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What to Pack in Your Hospital Bag: Just Enough, and Not too Much
Expectant parents should not forget to pack a hospital bag well before their anticipated date of delivery. Even if everything goes perfectly as planned, you want your focus to be on the labor and delivery, not on trying to remember where you left your cell phone cord. Packing in advance can be a cash-saver, too, since it gives you time to shop around for deals on necessities.
While you might be tempted to pack for the hospital as though you were heading out on an epic journey, remember that the hospital will provide you with many basics, free of charge. So, focus on packing only what you really need — and a few extras for your own comfort.
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What you absolutely need
The most important items to have when you check in for labor and delivery are your identification information and proof of insurance if you have it. If you do not have health care, remember that the hospital cannot turn you away and will work with you afterward on a payment plan. Another item you really don’t want to forget (though you can’t pack it in the bag) is a car seat. Make sure you read all the directions and safety tips and understand how to install the car seat and secure the baby in there well before the due date.
What you will really regret not bringing
You can check in and deliver a baby without these items, but you’ll wish you had them with you at the end of the day. While you’re not likely to forget your phone, pack an extra charger or it might not be much use for long—a wireless charger is ideal for hospital stays. Other items to pack include your birth plan (preferably several copies), a comfortable robe, and loose-fitting postpartum clothing, such as a good nursing bra and nursing gown. Even if you are trying to be frugal, indulging in an attractive postpartum outfit will help you look and feel your best for your first photo ops with your new baby. Finally, you will want your own toiletries. Shop in advance for travel-size shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and toothpaste in your preferred brands, to economize.
Some extras you will be glad you remembered:
Especially if your labor ends up proceeding slowly, you will want some way to stay distracted. Prep your device with music, shows, or reading material—or pack a book and some magazines. Your skin may get dry during labor, so pack a lip balm and moisturizer. The hospital will likely provide food, snacks, and water, but if there’s a preferred healthy snack or beverage you’ve been craving often, pack that, and save yourself money on hospital vending machines.
And finally, what you need for baby:
The hospital will provide you with diapers, and probably with a baby hat and swaddling blankets, but you may want to deck your newborn out with a cute hat of their own. When you pack a going-home outfit for your baby, opt for larger rather than smaller, since you won’t be sure until after delivery about sizing. Make sure you choose an outfit that is appropriate to the season and free of any harmful dyes or chemicals. If you plan to bottle-feed, you may want to bringyour own bottles, as well as a pacifier.
When packing your bags, aim for moderation. You don’t want to go overboard and end up with a lot of extra baggage to tote around with you. But you won’t want to be scrambling to find what you need, either. While the hospital is likely to help you out with anything you’ve forgotten, you’ll be more comfortable having both your necessities and luxuries easily within reach.
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"With our first child, my wife and I really mucked up the hospital bag. We had almost everything we needed for baby, but we overlooked a ton of things for ourselves (I didn’t even pack a change of clothes, if that tells you anything!).
Needless to say, with our second child, we were much better prepared.
I put together this guide to packing a hospital bag with an emphasis on what parents want and need."
** Visit Josh's fatherhood companion website at Diaper Dads - a parenting resource catering to both new and experienced Dads
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