what to pack in your hospital bag for a c-section

I'm under two weeks away from heading into my third scheduled C-section, and with all the Braxton Hicks contractions I've been having, I know it's important to get my bags packed early, just in case we need to head in earlier than planned! As I make my list for the hospital, it occurred to me that I am much more prepared this time around, since I know what to expect, and figured it might be helpful for mamas-to-be who are trying to pack for their first birth experience, or their first C-section. 

A lot varies from hospital to hospital (or birthing center), but most places will give you some sort of packing list or idea of what they provide vs. what you need to bring. If you compare that with what experienced moms suggest, you should be all set to enjoy your first few days with baby after having a C-section. Surgery can be scary and recovery can be painful, so it's nice to at least know what to expect, and have the necessary items on hand to keep you comfortable. 

And of course, everyone is different! What is a must-have for me might be excessive for you, or vice versa. Know yourself, and don't be afraid to pack a few extras that will make your stay more comfortable. Here's what I bring with me for a scheduled C-section:

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hospital bag c-section

For Mama: To Wear

Nursing-friendly pajamas- After having abdominal surgery you will likely be staying in the hospital for a few nights. I appreciate being able to sleep in the comfort of my own pajamas rather than the gowns provided by the hospital. Be sure to size up, since you will still look about 6 months pregnant during the days after giving birth, plus you will be a bit swollen from all the fluid they pump into you before the surgery. Some of my favorite options are loose-fitting lounge pants + a nursing camisole (save / splurge) + a cute robe, and a pair of button-up pajamas. Pro tip - choose a dark color of pajamas, because there will be a lot of bodily fluids involved postpartum (think blood, breast milk, and baby spit up). 

Postpartum Belly Wrap- I have heard from so many women who swore by these after their C-section, because it helped protect their incision and supported their abdomen after surgery. For some reason I had not heard of these before my first two C-sections, so I'm trying it for the first time with my third! I bought a Belly Bandit BFF in a size small, and ordered a cheaper version from Amazon in a size medium in case the small doesn't fit in the days directly after giving birth. 

Nursing Pads- Someone recommended LilyPadz to me before I had my first baby, and I have sworn by them ever since. They are made of silicone, so they are reusable, and they actually stick to your skin very well as long as you keep them clean. I buy two pairs so I can rotate them and make them last longer. They are super helpful under nursing camisoles if you want to skip the bra, perfect to wear under your swimsuit, and they help prevent leaking at night, too! I also like the soft cotton reusable nursing pads as a backup, but use my LilyPadz the majority of the time. Don't even bother with disposable. They feel like sandpaper.

Nursing Bras - It's hard to know what size bra you will need for a nursing bra ahead of time, so I wear Gilligan & O'Malley bralettes in size large while I wait for my milk supply to come and even out, when I'll have a better idea of my size. They are not specifically nursing bras, but very stretchy and easy to pull down. If you're looking for a similar type of style that is actually a nursing bra, I have heard amazing things about Cake bras. 

Open-Front Cardigan- I bring one dark colored open-front sweater to throw on over a camisole or pajamas if visitors are coming. Still nursing-friendly, but gives you some modesty and keeps you warm if the room is cold! 

Going Home Outfit- I always pack a nursing-friendly maxi dress for going home. I know it won't hurt my incision, it's forgiving around the middle, and is super comfortable! 

Optional- Some people swear by slippers and cozy socks. I prefer my cheap Old Navy rubber flip flops if I'm walking the halls of the hospital, but it's up to you! Hospitals can get a bit cold, so it wouldn't hurt to throw in a pair of socks just in case. 

What you don't need: Check with your hospital to make sure, but for most hospitals you won't need to bother bringing underwear. You will be bleeding a lot, and the hospital provides stretchy mesh ones that you won't mind ruining. Same goes for pads! (Although do make sure you have some waiting for you at home). 

For Mama: Helpful Items

Nursing Pillow- A nursing pillow is a necessity for feeding your baby comfortably while protecting your incision. We have a Boppy, but there are tons of other brands out there, too!

Toiletries: It might be a few days before you can get up to shower, so bring face wipes and/or makeup wipes, dry shampoo, and deodorant. Obviously you'll also want a toothbrush and toothpaste, but bring some mouthwash and mints/gum just in case! I always bring foundation, blush, eyeliner, and mascara, because I like feeling put together if visitors are coming or if I know we're going to take some pictures. You may not feel the need to wear a stitch of makeup while you're recovering from childbirth, and that's fine, too! Just one less thing you have to pack. Finally, don't forget about moisturizer and lip balm.

Hair accessories- Again, check to see if your hospital has a blow dryer, but you may want to bring your own, along with a straightener or curling iron for the same reason you might bring makeup. I personally like to do my hair by day 2 or 3. You'll be bloated, leaking fluid, learning (or relearning) how to breastfeed, and stuck in a hospital bed. Doing your hair is one small way to feel like yourself. Definitely NOT a necessity, but a fun think to have if you want it. Don't forget a brush, hair ties, and a cute headband/head wrap to keep your hair out of your face. I also bring travel sized sea salt spray if I just want to let my hair air dry after a shower. 

Snacks- Protein and fiber will be your best friends after your C-section! Protein helps with your milk supply and you will NEED fiber for the post-surgery constipation. (Sorry I had to warn you - nobody told me the first time and it was extremely painful. The second time I refused the strong pain meds and relied only on ibuprofen, plus ate plenty of fiber and it helped tremendously). I bring protein bars, meal replacement shakes made with super high-quality whey protein, a fiber supplement to add to my shakes, granola bars, and fruit. I also want to try lactation cookies this time around! I saw some at Target, and will probably throw a few in my bag. The hospital provides plenty of food, but I'm always prepared for those times when the kitchen is closed, or I just want a small snack in between meals. Bonus: bring a bag of your favorite candy, because you just gave birth and survived major abdominal surgery.

You might also like: pregnancy meal plan - a day in the life

Electronics- Of course you'll want your phone with you for pictures, contacting friends and family, and as a distraction, since you'll be spending hours in a hospital bed, and your baby will sleep a lot! Pro tip: bring an extra long cord for your charger (or a portable charger) so you can charge your phone from your hospital bed. Optional items are a laptop for uploading pictures, and watching movies/Netflix, a Kindle or Nook if you're a reader, and a nice camera for taking high quality pictures. Don't forget chargers for everything and a pair of headphones.

Reusable Water Bottle- the hospital will provide one, but it's nice to have your own on hand in case you're really thirsty and a nurse can't get to you right away. I love an insulated stainless steel version, like a S'well bottle, that will keep your water ice cold for hours. 

Paperwork- Make sure you have all necessary documents and paperwork for your stay at the hospital, along with a folder to keep everything organized. 

Extras- Notebooks, pens, magazines, books, cards, essential oil and diffuser, and a sound machine are all fun extras you could bring to make your stay more fun and relaxing, but are definitely not necessary.

For Baby

2 outfits- Each hospital is different, but ours actually didn't allow us to dress our baby in anything other than what the hospital provided. This was so they could have quick access to the baby just in case, without having to worry about buttons and zippers. We bring 2 outfits - one in newborn size, and one in 0-3 month size, since you don't know what will fit- for bringing the baby home. If it's different at your hospital or birthing center, you could also bring a few sleepers with zippers (buttons are such a pain in the middle of the night), and some cute onesies!

Beanie hat or head wrap- The beanie will come in handy if it's cold in the hospital room and you don't like the hospital-issued version, plus they look super cute in pictures! If you're having a girl, you may want to bring an adorable headband or head wrap for the same reason.

Muslin blanket- I am in love with the Aden + Anais brand muslin blankets. They are so soft and dreamy, plus they are big enough to swaddle the baby. Not to mention, they are much nicer than the scratchy hospital blankets!

Swaddle- The nurses are professionals at swaddling your baby, but you may also want to bring a swaddle sack if it's allowed! They make like so much easier, and stay put even if baby is wiggly. we love the Summer Infant brand with the velcro, and I happen to think these Fawn and Sage swaddle sacks are the cutest!

Car Seat and Base- Seems like an obvious thing to add to the list, but you can't leave without it! 

What you don't need: diapers and wipes - the hospital will have tons! 

And that's it! Good luck, mama. You're going to do great!

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