I know people get superstitious about these things but I truly think its a good idea to pack a "desert island" bag at 24 weeks, and then add to it as you progress in your pregnancy. Afterall you are going to need this stuff eventually aren't you?
I've asked this question on Twitter and Facebook and some of the answers have come from experienced mums. What has been a recurring theme is food! Packing food for labour and in the recover period and I think this is worthy of a seperate post.
These are ideas of inclusions, you may or may not find you need all these things, but these are suggestions that have come from a number of women (no men, sadly)
To pack for mum, you can do this from 24 weeks ish
I wouldn't necessarily pack this all at once, but keep a little list on the top of the bag and write down an item as it goes in, so you know what you've packed, and also so your birth partner knows what is in there. No point digging for the toothpaste if its not there!
- Anything you normally require to exist happily and safely - for example for me its Ventolin, for others it might be contact lense solution or a specific prescription item. The last thing you want to be doing is running around panicking about essential items.
- Moisturiser, lip balm and hand cream - you can get sample sizes of these just to pop into your bag. Hospitals are very drying, and especially if you have a NICU stay in front of you, your hands will thank you for packing hand cream. I'd even go as far as to say an alcohol free sanitising hand gel is a good idea. The hospital ones are extremely harsh, I don't have very sensitive skin and my hands were a mess. If you've had cannulas in the alcohol based ones will bring a tear to your eye.
- Big knickers - it could be the paper knickers (I couldn't find any big enough) for me I went and got the cheapest Evans knickers I could find 2 sizes bigger than I normally wear and I bought these at 24 weeks. They were invaluable and the best thing I purchased. They sat over my section scar and just made me feel more comfortable.
- Toileteries - Becky on my Facebook page made a fabulous suggestion about buying a shower gel on a hook! Bending over either pregnant, newly delivered or following a section is hard. Toothpaste and toothbrush is essential to pack early.
- Comfy pyjamas with a top suitable for breastfeeding. I didn't buy maternity pyjamas. Marks and Spencer sell the most wonderful black pyjama pants. They are stretchy jersey and accommodate your changing shape, but are ok when your not pregnant. I got a couple of tops there to match. I bought these at 24 weeks and popped them in my bag. I wore them after Joseph was born, and I could get away with them as trousers down on the unit!
- If your a couple, a photo of the two of you, or a photo of yourself if your a single mum. I strongly believe that having a photo in an incubator is a wonderful thing, it makes you feel a bit like you are watching over your baby, and it also ensures everyone knows who you are. I packed one in my hospital bag and I am very glad I did.
- A little cuddly toy. I wouldn't pack anything baby specific at 24 weeks, unless you really want to, but a toy, just in case of early arrival, is nice. We had a stripey zebra that stayed with Joseph through out his stay.
- Paper and pen. You might want to keep a diary, but as a bare minimum a little spiral notebook is fabulous. You may want to take notes of pertinent points you are being told, you might want to make notes of questions to ask or concerns you have, or just to keep a record.
- Maternity pads and breast pads - I didn't have these packed, and I wish I had. I was going to wait til a bit later on, but they're something your going to need at some point, so why not? Boots, Mothercare and supermarkets stock these and they are handy to have. You can also get washable breast pads, which is what I would have bought.
- Something to read, or play, or listen to. I packed my iPod, some books, and my DSLite, but I thought I was getting six weeks bed rest. Sigh.
- One decent post birth outfit. I believe its a good idea to pack something respectable, in a maternity or a bit larger than your pre birth size. If your baby goes into NICU you might have to speak to doctors and other staff, and its a lot nicer for you if your not doing it in your pyjamas, and gives you a bit more credibility. It's not essential, but I'm glad I had something respectable packed.
- Socks and or slippers. Wards can be quite chilly at night.
- A decent cardigan that can double as a dressing gown.
- Bra - I wouldn't suggest you go and buy an expensive nursing bra, but a friend on twitter suggested a sports crop top which is a great idea. They stretch to accommodate growing breasticles, and are comfortable.
- Camera, memory cards and batteries - I'd keep this handy not necessarilly packed. We used our camera right from the beginning and I'm not normally a camera person!
- Baby clothes - there's a couple of ways of doing this. Personally if I had the resources I would buy a packet of vests and 3 sleepsuits/babygros in early, tiny, newborn and 0-3 size. If you don't need the small ones, they can be sold on eBay or donated to your local Special Care Baby Unit. If you don't have the right size it isn't the end of the world, as you can make do, but I think its less stress inducing if you have your bases covered. For very early babies the unit will be able to provide you essentials in the early days.
- Nappies - similarly I would buy a packet of micro, and then some newborn nappies. There are variations in the sizes of nappies, but the Pampers micro are, to my knowledge, the smallest commercially available nappies. Pampers do make a special teeny size that are only available to units. In our unit, once mother was an outpatient, we were required to bring our own in, once the baby was out of the specialist ones, and for some mothers, that meant immediately.
- Snacks - I am going to do a seperate post on food, but I would pack these now rather than earlier.
- My good friend Jax recommends a large jar of vaseline, socks make a poor weapon to throw at annoying medical staff! (a tongue in cheek suggestion I hope!)
- Nursing bra - Getting fitted is recommended in late pregnancy, I really loved the Bravado range and recommend them to everyone. What I liked about these is that they are stretchy but supportive so if your size changes a bit, these will accomodate you. They also make a crop top which is fabulous for kangaroo care.