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Preparing for the big day
You could go into labor any time in the weeks before your due date. So it's a good idea to have everything ready to go when you’re 8 months pregnant.
Click through our slideshow to see everything you’ll need to pack for you, your partner or birth coach, and your baby.
To check into the hospital or birth center, you’ll need a picture ID (driver's license or other ID), your insurance card, and any required hospital paperwork.
If you've made a birth plan, take a copy with you, even if you’ve already gone over it with your doctor or midwife. Make sure your partner/labor coach is familiar with it, too.
Whatever will help you relax during labor
You might bring your own pillow – just be sure to use a patterned or colorful pillowcase so it doesn't get mixed up with the hospital pillows. Also, load your phone or tablet with music and pictures you love or anything else you find reassuring.
If you're going to be induced, consider bringing something for you and your partner/labor coach to read or watch, because it may be a while before labor is underway. Remember that not all hospitals have WiFi – and even those that do may not have enough bandwidth to allow streaming, so have a backup plan in case you can't binge-watch your favorite shows.
Comfortable clothes for labor
Hospitals provide a gown and socks, but some women prefer to wear their own. You may want to pack a bathrobe, a nightgown,and slippers or socks to wear during labor. Choose a loose, comfortable gown that you don't mind getting dirty. It should either be sleeveless or have short, loose sleeves so your blood pressure can be checked easily. Slippers and a robe come in handy if you want to walk the halls during labor.
Consider packing a bathing suit for your partner. If you take a bath or shower or use a birthing tub during labor, you may want your partner to get in with you to support you or rub your back.
A camera or video camera
Someone has to document the big event! If you plan on using your phone to take photos or video, make sure it’s fully charged and pack your charger. Or bring a camera or video camera with batteries, charger, and memory card.
Some hospitals don’t allow videotaping of the birth itself, but there's usually no rule against taping during labor or after the birth.
Note: Not all hospitals let you use plugs in the delivery room, so you might want to bring a battery-powered charger or another way to charge your devices that doesn’t require a plug.
Pack a few personal items, such as a toothbrush and toothpaste, lip balm, deodorant, a brush and comb, makeup, and a hair band or barrettes. Hospitals usually provide soap, shampoo, and lotion, but you might prefer your own. Pack toiletries for your partner/birth coach if he or she will be staying with you after delivery.
Pack glasses if you need them. Even if you usually wear contact lenses, you may not want to deal with them in the hospital.
Comfortable clothing for after labor
If you don’t want to wear the gowns provided by the hospital, pack a fresh nightgown or two to wear during your stay. If you’re planning to breastfeed, make sure you’ll easily be able to nurse in it.
Whether or not you choose to breastfeed, your breasts are likely to be tender and swollen when your milk comes in. This can happen any time during the first several days after delivery. A good bra (either a maternity or nursing bra) can provide some comfort, and breast pads can be added to absorb leaks.
You might also want to pack several pairs of maternity underpants. Some moms love the mesh underwear that many hospitals provide, but others don't. You can't go wrong with your own roomy cotton underpants. The hospital will provide sanitary pads because you'll bleed after delivery. Make sure you have a supply of heavy-duty pads waiting at home!
Comfortable shoes and a few changes of clothes for your partner
If your partner is staying with you at the hospital, pack a few changes of clothes for him or her, too. If you have a c-section, you might stay at the hospital for several nights, so pack enough for a few days.
Snacks and change for vending machines
After many hours of labor, you're likely to be pretty hungry, and you may not want to rely solely on hospital food. Bring your own crackers, fresh or dried fruit, nuts, granola bars, or whatever you think you'll enjoy. A bottle of nonalcoholic champagne might be fun for celebrating, too.
Not all hospitals will provide food for your partner, and there won’t always be time to make a run to the cafeteria. Pack enough snacks to share and some change for the vending machine, too.
A way to contact people
Bring your cell phone and charger or, if you'll be using the hospital phone, a prepaid phone card. After your baby's born, you or your partner may want to call family and friends to let them know the good news. Bring a list of everyone you'll want to contact so you don't forget someone important when you're exhausted after delivery.
You might want to track your baby's feeding sessions and write down questions you have for the nurse, what the pediatrician tells you, memories of your baby's first day, and so on. Paper and pen, a digital tablet, or a phone app will do the trick.
A going-home outfit for you and baby
Bring something roomy and easy to get into (believe it or not, you'll probably still look 5 or 6 months pregnant) and a pair of flat, comfortable shoes. If you had a c-section, your incision will be tender, so pack a dress or pants with a loose waistband that won’t rub the incision site.
Your baby will need an outfit to go home in, too, including socks or booties if the clothing doesn't have feet, and a soft cap if the air is likely to be cool. Make sure your baby's outfit has legs (is not a baby "gown," for example) so the car seat strap can fit between them.
The hospital provides blankets for swaddling your baby while you're there, but you may also want to bring a receiving blanket to tuck around your baby in the car seat for the ride home. Make it a heavy one if the weather's cold.
An installed car seat
You can't drive your baby home without one! Have a rear-facing car seat properly installed ahead of time and know how to buckle your baby in correctly.
What not to bring
Items such as these are best left at home during your hospital stay:
Jewelry: Take it all off before you leave home. If you have a c-section, you’ll have to remove it anyway.
Other valuables & extra cash: It could get lost or stolen.
Medication & vitamins: Don’t bring them. Talk to your doctor ahead of time about anything you think you'll need to take during your stay, so the hospital can provide it.
Diapers: The hospital has plenty for your baby.
Breast pump: If you end up needing a breast pump for any reason, the hospital can lend you one.
You can also shop BabyCenter's list on Amazon.
Dana Dubinsky is a health and science editor.
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