diapers/nappies, and shockingly, maternity pads! (My first thought – isn’t that a medical supply, can people even buy those??)
Seriously, not having discovered this now – I would have rolled up to the hospital with my stuff – nothing for baby and had a naked dirty baby! (Probably closely followed by a visit from family services for my clear ineptitude as a parent).
I suppose it makes sense from the perspective of NHS provided services, this would be a cost saving measure. In the US you (or your insurance) are automatically charged for these items – so if you don’t take them with you you’re leaving something you’ve already paid for. But I just find it so different, and I had no idea about this difference. My friends in Germany and Belgium, also expecting say there it’s just like the US and they too find this surprising about the UK.
Here’s a list a good friend of mine shared with me after I got over my initial surprise yesterday. I’m not sure where she got it from, so if it’s been copied from somewhere and you recognise it, please let me know so I can credit it.
What to pack for labour
- Your birth plan and maternity notes.
- Dressing gown. Hospitals can be very warm, so a lightweight one may be better
- Slippers / flip flops
- Socks. Believe it or not, your feet can get cold during labour
- An old nightdress or a T shirt to wear in labour. It will probably get a bit messy, so don’t buy anything specially to wear in hospital
- Massage oil or lotion if you would like to be massaged during your labour
- Lip balm
- Snacks and drinks for you while you are in labour
- Things to help you relax or pass the time, such as books, magazines, games etc
- A hairband. If you have long hair, you might want it tied up
- Pillows. The hospital might not have enough to make you really comfortable
- TENS pain relief machine if you are planning to use one
- Music to listen to. Take a battery-operated machine, as most hospitals won’t let you plug things in. Some hospitals provide their own CD players or radios – again, check first
For the birth partner
- Water spray, or a hand-held fan to keep cool down the mum-to-be while she’s in labour
- Comfortable shoes. You may be pacing the corridors!
- A change of clothes
- Watch with a second hand, to time contractions
- Swimwear, if you want to join the mum-to-be in a birth pool
- Camera or camcorder. If you want to bring a camcorder, check with the hospital beforehand, because not all of them allow them in delivery rooms
- Address book or a list of phone numbers. You and your partner will be able to use a mobile phone in parts of the hospital, but bring lots of change just in case
- Snacks and drinks. If you take some with you, they can stay with you rather than leaving the room to search for food!
For after the birth
- A going-home outfit. You’ll need loose comfortable clothes to wear while you’re in hospital and for the journey home. You’ll still be wearing maternity
- Nursing bras. Take two or three
- Breast pads
- Maternity pads. Bring a couple of packs
- Nightshirt or T-shirt. Front-opening shirts are useful in the early days of breastfeeding
- Towels, hairbrush, toothbrush and toothpaste
- Old or cheap knickers, or disposable knickers.
- Ear plugs, in case you end up on a noisy ward!
For your baby
- An infant car seat. Some hospitals won’t let you leave by car without one
- One outfit for the trip home (all-in-one stretchy outfits are easiest)
- Two or three sleepsuits and vests for baby to wear while you are in hospital
- Baby blanket. Take a warm one if the weather is cold
- Nappies and cotton wool
- One pair of socks or booties
- Jacket or snowsuit for winter babies
- Muslin squares