I’ve packed many bags in my lifetime for overnight trips, trips out of the country, and moving. The most dreading thing ever, by far, is moving! The happiest bag I ever wanted to pack was my hospital bag in anticipation of my twins’ birth. I viewed it as a trial run of many overstuffed bags to come in the future and joked that I could definitely be a contender on “Let’s Make a Deal” during the segment when they ask you to pull random things out of your bag. Tiny Spiderman? Got it. Floss? Oh, yeah. Safety pins, goggles, thermometer? Yes, yes, all shades of yes. The twins were going to be my last children, my last birth, so it was a bittersweet moment thinking about what to bring for this last go around.
My due date was at the end of May, so I thought I had plenty of time to start packing my bag the first week of April. Wrong, oh so wrong. I went into pre-term labor at 29 weeks in mid-March during a routine anatomy scan. I thought I was just going to be out of the house for an hour, but ended up spending weeks in the hospital and had to depend on my family to bring me the things I needed. My mind was already clouded with worry and my last priority was myself, and asking my husband to bring me clothes was a laugh fest in and of itself. No worries — stripes totally match leopard print! 😛 And, thanks for bringing my skinny jeans instead of my maternity pants. That one was good for the ego.
It’s never too early to start packing and if all else fails and you end up delivering early, just print out this article or send the link to it to your family and ask them to pack for you! Do yourself the favor of thinking about what your needs are and what will comfort you. Having your bag packed with everything you want will satisfy your nesting and ease your mind.
Here were my go-to must haves for my hospital bag(s). (Get used to bags in the plural form — it’s rare that you will go anywhere for a while with just one bag!)
The beauty of technology is that we can gather all the documents that we need and access them from anywhere. Put together everything that you need from hospital admission forms, insurance cards and information, birth plan, contact list of who you are going to send a birth announcement email to (or a list within your social media contacts for that kind of announcement) and save it all virtually. Whether you use Google Drive or go old school and email the documents to yourself, have them online, and then print out copies and pack in your bag. In New York, the hospital mails you a set of all the documents to fill out way in advance, including the birth certificate forms. I was able to call them to request an extra packet for each twin and fill everything out, except for their names, ahead of time. It saved a lot of time and you can put one person in charge of this if you like. Pick your most organized buddy and put them to work! When in doubt, they can use your birth plan as a guide.
Bring a laptop or tablet and your smartphone to access all of your documents. You can also research and download apps to your phone in advance that will help with breastfeeding, tracking diaper changes, or simply scheduling. I nursed my twins, but they were in the NICU initially and I gave them expressed breast milk — but in order to build my supply I had to pump every two hours. After my C-section I could hardly see straight let alone keep track of the times to pump, so apps can be helpful. If your phone doesn’t have a good quality camera/video recorder, bring or borrow one to capture those first moments. (And take more photos/videos than you think you need — you will be so busy that first week it will be a blur if you don’t capture it on film.)
If you choose to nurse, the hospital will provide you with a hospital grade pump and supplies if your twins don’t latch on at first. Make sure to bring your own hands-free nursing bra, nipple creams, and my secret weapon: a heating pad or hot packs. Gentle heat helps your letdown of milk (the way a warm shower would). In the early stages, hot packs are more convenient than hopping in the shower and can help establish your milk supply so pumping will be easier. Ask the lactation consultant what the hospital offers patients. They gave me several sets of nursing pads, storage bottles, and even a manual breast pump to take home. Some maternity wards offer a breastfeeding store where you can purchase/rent all of these items once you’re there — call ahead to ask if your hospital offers this amenity.
Things to help you sleep
I don’t know about you, but I had the most difficult time sleeping in the hospital bed. I figured out a few tricks during my second birth with my twins. As ridiculous as it looks, I used a sleep mask. There were so many people coming in and out of my room and my window between nursing sessions was so short, that the total darkness of the mask helped me get into the sleep mode. I also brought a U-shaped travel sized neck pillow because it was too uncomfortable to lay down flat and the pillow allowed me to sleep propped up. Boppy pillows can do double duty here, because they are great to hold babies for nursing and great to sleep on. I am one of those people that are still cold when it is 80 degrees, so bring a blanket to snuggle up if you are too. Whatever helps you sleep, bring it!
So you’ve spent umpteen weeks growing multiple humans and foregoing soft cheeses, deli meats, and other forbidden cravings. Now is your time! If any of the foods on your wish list are non-perishable, pack them into your bag (hello, Snickers bars!) Otherwise, research beforehand if there are foods you’d like to have during your stay available near the hospital. In my hospital’s neighborhood, we have any food you could imagine within a few blocks, so I sent the hubs out for the Italian sub that I’d been waiting months to have. If people ask what you need, gift cards to take out restaurants are great because you can use them during your hospital stay and then after you are home with the twins and need to have a meal. Hospital food is the worst so try and indulge while you can. It might be a long time before you get to eat an uninterrupted meal again!
Bag for Swag
Having twins or more is a spectacle, even in the hospital where the staff is accustomed to seeing them. Still, for some reason, people want to give you things — and let them! Free packs of diapers, wipes, breastfeeding storage bottles, and waterproof pads were given to us in droves. Whatever the nurses and staff offer you, take it. We went home with enough preemie size diapers to last about two weeks and I was eternally grateful for that since we had to order the small size online because we couldn’t find it in local stores. Pack some sturdy shopping bags or an extra empty suitcase with wheels to transport your swag. (You can leave this bag in the car until check-out day to save the precious space in your hospital room.)
Give some thought to the things that make you comfortable and at ease. Whether it’s fuzzy slippers, your favorite pajamas, or a calming lotion, pack clothing and personal items that are loose fitting and comfortable. I was glad that I had the loosest shirt and flip flops because my feet were so swollen I couldn’t wear regular shoes. And, let me tell you, flip flops in April is THE look! If you want to breast feed, a lightweight robe is a great investment because you will pretty much live in it.
I had the twins going home outfits picked out months in advance. They each had a yellow crocheted sweater, booties and hat coincidentally made by each of their great-grandmothers about 30 some-odd years before. The outfits were mine when I was a baby. Both sets were super sweet, sentimental and twelve sizes too large for my little four pound preemies. I’d suggest packing an outfit and a back-up outfit for each. We did put them in the giant sweaters, took a few pictures, and then switched them to some preemie onesies with little kimonos that we raced out to get. It all worked out for the best and eventually they grew big enough to wear the yellow outfits.
Thank you notes/Gift cards
I was very lucky to have some incredible nurses and doctors during my hospital bed rest stay and the twins’ birth. I had been there so long, I got to know just about everyone. Pack a stash of thank you notes to leave at the Nurse’s Desk. We also sent the nurses a thank you basket. If you have the means to hand out gift cards to the local coffee place or shop, even $10 is appreciated by the hospital staff who often works so hard without any recognition.
Most of all, don’t stress out over a forgotten item, as almost anything can be replaced. When in doubt, ask the hospital staff for help. You’d be surprised that they have lots of secret supplies for new mothers and families. Enjoy these first moments, and get ready for many full to the brim packed bags for years to come. You’ll be a pro before you know it.
(Be sure to print out the Twiniversity Hospital Bag Checklist!)
Daniele Parris is a work from home mom to an upbeat seven year old boy and one year old boy-girl twins. She lives in the suburbs of New York City and has degrees in Fine Arts and Philosophy from New York University. She makes her living in the Healthcare industry and spends most of her time with her boisterous Italian family, trying to get a word in edgewise. Her hobbies include cooking and baking, an unholy knowledge of 80’s hair-metal bands and trying, albeit almost always in vain, to guess the monetary value of the items on Antiques Roadshow. In addition to her full time job, she has an online shop at http://www.cafepress.com/littlebambinos that specializes in fun clothing for twins and multiples.