A candid first-hand account, from a first-time mama. Can I start off by saying that I must have packed and re-packed my hospital bag at-least five times. There is so much to pack, that a small tog bag can easily become two and to be honest, not everything I packed was necessary. This is what I would have done differently, had I known what the experience would have been like. I hope this first-hand account helps any new and expecting mamas.
What I used and would pack again:
- Two sets of PJs: I had a caesarean section and spent four days and three nights in the hospital. I packed one loose fitting nightie, which was easy to pull up to go to the loo and easy to pull down, to breast feed. I purchased mine from Woolworths. I also took along a Cherry Melon PJ set of soft, comfortable, cotton maternity pants and a button-down shirt. This set was comfortable and made me feel skinnier than I looked, which I liked.
- Flip flops: A few hours post op; the nurses will encourage you to take a shower. You will be bleeding and although the showers and bathrooms are cleaned frequently, I felt a lot better wearing my own flip flops in the shower.
- Underwear and maternity pads: While your welcome pack will have some disposable undies and maternity pads, I used a combination of underwear options. I packed the Canpol babies multiple use maternity briefs, they are almost like hot pants, with a high waist and they were a great fit and kept everything neatly in place. On day four I then moved over to modibodi panties. These are pretty, lace panties that are high waisted, super comfortable and have a built-in pad inside them. So, you can leave the hospital feeling feminine again, with the safety of knowing that you are protected down below. You can then wash these undies and re-use them as they absorb periods, discharge, post-partum bleeding etc. I really enjoyed these because they are so comfortable and gentle on the skin. In terms of maternity pads, I would only take one pack, to use alongside the pack they give you. I initially packed two packs and had three in total, only two were necessary.
- Feeding bra: I used the Canpol babies feeding bra, which was comfortable and easy to use. I also used my Woolies feeding bra’s which were just as comfortable and easy to use.
- Outfits for baby and blankets: even though the hospital has blankets, it was nice to use your own from time to time. I packed clothing in a few different sizes, newborn, and size 0-3 months as I wasn’t sure how big my baby would be. However, she was tiny and landed up needing to wear preemie outfits to start off with. So, hubby rushed to woollies to get a few vests and baby grows. I hear Ackerman’s has a great preemie range too. The Ackerman’s baby beanies run a little small and these fitted our baby best, because she was so small. For baby grows I recommend outfits with a zip, rather than the button ups and downs. While more expensive, they do make the 4am feeds a little more manageable.
- Slippers: I brought new slippers, which were on sale at Edgars, for this hospital visit and I am so glad I did. They were ultra-comfy and were worn every day.
- Basic toiletries: Nipple cream, roll on, moisturiser and lip balm is all you need. You will not use your exfoliator, serums, masks etc. Babes you wont even use your floss.
What I did not pack and should’ve:
- Snacks: While they feed you in hospital, have a snack cart and a restaurant downstairs, I wish I had packed a few gummy sweets, energy bars and some Biltong with to snack on. Luckily, we had friends and family who brought treats with them.
- Belly Binder: For some reason, I thought you only start wearing this from 2 weeks post-partum, but you start using it immediately after giving birth, I wish I brought mine along.
What I would leave at home:
- All my baby’s toiletries, nappies, and wipes: I gave birth at Sandton Mediclinic, and they gift you the most phenomenal nappy bag with everything you need in there. Including a full-size pack of nappies, and wet wipes, surgical spirits, cotton rounds, toiletries, and bum cream. They even include disposable undies and maternity pads for mom. This will save you a lot of space. Use what they give you and do not pack all your own stuff, I landed up bringing all my stuff home.
- Towels: I brought my own towels for both baby and me. However, I was advised to rather use the hospitals towels as I was warned that I would be bleeding and it is better to use their towels that are changed twice daily, as opposed to my own.
- Makeup: I brought some light makeup with – tinted moisturiser, brown pencil, mascara, and a tinted lip balm. I never got a chance to wear any of it. While everyone is different, my first day, I was high on painkillers and just slept for most of the day. The other days you are managing your pain, learning how to breast feed and how to keep your smallie alive. The only thing I did was wash my face and apply moisturiser.
- Outfits: I never wore the tights, tracksuits etc that I planned to wear. I wore my PJ’s and I changed into a comfortable loungewear outfit when I left the hospital. All the other outfits were a waste of space in my bag.
- Robe: I never walked around the hospital and never used this.
- Linen savers: The hospital provides these, I never used mine
- Shower gel and intimate wash: the nurses encourage you to wash yourself with their pink, hygienic body wash that will leave your body sterile and clean and no intimate washes are advised to be used, so rather just leave this all at home and use the sterile body wash and hot water.
- Breast pads: My milk only came in on day five and my breasts never leaked in hospital, you only produce colostrum in the beginning and probably won’t need the breast pads. I did not at least.
- Socks: I packed four pairs and never wore one. The hospital is hot, just wear your slippers, also, you cannot put your socks on yourself.
- Nipple shields: I do not know if I had the wrong size maybe, but these were huge on me, and babes couldn’t get to the nipple so we could not use these unfortunately.