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Saturday, September 3, 2011

Packing Your Hospital Bag: C-Section Edition

**Below is a link for a printable version of this list.**

I Googled all over the damn internet looking for what I might need at the hospital for my c-section that was different from what you'd need for a vaginal birth.  I couldn't find any good resources.  Some of them clearly haven't been updated since 1990: camera and film, change for pay phone, list of phone numbers to call, tape player. Obviously digital cameras and cell phones weren't popular when the lists were made.  Now, with the surgery done and over with, I can answer that question: not much is different. It's pretty much the same.  However, there are a few exceptions.  Here's what worked for me - I recommend reading through the whole list and explanations because you might find things that you know will be different for your situation (for instance, I say leave socks at home, but if you're giving birth in the middle of winter in a cold climate, you'll obviously need socks to get home).

***NOTE*** A few of these things are more "grab on your way out" like your cell phone and charger.
  • Abdominal binder (more on that here
  • Toiletries: sample-sized shampoo, conditioner, bodywash, toothpaste, mini shower pouf, toothbrush 
    • I was in the hospital for four nights and five days, the max allowed.  I made them kick me the heck out of there. Food and nurses available at my whim? I wasn't leaving early!  Because you're in the hospital longer with a c-section, you might want to consider bringing higher quality and more toiletries than you might need if you were only there overnight with a vaginal delivery, since instead of none or one shower you'll probably be taking three or four showers.  I kept them all in a separate bag that I just kept in the shower area and tossed them in the trash when I left since they were just sample sizes. I even took a disposable toothbrush that I could toss when done. 
    • Note: you may or may not feel like getting up to shower. I did not. I just wanted to lay down and be lazy and rest. If you don't, DO IT. You will feel AMAZING afterward.
  • Towels
    • I debated about putting this on here. I didn't take any, either time, and it was fine.  You'd be fine too.  The hospital towels sufficed. But they were small and thin and it really would have been nice to have better ones. Hell, go buy a couple $3 ones from Target and just leave them there at the end if you don't want to haul them home.  Again, this is more important for a c-section delivery where you'll be taking several showers over several days. One shower, you can deal with shitty towels. Three showers, and they start to get annoying.
  • Facial wash wipes (like these)
    • These are nice because you can freshen up immediately after leaving the recovery room without getting out of bed.
  • Lip balm (my favvvvvvve)
    • Hospitals tend to have dry air. Your lips will thank you!
  • Brush and hair ties/clips if you have longer hair
    • If you don't shower right away, it's nice to get your hair out of your face - and it's nice when you're constantly looking down at the baby too.
  • Stretchy, comfy clothes:  2-4 nursing tops/tanks/bras, 2-4 soft pants
      • You might not want to get out of your hospital gown during your stay, but after 24 hours of that, I was ready for some real clothes. Of course, vaginal grads need comfy clothes too, since we all will look five or six months pregnant when we leave - though they won't need as many. With a c-section, you need to also consider that tender incision site. Look for pants that you can wear higher or lower than your bikini line - those yoga pants with the wide, foldover waistband are great.  If you're planning on nursing, keep in mind ease of access for breastfeeding. And try pulling out a boob before packing it - I had a chemise I thought would be perfect, but when I actually had it on it was a total no access top.  Why 2 to 4? Because you have a new baby who might pee or puke on you, or you might bleed on it. You could pack fewer and have your partner bring you another outfit each day, but I thought it was easier to just have them on hand. To minimize packing, wear in one of the same outfits that you'll wear later or wear home, because you'll literally only be wearing the clothes you arrived in for an hour before you have to change into the hospital gown, so you can definitely re-wear them later.  Anything you bring should be cheap and not well-loved in case it gets stained, lost, etc.
    • Sweater
      • Even in the middle of the summer, hospitals can be chilly due to air conditioning. A lightweight sweater in case you get chilly is hugely helpful. One that you don't mind tossing is always good.
    • Cheap flip flops or slide sandals you won't mind tossing
      • I brought these in case the shower was gross, but didn't end up using them there, because it was surprisingly clean (people who are more germophobic might use them no matter what).  However, they were great for walking the hospital hallways when I didn't want to just wear socks. Plus, I couldn't get socks on myself (and when recovering from a c-section you probably won't be able to either), but I could slip these on. The socks they gave us had fold-back toes so I didn't even have to take my socks off!  If you're giving birth in summer or a warm climate, you can just wear them in and out of the hospital and won't have to pack or bring extra shoes. If you're giving birth in winter, you'll obviously need a pair of shoes to wear into the hospital and out of the hospital, but chances are you won't wear them around your room.
      • My blankie
        • Ok, it's not like I can't live without a special blanket, but it was nice to have. And truthfully, I didn't use it so much as whoever was spending the night did.  This can stay in the car until needed if it won't fit in the duffle bag.
      • Camera & charger
      • Laptop or tablet & charger
      • Cell phone& charger
        • If you have a lot of things to plug in (your stuff plus your partner's stuff - we had two laptops, two phones, a camera, and a tablet) consider bringing a power strip too.
      • Any meds you're taking (talk to your doctor first, obviously)
        • I brought my pre-natal vitamins and Colace. They'll give them to you at the hospital if you ask, but it was 100% easier just to do it myself.
      • Newborn take home outfit and socks
        • You don't REALLY need to spend time searching for the perfect take home outfit. It will be worn maybe 20 minutes and once they're in the carseat you won't be able to see much of it because of the car seat straps. Really, just a onesie and stretchy pants would be fine. Don't forget - no gowns or anything that you can't use in a carseat!   The hospital doesn't give you newborn socks, so you might want to bring those as well. 
      • Insurance card/ID/etc 
        • This is probably in your purse already, which you'll have with you, but just make sure they're there. If you have any pre-arrival forms, make sure to bring those as well.

      • Travel pillow (more on that here)
      • Pillows from home (more on that here)
        • Keep in mind again that you'll be there several days, so it's more important to be comfortable than I think it would be with a vaginal delivery. I could live with an uncomfortable bed and flat pillow for one night, but not for four nights. Also useful for those poor saps that are spending the night on the pull out bed.
      • Boppy or other nursing pillow if breastfeeding
        • When you're first learning to breastfeed, this is incredibly useful and worth the space it takes up. It also helps protect your incision from kicking baby feet. Of everything, this was the only thing that didn't fit in my duffle bag, and we kept it in the car until I was out of the recovery room when my husband brought it up.
      • Car seat
        • You don't need this until you're leaving, so it can just stay in the car. But have it ready! Have the appropriate accessories ready - a lightweight sunshade for a summer baby or a warm cover for a winter baby. (PLEASE - do not get the covers that the baby sits on! They are not safe! Nothing that is not included in the car seat should go between the baby and the seat! So no to this, yes to this!)
      • Extra bag
        • You get a shit ton of stuff from the hospital and from people bringing gifts. It's nice to have an extra bag to throw it all in. I had Chris take home a load every time he went home at night so that the last night we weren't trying to carry home five floral bouquets and twenty gift bags. This can also wait in the car until you need it. 
      • For winter babies - heavy blanket
        • Summer babies can just the lightweight swaddling blankets that the hospital provides and be just fine. Winter babies might need something heavier. 

      (Note: some of these items are listed because the hospital provided them - so you may want to check with your specific care center to make sure they provide these items before deciding to leave them at home.)
      • Socks. 
        • This one surprised me. But with a c-section, they give you special compression socks, so you wouldn't be able to wear any other socks anyway. Or at least my hospital did.  And the toes fold down so you can wear the aforementioned flip flops. (You may want to ask just in case your hospital doesn't share this policy, especially if your feet get cold easily.)  ***NOTE*** If you are giving birth in winter in a cold climate, you'll need socks to wear home, obviously.
      • Underwear (other than what you wear in)
        • You'll be rocking some mesh panties. Wear and embrace the mesh panties. I promise. You can put on real underwear at home if you want.
      • More than one newborn outfit.
        • They give you shirts and a blanket to wrap the kid in, so you only need something for the ride home. You certainly CAN bring extra clothes or hairbows or whatever, but it's just more stuff to keep track of. I don't recommend it.
      • Newborn care items.
        • They give you everything. Pacifier, diapers, wipes, hat, snot sucker, blankets, whatever.  I had been planning on starting to cloth diaper in the hospital, but since I didn't change a diaper until the last day (the nurses did it all, which I didn't ask for but was appreciated), it was easier to use what they had. I did put her in a cloth diaper as we were leaving.
      • Diaper bag
        • You don't need any newborn care items, so you don't need a diaper bag. 
      • Books/Kindle/Entertainment
        • I know, this is surprising. But I never cracked one of the books that I brought or even looked at the Kindle.  Who had the time?? If I found a spare minute, I SLEPT. I recommend you do the same. For the love of god, if you have time to read, use it to sleep!  For the maybe two minutes I was bored and not sleeping, I just surfed the internet on my tablet or laptop. A Kindle is more negotiable, because it's so small/lightweight, but the books were heavy and took up room. Definitely skip the actual books and bring just the Kindle if you think you will need it. Maybe bring it for your partner if he's the reading type.  ***NOTE*** This is very c-section specific. If you are going to be laboring at the hospital, I've heard entertainment of some sort is necessary since you might be there a full day or more laboring before the baby arrives, so in that case, don't hesitate to bring movies or Kindles or whatever. But if you have a c-section, there is very little down time prior to the baby arriving so there isn't a lot of "blank" time to fill.
      • Robe
        • It just ended up taking up space. When I was only wearing the hospital gown, they gave me a second one to wear backwards to cover your booty. When I had real clothes on, if I got cold, I just wore the aforementioned sweater. It took up a lot of room for something I didn't really need.
      • Blow dryer or straightener
        • You're probably better than me and will do a full blow out and full face of makeup and look amazing immediately post-birth. So bring it if you're that person. Me? I didn't care so much. And if you're at all like me, it's definitely something you can skip til you get home.
      • Razor
        • You will probably barely be able to bend over to put socks on, much less shave your legs. Go without for a few days. Wear pants. It's not worth the hassle trying to do it in the hospital. ***NOTE*** Possibly bring if you are worried about the underarm area. 
      • Rings/jewelry
        • Leave your wedding rings and all other jewelry at home!
      • Pads
        • Again, the hospital will give you some. It's just for a few days, you can go without your super special pads for that time. And, TMI, they're probably not big enough or absorbent enough anyway, if we're being really honest.  Some people do Depends - I just couldn't get on board with that, personally. Mesh panties and giant hospital pads all the way. 
      • Nipple cream/pads
        • The hospital provided these.
      • Breast Pump
        • If for some reason you need one of these - and there are valid reasons they might ask you to pump, though it's not super common - the hospital will provide it and everything you need. They'll have a hospital-grade pump, and some (not all) hospitals would require you to use theirs regardless of whether you brought one anyway, so might as well leave it at home. 
      • Change for vending machines/food
        • Our hospital, at least, had a food station with pop, water, snacks, etc.  And when I was more hungry than that, room service was a phone call away. I mean, don't make an effort to REMOVE change from your purse or whatever, but don't go out of your way to bring it.
      • Baby Book
        • Some people recommend bringing this to start filling it out or to put footprints in, etc. Our hospital did the footprints on stickers that you could then stick in the baby book, and the whole time I was just worried about it getting dirty or lost, so I'd leave it at home.
      If you're having a c-section, these additional links might be helpful:

      - C-Section Birth Stories (one, two)

      *****Be sure to read the comments for additional thoughts and ideas from readers with different experiences than mine - as with everything in parenting, there's no definitive list or right answer! :) *****


      1. Even though at this point, no c-sec is planned, I came straight to your post tonight when making my own list cuz you are the end-all-be-all of knowledge I need to have. Thank you for that. Love you.

      2. As a post-ceserean mom of 4, I'd also add a stiff folder and pen (since there is so much paperwork and never a pen handy) Goo gone or other adhesive remover (this could wait until home, but the bandage adhesive was obnoxious enough that I wanted it removed ASAP), a back scratcher (they set the spinal with morphine which makes you itch like crazy for 24 hrs), and a non-white pillow case for your home pillow=no worries about getting it chucked into the hospital laundry. Great list though!!

      3. Ended up with a c-section not quite six weeks ago. I highly recommend a mumu that snaps (or zips) up the front. I had a hard time figuring out the snaps on the hospital gown after every nursing attempt. They were easy, comfy, covered my bum, and had pockets! I bought some cheapo ones online, but I have also seen them at Walmart.

      4. One other thing I recommend bringing - your checkbook! We had no idea we would have to pay for her birth certificate application before we left the hospital. The not-so-understanding woman came in on the last day and asked for a check.. we were so caught off guard! Needless to say, our checkbook will be the hospital bag for baby #2.

      5. Interesting, Unknown! We were sent home with the application and told to send it in; we didn't have to pay for anything while in the hospital! Definitely something to check with your specific hospital!

      6. Way late to the party here! My son was an emergency c-section, so I mostly made do with what I had originally packed. This time around, knowing I would likely need another c-section and would be in the hospital for days, I started signing up for free samples as soon as I found out I was pregnant. I have packed four samples each of shampoo and conditioner (maybe overkill, but I LOVED my showers last time, plus extras in case I'm there longer), a travel size container of tooth paste, and a travel size container of body wash, all of which I got for free. It was fun searching for freebies and knowing as they came in the mail that they were headed to the hospital with me! I also packed nursing tanks, yoga pants, and some of those flowey culottes capris for when I get tired of the hospital gowns.

      7. I cannot imagine wearing yoga pants after owie! I've seen this on 3 different list sites tonight though. Think I'll stick to being a weenie and take sweats instead. My first baby I just wore my hubby's loose stuff. If you have a dog remember to bring an extra receiving blanket. I did this last time also, wrapped baby in it a few hours then sent it home and gave the dog the blanket to keep. It was great for introducing the new human smell that would soon be his new master. I work for a vet clinic and we also tell all of our expecting clients this.

      8. The yoga pants I'm talking about have a very wide, foldover waistband that doesn't rub the incision at all. You definitely have to be careful about the waistband and make sure it won't hit you in that area!

      9. I would stay away from yoga pants...unless that was for going home. I would wear a gown of sorts in the hospital. Last time I was told to wear a gown because they are always coming in checking your business thru out the day...and that was right. I hate night gowns but i wore them in the hospital. And I got them about knee length...just two and dark in color. Helps to have that and a short robe when it is time to walk the halls.

      10. Having gowns or skirts to make checking everything would be smart! THe ones I wore had a super soft, stretchy waistband that sat low (over my incision) so it was easy to pull it down just a smidge to check the pad (TMI) when they needed to, but skirts would certainly make it even easier! I preferred pants because I like to lay with my knees up and limbs all akimbo, haha, so I didn't want to worry about what was left of my modesty. :) A short robe is nice, too, if you have the space - I opted to skip it, in order to save space, in favor of a sweater or a backwards hospital gown.

      11. And very awesome that the hospital provided everything for you - I've never heard that before. Makes things a lot easier for sure!

      12. the "wear mesh panties" advice is only good for those who actually like those things (you people exist?!) ..personally i HATE the mesh panties, so i'm bringing extra panties for SURE.

        1. Ha! One less thing to pack + no rubbing of the incision + holding the giant pads = a win for sure. ;)

      13. I am being a spaz when it comes to packing. I am one of those people who never wants to be without something when I go on a trip and ALWAYS overpack. I have been stressing for the past week and procrastinating on packing but your list has helped me calm my craziness enough to the point that I am going to be able to finish this task today and not freak out. (Although I am sure I will still overpack!) Thanks so much.

      14. This list is SOOO good. Exactly what I needed!

      15. Seems like great advice for a first-timer! When you say travel pillow, do you mean the U shaped one or the kind of oblong one filled with bean bag type material?

        1. Hi Anna! I just saw this, so you don't need the answer any longer I'm sure (unless you're experiencing the world's longest pregnancy) but I'll answer in case anyone else is curious - either will work. Just a small, firm pillow is all you need!

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