Are you expecting a baby soon? Your list of tasks to check off before your little bundle of joy’s arrival is likely long as it is, but you don’t want to forget about the one to-do that often falls to the back burner: packing your hospital bag. Knowing what to pack in your hospital bag can be daunting if you’re having a C-section.
Before having my firstborn, I naively hadn’t considered the possibility of her delivery culminating in an emergency C-section. I packed everything I thought I’d need and then some, but ultimately used very little of it. I came home with my new baby and a pile of stuff to put away. Fast-forward to my second baby, who came without warning, surprising us seven weeks early. As I labored through contractions in the wee hours of that early Sunday morning while trying to comfort my confused toddler, I had no choice but to quickly throw a few things in a bag as my husband arranged childcare for our daughter. We arrived at labor and delivery with little more than our wallets, a cell phone charger, my toothbrush, and bottled water. Once again, my precipitous labor led to an emergency C-section.
What to Pack in Your Hospital Bag for a C-Section
If I’ve learned anything from my delivery experiences, flexibility is key, but preparation is golden. Here’s what I’d recommend any C-section mama have in her hospital bag:
1. Comfy Clothing
I recommend a cardigan, robe, a nursing tank, and a pair of slippers or grippy socks. While there’s a good chance you’ll be in your hospital gown for a good chunk of your stay; you’ll want these essentials on hand for getting up and about, snuggling with your little one, and nursing if you choose to.
You can save on space by forgoing your favorite underwear. Your nurses will provide plenty of the good ol’ mesh ones. They’ll probably even have grippy socks available if you forget yours.
2. A Few Toiletries
You’ll likely have some time to pass before you can get up and walk to the restroom, but that doesn’t mean you have to feel like you’ve been in bed your entire stay. Makeup wipes, deodorant, moisturizer, and lip balm can make you feel much more human after welcoming your tiny person.
Packing only the essentials will save room for hospital food trays and giant water jugs. Decide on what you need and what can wait for when you return home. Don’t feel guilty if some mascara and blush will make you feel more camera-ready for those birth announcement mom and baby shots. Otherwise, less is more here.
3. A Belly Binder
Many hospitals offer basic belly binders for C-section mamas, but lots of mamas prefer sporting their own higher-quality binders. These are crucial for post-surgery support, comfort, and healing and can be worn well into the weeks following your delivery.
Whether you pack your own or use the hospital’s, ask a nurse if you’re unsure whether you’re wearing your belly binder properly. A snug fit is a key to reaping the benefits.
4. A Good Pillow
Hospital beds aren’t the most comfortable, especially after a C-section. Hospital pillows are no exception. They are very thin and are in high demand. You can expect to get two or maybe three pillows (that you will need to share with your partner) in your room. Bringing your own pillow will help you feel more comfortable as you rest and recover in bed post-surgery.
Many new mothers also recommend bringing a Boppy pillow, their maternity pillow, or another pillow from home that can be used to prop up their baby closer to their breast and keep the baby off of their incision. Babies can kick and wiggle, and your incision site is the last place you want to be jabbed after birth. This extra pillow can also be helpful for applying pressure on your abdomen when you need to cough, sneeze or laugh.
5. Fan and Blanket for Your Comfort
There are some side effects that mothers experience after a C-section, like itching and feeling overheated or freezing cold due to big hormonal changes. You can ask for some medication to help with the itching, but I recommend bringing a cozy blanket of yours if you are particular about your comfort if you experience the chills. They do have blankets that they can put in the warmer, but some women prefer their own blanket from home. And if you feel overheated, a portable fan is extremely helpful.
6. Your Favorite Snacks
Regardless of the mode of delivery, giving birth is exhausting. With a whole new human to care for, you’ll need to be sure you’re eating enough to quickly get your more precious-than-ever energy back. And let’s face it, hospital food isn’t always the most appealing. Bring a few favorite snacks if you want something beyond the cafeteria’s food.
If you plan to breastfeed, give yourself a head start with lactation snacks. You can’t go wrong with tasty options like cookies, bars, and even granola on the market for milk-making moms. Staying hydrated is also important. If you get tired of plain water, consider other options that can also help with lactation.
7. Rinse-Free Body Wipes
Following your C-section, you’ll want to freshen up from all your body has been through. You might not want to or be able to go through the hassle of getting in and out of the shower. Rinse-free body wipes are like a ready-to-go sponge bath, and they’re a must for your hospital bag.
Keep a pack of these at home for your early postpartum days. The thought of getting back to your shower might seem appealing, but you’ll appreciate having a more convenient option between caring for a newborn and yourself.
8. A Comfortable, Breathable Outfit to Go Home In
Your incision area will be sore for a bit, so you’ll want to ensure nothing is pressing directly on it that could increase that friction. Loose, high-waisted drawstring pants, a flowy dress with high-waisted bike shorts underneath, or maternity leggings are all safe bets.
Don’t forget your feet! They might be a bit swollen (and difficult to reach) in the days following your C-section, so you’ll want something roomy and easy to slip on, like a simple pair of flip-flops.
9. Something Special for Baby to Wear Home
A cute coming-home outfit for baby is really all you need, and maybe a couple of bodysuits. Seriously, that’s it. Newborn diapers, wipes, and swaddle blankets will await in abundance in your post-delivery room. You’ll have plenty of time to play dress-up with your newest addition at home so save yourself the trouble of toting 10 outfits to the hospital and back.
Those newborn essentials that await you in your hospital room? Toss them all in your bag before you get discharged. They’re yours to keep for your baby.
10. Extra Kindness and Grace for Yourself
Welcoming a baby into the world via C-section is no small feat. It’s major surgery, after all, and recovery after a C-section calls for you to go easy on yourself. So be kind to yourself and take it one day at a time. Self-love has never been more important!
Packing your hospital bag for your C-section doesn’t have to be guesswork. While everything turned out just fine with each of my pre-delivery hospital bag preparations (or lack thereof!), it took both for me to learn a lesson: plan accordingly and be prepared. In other words, don’t be like me the first two times around. Whether you’re scheduled for a C-section or simply preparing for the possibility of needing one, we hope this list will help you feel at peace with what’s in your bag for the big day.