Pregnant and wondering what the ultimate essentials are to pack in your hospital bag? Masilo Founder, Eisha Maskara Sheth shares her must-have products for mamas-to-be.
After two babies and having been through both a medicalised hospital birth and a natural water birth, I have no problem calling myself an expert when it comes to advising parents on what they’ll actually love having around them for a more comfortable labour and the first days with a newborn.
Whether you’re after things that are practical, indulgent or that will provide a feeling of zen, the following list covers all the bases and then some!
LED Candles: Dim the lights and set the mood in your birthing room with battery operated LED candles.
Did you know? Most mammals prefer giving birth at night in the dark as it typically offers more privacy and protection. In the same way that any dog owner will have noticed that they tend to hide under a bed or in a cupboard to give birth privately and protected, humans are not so different.
Portable Speaker: Bringing a portable speaker into the delivery room with a playlist of songs you love can go a long way toward making the space feel a little more comfortable. Tip: Make a few playlists with different music genres for labour. You never know if you’ll feel like dancing to help bring the baby down or want to switch to healing chants during the home stretch.
Essential Oils: Easy to roll-on and chosen specifically for pregnancy, labour and breastfeeding, the essential oil blends by Healing Oils are my favourite for labour. Stress Buster for during labour and Sleep Easy for the first nights as an anxious new mom!
Radiation Protection: The Enviroglobe negates electromagnetic (EMF) radiation from everyday modern devices that surround us – so your baby can arrive earthside surrounded by good vibes only.
Hot Water Bag: As your baby descends down the birth canal and your surges (contractions) become stronger, the pressure builds up and you may experience shooting pain in your lower back. Applying heat to the area topically really helps in providing relief. Other things that really help are getting your doula or birth partner to apply counter-pressure massage strokes to the lower back and ofcourse breathwork and visualisation!
Muslin Cloths: You may get the sweats during labour and a cold muslin cloth to your face and the back of your neck may provide some comfort. I’d recommend getting an icebox and atleast four muslin cloths (to rotate) so you will always have a chilled towel handy to cool off.
Sipper Bottle: Labor is hard work and it takes up a lot of your body’s energy, so it’s important to stay well hydrated to power you through. If you’re going to be moving around freely while managing your surges (contractions), I’d recommend getting a water bottle with a straw so you don’t have to change your labour position (even if you’re face down on all fours), just to get a few sips of water in.
Energy Snacks: Quick and easy foods such as bars, nuts, dates, fruit, or crackers will help provide the energy you need to support you from the start and all the way through your final push of labor. Plus, you never know how long your labour will go or if you may need to extend your hospital stay for some reason. So it’s always a good idea to pack in your favourite healthy snacks for an anytime, instant energy boost.
Donut Ring: If you have a vaginal birth you will most likely need to recover from stitches (from an episiotomy or by tearing) and you may find it uncomfortable to sit on a regular flat surface. A donut cushion will help keep the pressure off your perineum when sitting, until your stitches have healed.
Peri Bottle: After a normal delivery you may be swollen, bruised, or stitched ‘down there.’ Using a peri bottle with warm water helps to gently clean the perineum area for a speedier recovery. The clever inverted sprayer means it sprays easily upside down! It’s a must-have for your first few trips to the loo after delivery!
Bottom Spray: A herbal bottom spray that contains astringent witch hazel, antibacterial lavender, and cooling peppermint essential oil provides instant soothing to ease discomfort of postpartum vaginal soreness and swelling, episiotomies and hemorrhoids. Mix with warm water in your peri bottle or mist directly as often as you need it, especially after bath or toilet use. I loved the Earth Mama perineal spray.
High-waisted Recovery Briefs: After a vaginal birth, be prepared to wear jumbo maternity pads as you’re likely to experience a very long, heavy period (ranging from 1 week to 1 month!) while your body clears out all sorts of fluids that were required to grow a baby. So ditch the lacy underwear and say hello to grandma pants!
Feeding Pillow: For a breastfeeding novice, a good feeding pillow is essential to help support your little one during feeds. Remember to bring your baby up to the level of your breast rather than bend over to offer your breast to them, as the later will eventually take a toll on your back! I preferred using a sturdy nursing pillow from My Brest Friend, but there are plenty of options out there – see what works for you best!
Nursing Pads: In the first weeks after birth, your milk supply is likely to be much more than what your baby needs. Eventually your body and baby fall into a good feeding rhythm usually around 6-8 weeks postpartum. In the meanwhile, prevent milk-stained shirts by placing nursing pads inside your nursing bra. Ditch the disposables and go for washable and reusable bamboo or cotton pads – they’re not only more comfortable, but are eco-friendly too!
Nipple Balm: Breastfeeding can lead to cracks, sores and itchiness in the early weeks as your body adapts to feeding your newborn. A nipple balm can help moisturise, soothe and heal the skin around your nipples. I loved the all-natural Earth Mama nipple butter.
Baby Carrier Wrap: Being held skin-to-skin against their mama in the first few hours (and days) after birth and listening to their familiar heartbeat is instantly reassuring and calming for newborns adjusting to life outside the womb. Keeping your baby close by wearing your baby also releases oxytocin, the feel-good love hormone that can help increase your milk supply! The Godilo baby carrier is an incredibly soft and stretchy, 100% organic cotton wrap to keep your newborn close – and enjoy being hands free. It also allows you to nurse comfortably and discreetly.
Below is a summary of all the items I’ve mentioned in case you’d like to save the checklist :) I wish you a beautiful, gentle, magical birth, Mama – you got this!