When you’re approaching your due-date, packing for the hospital can be a confusing choice between what is a 'nice to have' vs a 'can't live without'. But never fear, we have the best advice from real mums and midwives to ensure you have everything you need…
When: It's never too early to be prepared, but it's generally advised that you pack your bag with the essentials you'll need during your hospital stay by the time you reach 36 weeks of pregnancy. If you have a high-risk pregnancy then you may want to complete this earlier.
The absolute must-haves: In the UAE it's crucial that you bring your attested marriage certificate with you to the hospital when you're going to give birth. You'll also need to bring your insurance card and documents, as well as your Emirates ID and passport (for both parents). It's also now the law that children under four must travel in a car seat, so it's vital that you bring a car seat with you to the hospital too if you want to drive away with your baby when you leave.
What else to bring: Aside from the vital documents and some clothes for the baby, everything else you pack is largely for your comfort. Often things like newborn nappies, cotton wool and water (for cleaning baby during a nappy change), disposable underwear for mum (so that the post-birth bleeding doesn't soil your own underwear) and hospital gowns are all provided - check directly with the hospital you plan to give birth at to be sure. A birth plan is optional but can be very useful to help the midwives and doctors know what your expectations are for your birth. Below is a checklist of the main things you may want to pack, as well as lots of advice from mums and experts who've done it recently:
Your Hospital Bag Checklist
Dru Campbell, Head Midwife At Healthbay Clinic, advises that you pack the following:
- Nightdress or pyjamas
- Comfortable T-shirt for labour (that you don't mind getting potentially dirty or stained. Otherwise hospital gowns are provided)
- Bikini or other swimwear if you are hoping for a water birth and would like to wear one (it's also fine not to wear one)
- Comfortable clothing for after baby is born
- Music for labour/ tablet or laptop or book to keep you entertained
- Birth ball if you have one and would like to use your own (often these are provided)
- Comfortable, footwear such as flip-flops or flat shoes
- Supportive maternity bra (these have clips to enable easy breastfeeding)
- Underwear (some disposable knickers are useful, although these are often provided by the hospital)
- Maternity sanitary pads or heavy-flow sanitary towels
- Toiletries, including non-perfumed soap
- Breast pads (to put in your bra to help catch any breastmilk leaks)
- Your own pillow for comfort, with coloured pillow cases so there's no confusion with the white hospital pillow cases
- Camera or fully charged cameraphone for pictures
- Pen and paper
- Lip balm
- Mobile phone and charger
- Documents: Your Birth Plan, identification (Emirates ID and passport for both parents), insurance card and attested marriage certificate
- Change of clothing
Read more: The most awkward pregnancy and labour myths - busted
- 5-10 baby grows for newborns
- 5-10 vests or short-sleeved baby grows
- White cotton wool balls
- Nappies for newborns
- Going home clothes
- Light blanket
- Car seat for day of discharge
Midwife Zoe Cresswell shares her insights:
"My main tip for your hospital bag is food! Whether it's for you to snack on in labour, or in the middle of the night when your baby is feeding, or for your husband to stop him getting too grizzly or having to disappear, it's always easier to have a little supply of easy go-to snacks that you enjoy. And don't forget a stash of menus for restaurants in the area that deliver. It won't be fun being stuck in hospital if you don't like the food, and you may well be ravenous after your baby is born."
"Remember, you're likely to be in hospital only for a few nights, so you don't need to bring a suitcase. The more you pack, the more you'll have to unpack when you get home. Pack your bag like you're going to a pyjama party with a newborn for a few nights. Just don't forget big pants. Plenty of big pants."
Plenty of baby clothes
"Although you should try to pack light, bear in mind babies tend to spit up. All the time. Everywhere. So pack plenty of baby clothes - you might find short-sleeved, or sleeveless options, better, in case it's too hot as you can always add layers."
Read more: Your countdown to labour diet
Blogger Helen Farmer adds her tips:
For the baby
"Most hospitals will provide nappies and wipes for the baby, so don't fill your bag with those. Do pack around five basic vests and sleep suits for the baby, plus hats. Taking a few sizes (eg tiny baby and newborn) might be helpful. Include a swaddle blanket too - don't worry, the midwife will show you what to do. If breast-feeding, a pump can help to get things going. If you're planning to bottle-feed, pack some sterilised bottles and preferred formula. Newborns only take a tiny amount of milk at first, so leave the 240ml mega bottles at home."
Clothes for you
"Taking a nightie (ideally in a dark colour) for you to wear during birth will make you feel more like a person and less like a patient in a hospital gown. If you have an epidural or C-section then you'll be in blue cotton, I'm afraid. Some comfy pyjama bottoms and maternity vests (try H&M) plus cardigans or a light dressing gown will be useful too. Tip - don't even think about packing your pre-pregnancy jeans - that ain't happening."
"Hospitals provide giant mesh underwear to hold your giant maternity pads, but you might want to take your own giant knickers. I went to Splash and bought a multi-pack in a bigger size that I could bin quite happily. Take some maternity bras (and breast pads); the softer the better to start. Mothercare sell lovely stretchy bra-tops with clasps. Socks are a good plan for dealing with vicious AC, as well as slippers or flip-flops for going for a walk around the ward."
"Your level of boredom will depend very much on your birth. Some ladies are in and out like a dose of salts, as my Grandma would say, while others might spend days in hospital waiting for the little one to make an appearance. Most rooms (for pre-, during and post-birth) will have a TV - I had an epidural and spent the first few hours of labour watching a movie and reading on my Kindle. An iPad might be useful for Skyping the family, as well as playing TV shows and music, but don't forget the charger and maybe an extension cord just in case plugs are in awkward spots."
Food and drink
"The hospital room mini fridge is great for milk for teas and coffees (take that too, if you're particular with your favourite brands), plus boxes of juice. Anything with a straw gets the thumbs up, and a sports bottle for water is recommended."
"Basics are provided, but a nice-smelling shower gel or body lotion can make all the difference to your mood. Face wipes and/or micellar water (I like Bioderma) will freshen you up, too. I also took dry shampoo and make up as we had some visitors and I looked like a horror show without (and while I don't love the photos of me taken over those first few days, I don't hate them either). A hairdryer was an inspired last-minute addition, along with hairbands, lip balm and a nice soft towel."
"I loved having my own pillow, but even taking some pillowcases will make your room feel more like home."
For your husband...
"Comfy clothes, phones and chargers, entertainment, snacks, an extra pillow and more snacks. Keep throwing Mini Cheddars at him."
The practical stuff
"You'll need your doctor's notes and insurance forms, plus cash for room service or deliveries (smaller denominations are best). Don't forget the baby's car seat for what will be the most terrifying drive home of your life. You can also hire TENS machines from HealthBay Clinic or Orthosports and, while we didn't use it, friends have reported that they really do help with pain relief during labour. We also took an extra tote bag for any baby gifts that arrived during our stay."
Your birth plan
"Just joking! The best plan is no plan (but do make sure your doctor knows your preferences). My birth plan was: music, drugs, whatever Dr J says, skin to skin."
Check out The Mothership (www.themothershipdxb) for a (very) honest take on living, working and parenting in Dubai.
Our mum panelists add their advice:
"Pack snacks for your husband so he doesn't have to disappear while you're in labour... I almost cried when mine went to get coffee. I also packed dry shampoo and make-up, and honestly, I could have saved myself the space and weight. I probably wasn't the most attractive new mum those first few days in hospital, but I didn't care at all."
"Last time, I packed three copies of my birth plan and I'll do the same this time. You never know if there might be a change of shift and you could end up having to repeat everything to a new midwife."
"This time I'm going to pack slippers and long-sleeve tops, as I find it can get quite cold in hospital rooms with the air conditioning on. I'm also going to pack an eye mask, as it's never dark enough for me to get a good sleep. And my iPad will be fully loaded with plenty of episodes of my favourite programmes, in case hospital TV is rubbish, as well as a radio app."
"When you're shopping for pyjamas to wear in hospital, try to find some with a drawstring waist. They'll do for pre- and post-birth and are easy to get on and off when you're stiff and sore. Also look for a button-up top, which will work for breast-feeding and skin-on-skin after birth. I'd suggest dark colours so stains won't show too much, especially in those first few days of breastfeeding."
Wondering what to read next? Try All the paperwork you need to have a baby in the UAE