You know how you can get a lot of great suggestions and tips by Googling and asking friends and family, but there’s nothing like going through an experience yourself to really understand and appreciate what it’s all about?
I remember Googling what to pack in my hospital bag for my first baby and I ended up being pretty well prepared.
But now that I’m about to become a second time mom – and I’m coming into this with a lot more research under my belt – my hospital bag has some essential extras that weren’t in there the first time.
Of course I have the diapers, comfy pants, a sweet playlist, my phone charger…
But beyond that I’ve added some simple additions that I have a feeling will make my labour and postpartum experience different than the last time. Good different.
And I wanted to share what I’m bringing with you because I have a feeling these could end up making your labour and postpartum experience in the hospital (or home if you’re opting for a home birth) as positive an experience as possible, too.
Here’s what I’m adding to my bag.
P.S. Most of these things go beyond the labour and delivery and will be super helpful in those early postpartum days where my body (and yours) needs all the healing help it can get!
1. Nipple Saver Salve & Oil
Okay so you’ve probably heard of this one before – if you’re planning to breastfeed, nipple balm is a lifesaver.
But a tip that you may not have heard about is that calendula in particular is amazing for breastfeeding mamas – especially if you’re having a tough time getting a good latch in the beginning and your nipples are cracked and sore.
I’m allergic to a lot of things so unfortunately some more natural products are out for me – I break out in an itchy rash from coconut oil, cocoa butter and shea butter which are in all of the more natural nipple balms I’ve found so far.
So the first time around I picked up the cleanest balm I could find – a lanolin-based one from Lansinoh.
But now – thanks to Jolene Brighten’s awesome book Healing Your Body Naturally After Childbirth – I discovered that you can just use calendula oil or salve to help heal any nipple cracks you might get as you and your little one are figuring out this whole breastfeeding situation.
So I’m bringing a calendula salve + oil with me to the hospital and keeping it on hand at home to use if my milk-givers need a little TLC from the constant pressure to feed a tiny human.
P.S. If you’d rather make your own, here’s a recipe you can use.
2. Essential Oils
Over the past year I’ve gotten more and more into essential oils and developed a deep appreciation for how amazing they are – I will absolutely not go through another cold and flu season without my trusty oils!
My favourite resource on essential oils is a book called The Essential Life.
In it are so many awesome ideas to help support you during pregnancy, labour, postpartum and even for baby.
So this time I’m bringing some oils to the hospital with me.
Here’s what I’m bringing and how I’m planning to use them (keep in mind that I’m not an oil expert. This is just what I’ve learned and what I’m going to try):
Peppermint – I got awful back labour the last time around so this time I’m going to ask my hubby to rub some peppermint oil on my low back to help numb the pain if I need it.
Clary Sage – Apparently you can rub this on a spot just above your ankle bone on the inside of both legs to help kickstart labour and keep it flowing. (I’ll let you know how it goes!)
Lemon – This one will be going into some water that I’ll sip on to help keep my energy up.
Fennel – You’ve probably heard that fennel is good for lactation, right? A lot of nursing teas include it as a key ingredient. Well you can actually also rub a couple drops of oil onto your breasts to help jump-start and keep up your milk supply.
Lavender – Birth is rough for both mama and baby. We could both use some zen and calm and a good amount of sleep after that marathon. That’s why I’m bringing my lavender in case we need to stay the night so it can help both baby and I sleep better. I’ll also be diffusing it at home often to help baby relax and sleep well.
Of course do your own research and make sure you’re choosing quality oils – especially if you’re drinking/eating them!
If you’re curious about oils, I highly recommend you pick up a copy of The Essential Life to have some awesome strategies you can use for your pregnancy, birth and postpartum life.
3. Compression Socks
The first go-round my legs were so swollen post-labour that I literally had no ankle bone. None.
And they stayed that way for a few days.
It was awful and uncomfortable and I don’t want to have to experience that again.
So I’m bringing my compression socks and planning to pop them on – or what’s probably more likely, ask my hubby to help put them on! – after labour to prevent the super swoll situation this time around.
Isn’t postpartum fashion so sexy?! 😉
4. Perineum Postpartum Care Kit
The first time around I made the mistake of assuming I’d be out of the hospital within a few hours. A day tops. So I didn’t bring any of my perineum healing tools with me – all I had was the peri bottle that the hospital gave me and – thank you sweet lovely nurses of Rockyview – some padsicles that the nurses make for patients.
Because Avery was jaundice and not doing so well they wanted to keep us for longer to make sure she was eating and pooping okay.
Luckily she’s always been my little trooper and she pulled through so we got to go home after a couple nights.
But this time around I won’t make the same mistake. I’m bringing everything I think I might need to help deal with a battered and bruised perineum.
On the top of that list are witch hazel spray, aloe vera spray and gel, and calendula oil (which can also help heal hemorrhoids).
All three of these tools helped heal my perineum the first time after a long, long labour that ended in an aggressive vacuum delivery.
Yeah. It wasn’t at all the labour experience I had planned. (Which is so common!)
That’s why I’m going into it with no expectations this time around and I’m preparing for the potential of anything happening.
I don’t want to expect the worst, but I’m also coming in with lots of tools and strategies in my back pocket in case I need all the things to help with the healing.
Thanks to my midwives for this recommendation!
Arnica is a homeopathic remedy that can help prevent and reduce bruising and swelling – in both mama and baby – and boost your body’s ability to heal well.
Sounds like a plan to me!
This is definitely something you’ll want to talk to your healthcare pro about to make sure it’s the best choice for you.
6. Laborade + Gummies
I just drank plain water and chewed on ice during my first labour.
This time around I plan to have options on hand to give me a boost if I want/need it.
So I picked up some gummies to give me a carb-y energy kick – without taking a huge toll on my digestive system. I want my body focused on labour, not digesting a sandwich!
And I’ll be making some laborade to sip on too. Laborade is an electrolyte infused drink with some sugar to help keep me hydrated and fueled.
Here’s the recipe I’ll be using:
1/3 Cup Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
1/3 Cup Raw Honey
1/4 tsp Celtic or Himalayan Sea Salt
1 Calcium & Magnesium Tablet, crushed (optional)
Mix it all up in a liter of water or coconut water (add more if you prefer it watered down).
Fun fact: having easily digestible sugars on hand – like gummies and raw honey – may help your labour progress more smoothly.
As Heather (AKA Mommypotamus) says, sugar can help tell the body to chill out and not produce such a huge spike in cortisol. Too much cortisol can negatively impact labour so having some sweetness – like honey – in your drink may help things flow better.
7. Bone Broth
The first time I gave birth the nurses offered me peanut butter toast as a post-labour snack.
I’m unfortunately allergic to peanut butter so I ended up with some dry toast. Yum! Haha!
Well I appreciated the offer, it was less than delicious and did nothing to help me feel more human or fueled after that marathon delivery.
So this time around I’m bringing my own post-birth snack – bone broth.
I’m planning to warm some up on the stove and pop it in a thermos before we drive to the hospital – or I’ll actually ask hubby to do it for me because I’ll probably be trying to not wake up our toddler with my contraction grunts, groans and howls!
Why bone broth?
Well it has all sorts of goodness like:
1. Collagen – which is an essential component of our tissues and skin so we can use it to potentially help heal our bodies after going through intense things – like labour.
2. Amino Acids – our bodies need these guys to function well because they’re involved in so many things – including helping to create our blood supply. So it’s a good thing to make sure we’re stocked up.
3. Minerals – labour is intense. To put it mildly. And we deplete our mineral and vitamin resources like crazy. So replenishing them to give us more energy to help deal with those first few weeks of newborn haze is a great idea.
I’ll probably want to eat something else – I might even say “YES!” to the dry toast 😉 – but knowing I have bone broth ready as well will be awesome.
8. Magnesium + Vitamin C
Whatever labour and delivery experience I have, my body will have just gone through a heck of a lot of stress.
And when our body is stressed it depletes our vitamin and mineral stores to help deal with it.
A key vitamin in this whole situation is vitamin C. As Diane Sanfilippo says, “This potent antioxidant has been shown to induce an anti-inflammatory response to prolonged exercise and stress and mitigates the rise of cortisol and subjective response to physiological stress in human studies.”
In plain-Jane talk? Vitamin C helps our bodies deal with stress better and flush out the inflammation that stress can cause – and believe me when you’ve had a baby you’ve got a whole lotta inflammation going on in all the places!
So I’m packing some vitamin C drink packs to help give my body a boost post-birth.
Magnesium also plays a key role in the stress response. It also helps us have healthy poops! And pooping post-labour – especially if you’ve had a C-section – can be a bit of a challenge for those first couple days.
So I’ll be bringing some of my trusty Natural Calm along with me as well to also sip on post-birth.
As with many of this strategies – I may be able to go home within a few hours so I won’t necessarily be enjoying these at the hospital but I’d rather be Boy Scout level prepared just in case I have a longer stay than I’d hoped.
Being Prepared Without Expectations
My intention going into this birth experience is to not micro-manage every aspect of it.
I don’t expect some magical, easy experience because I’m prepared with all this stuff.
My intention is to bring as much education and support into that hospital room with me so that I feel more confident heading in and have options in my bag to help things move along as smoothly as possible and recover well afterwards.
I’m going to be prepared without expecting a certain outcome.
I’m going to be hopeful that I’ll have as positive experience as possible without assuming it will be that way.
Hope is great. It inspires us to stay optimistic and keep trying.
Expectations ruin reality when things don’t go according to plan.
That’s why I’m hopeful without expecting.
And carrying all sorts of tools in my toolkit to help me along the way.
What did I miss? What are your favourite hospital bag essentials?
Tell me all about what worked (and didn’t work) for you in the comments below.
I’ll see you there!
P.S. Have a friend who’s looking for hospital bag suggestions? Send her this post!