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The Birth & the Hospital

Your big day is finally here! With so much to do and so little time to do them, we’ve put together some helpful checklists, must-haves and quintessential essentials to make your trip to and from the hospital as smooth as possible.


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How to Pack a Family Hospital Bag

There are plenty of checklists and articles that can help you determine what essentials you should pack for your hospital stay, but odds are you won’t be hanging out in your birthing room alone. Packing a family hospital bag that helps keep your partner and the rest of the clan happy and organized can go a long way in making you more comfortable. 


  • Labor support supplies
    Planning ahead is a great way to be sure that your partner has all the right tools on hand to support you. If a massage is on your wish list, pack up your preferred oils. Would you like a handheld misting fan or water spray bottle to help you cool off during labor? Put it in the family bag so that your partner knows where to go when it's time. 
  • Change of clothes
    Your husband might not have a chance to shower or he just may not want to leave your side. Either way, he’ll definitely need a decent clean shirt so that he can look presentable in all those pics that will be posted and shared on social media.
  • Empty duffel bag
    You’re going to need somewhere to stash all the gifts, samples and supplies that will be coming your way. Put your partner in charge of making sure it all goes to the right place by having a dedicated swag bag on hand. This will make it faster and easier to pack everything up when it’s time to head home.
  • Push present
    Of course your partner wants to show you tons of love and support, so don't feel bad about asking him for any “presents” (hint, hint) that he might want to have on hand at the hospital. This little nudge will serve as a handy shopping reminder. Just remember, you can pack the present—but no peeking!


  • Art supplies
    Let them get creative with paper, crayons, colored pencils and mini canvases. Siblings can write a letter to baby, make a festive welcome home poster or whip up little works of art to decorate the nursery. A few thoughtful supplies is all you need to make it happen.
  • Reading material
    Surprise the brothers or sisters with a brand-new graphic novel, an activity book or the latest issue of a fun magazine for kids. You’ll keep them engaged without having to worry about digital devices getting lost or broken. 
  • Snacks
    Stash a few of their favorite munchies in the bag to avoid multiple trips to the vending machine or cafeteria. The last thing you want is to have your hubs and kids out making a snack run when baby arrives—it could happen! 


You can’t overlook the newest member of your family. Most essential items baby needs will likely be provided by your hospital or birthing center, but you should ask specific questions to be sure. And while the most important thing that your baby will need is you, here are a few items you might want to consider packing for your little one’s trip home.

  • A warm outfit
  • Receiving blanket 
  • Hat
  • Booties or socks
  • A coat or snowsuit (if there’s a chance of cold weather)

Image: Getty


Hospital Prep 101 - What To Pack To Make You And Baby Comfy

Perhaps you've had this fear before: the harried dad helps his panting, very pregnant wife into the car to head to the hospital, and no one has a suitcase ready at home. Don’t let it happen to you!

Packing for the hospital is an important part of the final stages of pregnancy as you ready yourself for this momentous occasion. It’s never too early to start packing since many babies decide to arrive several weeks before their due date. You might want to aim for week 36 as a guide to start getting things ready for the road.

You can even leave your packed bag in the car during those last weeks so it and won’t get left on the curb when your water breaks and you’ve got other things on your mind.

The bottom line is to bring the essentials you and baby will need in the hospital and for the trip home. By being prepared you can focus on what's important -- your first moments and first hugs with your new baby! 

Here’s what to bring:


  • You’ll need some basic toiletries like a toothbrush, hairbrush, hair elastics or headband and lip balm. If you’d like to freshen up before those first photos of snuggling with your little one, consider also bringing a small makeup kit with lip gloss and other items.

  • Don't forget a nursing bra, several pairs of underwear and something to wear home. You may not fit in your pre-pregnancy clothing, so maternity wear or baggy clothing may be most comfortable. 

  • Bring the little one a cute outfit to wear home including socks, a hat, sweater or jacket depending on the weather. Your baby has been in a very warm place the last nine months, so they might be cold even in the summer! 

Personal touches:

  • Consider taking your own pillow if you have one that brings you comfort.

  • Your favorite lotion, hand cream or essential oil will make you feel at home and help mask those hospital smells.

  • A new nursing nightie and your own robe may be a lot more comfortable than the standard issue hospital attire.

  • Non-slip socks or slippers can help for walking on cold hospital floors.

  • Consider a baby blanket for pictures or hugs while you're in the hospital. Choose wisely! Some babies take instantly to that first blanket and it becomes their never-be-without “blankie” for years. Make sure it’s washable.

  • A black and white stuffed animal can be nice for your baby, since those are the first colors he or she will see.

  • A blank journal is a good place to record your feelings about meeting your baby for the first time. See some stories from other moms and the power of the first hug here: 

Extras for little one

The hospital will supply some basics, but if you have preferences about your baby's products, feel free to bring them to the hospital. You’ll also want to stock a supply at home to keep your baby's skin healthy and comfortable.

  • Be sure to pack some Huggies Little Snugglers Diapers for your newborn. They're fragrance and lotion free to keep your baby comfortable and let skin breathe. They come in preemie, newborn and larger sizes. 

  • Hypoallergenic Natural Care Baby Wipes keep your newborn’s skin clean and healthy. They’re paraben, fragrance, and alcohol-free, perfect for your baby’s soft and delicate skin. After all, a newborn’s skin is paper-thin and can be up to 10 times more sensitive than yours, so extra care is needed from the start.

For the expectant dad:

  • Be sure to bring your cell phone charger so you are ready to take photos and to call the grandparents and other family and friends with the news once the baby is born. 

  • Throw in a small speaker to play music from your phone while mom is in labor. 

  • Take lots of healthy snacks to avoid eating junk food from the hospital vending machines.

  • Bring a clean shirt for the photos of the smiling couple with their new baby.  

Image : Getty


NICU Diaries: 7 Essential Items for Parents During Your Baby’s NICU Stay

While our son Judah continues to grow and get stronger here in the NICU, my husband and I have settled into the strange and at times surreal routine of life of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Considering we’re also 300 miles from home, we’re quickly adapting to our transient situation, however temporary. As we help care for our preemie baby, here are the 7 essential items helping to make our life in the NICU a little more normal.

Welcome to tales from our lives as new parents with our son in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unite (NICU).

  1. Moisturizing Hand Lotion
    You’ll learn quickly just how dry your hands get from washing them over and over. At our NICU, we have to do a surgical scrub for three minutes before we can even enter the unit. An intensive moisturizing lotion is a must.

  2. Short Sleeved Shirts
    All that hand washing and hand sanitizing means you’ll have to roll up your sleeves. If the weather permits, try to wear short sleeves or sleeves that you can easily roll up when you can.

  3. A Way to Secure Your Jewelry
    Because we have to scrub up to our elbows every time we enter the NICU, all watches, bracelets, rings and other hand or wrist jewelry has to come off. Rather than simply tucking our wedding rings in our pockets, I keep mine on a chain around my neck.

  4. Something to Read
    Preemie babies spend a lot of time sleeping, so there’s a good chance you’ll be doing a lot of sitting around gazing at your sleeping baby. It’s a good idea to bring something to read. You can also bring books to read to your baby.

  5. Water Bottles
    Hospitals tend to be very dry places; if your baby’s temperature is being regulated by an incubator or isolette, you’ll also feel the ambient rise in temperature in your room. All this dry heat can make you parched fast, so keep a couple of water bottles on hand to stay hydrated.

  6. Hands-Free Pumping Bra & Nursing Cover
    If you intend to breastfeed, you’ll need to start using a breast pump right away, since your preemie is often too little to latch. The breast pump simulates your baby’s suckling to help stimulate your milk production. Free up your hands and give yourself a little privacy by investing in a good pumping bra and nursing cover.

  7. Mom’s After-Care Kit
    Whether you gave birth naturally or via c-section, new moms have very specific after-care procedures to help their bodies heal. Keep a bag handy that can travel with you back and forth between hospital and home so you can stay on top of your after-care no matter where you are.
  8. After 15 days in the NICU, we still don’t have a definite date of when we get to bring home Judah. These items have been essential to our NICU experience so far… hopefully we get to take our son home soon!

    Parents of preemies: what other items were essential to your NICU stay experience?

    Image : Disney Baby


Was There Someone Not Able to Make It to Your Birth

By Jeana Lee Tahnk

All of my pregnancies and birth experiences hold such happy memories for me. But my most vivid memories are of my first (nearly a decade later), due most likely to the fact that every experience was brand new - getting that belly bump, feeling the baby kick, the ultrasounds. Not to mention the fact that this was my parents' first grandchild, which made each milestone that much more celebrated.

For my parents, that celebration also included incessant worrying. Which meant daily phone calls to me "checking in" - making sure I was eating well, resting enough and taking care of myself. I understood where they were coming from and thought it was cute. I know I'll be the same way when/if my kids have kids.

We were living a few states away from my parents at the time and, because we didn't have the technology we have now, our correspondence occurred primarily over the phone. As I got closer to my due date, we started to talk about when they'd visit. We all decided they would come meet their grandchild after my husband returned to work - it would give my husband and me the time to bond with the baby, and it would also be of great help when my husband's paternity leave was over.

There was part of me that was sad they wouldn't be there until two weeks after the birth, but I didn't want them making the long drive back and forth several times.

After our son was born, our first call was to my parents to let them know they had a grandson. I will never forget talking to my parents from that hospital bed, hearing them crying on the other end of the phone with such joy and emotion at becoming grandparents for the very first time.

We didn't have the luxury of instant photos, FaceTime or Skype back then, so I described over the phone his every gorgeous feature, his full head of black hair, his perfect little fingers and how serene he was. My parents hung onto my every word and were beyond ecstatic to meet him.

The next day, sitting in my hospital bed, there was a knock at the door. Expecting it to be one of the nurses, you can imagine my surprise when the door opened and there were my parents, who had woken up at the crack of dawn to make the five-hour drive down to see us. In between tears, my mom said, "How could I not come see you and meet our first grandchild?" It's a moment I will never forget.

So even though my parents weren't there right after the birth, that surprise visit meant even more. And I wouldn't have wanted it any other way.

Read More by Jeana Lee Tahnk

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Delivery Day Tips for Dad

The big day is just around the corner: You’re about to become a father! Chances are you’re a wild mix of emotions: excited, nervous, and maybe even a little scared. But never fear, dad-to-be: We’ve collected tips and advice to help you make it through delivery day with flying colors.

When your baby’s birthday arrives, you’ll undoubtedly be swept up in a flurry of events and emotions. From helping time contractions to ensuring your partner’s overnight bag is in the car and ready for the hospital, to holding your partner’s hand as she gives birth — delivery day is full of excitement.

Here are some tips to help you prepare:

  • Listen.
  • “Your wife is going through a tremendous physical and emotional change while pregnant. She needs your support and care,” says Dr. Steven J. Hanley, a clinical psychologist and father of a 5-year-old and 3-year old. On the big day, your partner will be keenly aware of her body. But things can still be confusing for her. “Listen to her and respect her opinion,” Hanley adds.

  • Know that it’s OK to be scared.
  • You may find yourself worrying about how sexual intimacy will change after baby’s birth, thinking about the challenges your own father faced, or feeling nervous about how your new family dynamics will work. This is all normal; and it is completely OK to talk about these feelings with your partner, a family member, or a close friend.

  • Act on her behalf.
  • “It is natural to be anxious, but your wife will need you to ‘step up,’” says Hanley. For example, be sure you have discussed the birth plan so you can confidently remind the birthing team of her wishes.

  • Plan ahead.
  • Help your partner pack her overnight bag and chat with her about any additional things you can bring when it is time to head to the hospital. And don’t forget to pack a bag for yourself, too. Bring a change of clothes and toiletries, in case labor stretches into the wee hours of tomorrow morning.

      TIP: Pack a button-up shirt, or wear one on delivery day, so you can have some skin-to-skin bonding with your newborn. This practice is suggested as a beneficial way for both mom and dad to bond with their newborn, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

  • Be prepared for the unexpected.
  • Childbirth can be an overwhelming, frightening experience. Be ready to see your partner respond to birth in ways neither one of you might expect.

  • Study up.
  • Review what you’ve learned from your childbirth classes and research or query your partner’s doctor if you have questions about labor and delivery. Understand what will be happening to your partner’s body, and know what the process will be if she needs birth assistance or a C-section.

  • Help provide distractions.
  • Bring movies, a book to read to her, or anything else your partner might like to have on hand as you both work through the sometimes long hours leading up to baby’s arrival.

  • Keep an eye on contractions.
  • Consider downloading a contraction app to help track your partner’s contractions. While at the hospital, ask a nurse to show you how to follow along with the contractions monitor. You’ll then be able to talk your partner through an impending peak, or let her know that a break may be on the way.

  • Consider working with a doula prior to and during delivery.
  • Hiring a doula (a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth) might be helpful to assist with the more technical side of childbirth, so you can focus on the emotional side, says Hanley.

  • Be attentive.
  • “Don't overwhelm your partner or suffocate them,” says Samantha Van Vleet, a birth doula, childbirth educator, and an instructor for a birth professional distance education program ( “Pay attention to her cues and respond accordingly. If you're having trouble reading cues, be direct. Ask her, ‘Is there anything I can help you with?’ and then act on it.”

  • Be a record keeper.
  • If your partner wishes to have video or photos of the birth, be sure to have all equipment and backup batteries ready. Also, it can be a sweet gesture for you to keep written notes of the day’s events to share with her and baby later.

      TIP: If you’d like to be totally present in the delivery room, make sure someone you and your partner both trust is on camera duty.

  • Build and bring a contact list.
  • Often, dad is in charge of sharing the good news with family and friends once baby is born. Make sure you and your partner assemble a list of important phone numbers and email addresses and enter them in your phone.

  • Pay attention to what your partner does and doesn't want.
  • “Women in labor go into a very primal state,” says Van Vleet. “Don't overwhelm her with conversation or a barrage of questions when deep in labor. You may get stressed. You may be tired. But remember, your partner is enduring this fatigue and stress too, while laboring.”

  • Be there.
  • Just your presence and willingness to help can make all the difference. Ask your partner if she’d like to squeeze your hand. Offer a foot or back rub between contractions. And let her know you’re there for her.

  • Trust your partner.
  • “(Your partner) intuitively knows what she needs during this process. Be present. Be willing. Be open. You can do this,” says Van Vleet.

  • Most important: Enjoy the moment!
  • “It will be surreal, exciting, and maybe even a little scary. But it is an also a miracle that you'll remember forever,” says Hanley.

Image: Thinkstock


Packing for the Hospital: What to Take

I wish I’d remembered to bring: "A hair elastic. I didn't pack anything to keep the hair out of my face during labor, which is funny because I keep hair clips and elastics everywhere at home. Must have been pregnancy brain!"

I’m glad I remembered to bring: "My fluffy bathrobe," says Tracey B., a mom of one in Hartford, Connecticut. "Being in my own robe at the hospital was comforting. And it was nice to look decent with family popping in and taking pictures.”

I wish I’d remembered to bring: "Slippers. The hospital socks they give you with the little nubby things are so scratchy, they twist all around on your feet, and are just blah!"

I’m glad I remembered to bring: "My pedicured toes!" says Lisa B., a mom of two in Phoenix, Arizona. "With my first, I’d look at my toes while I was pushing and thinking, ‘Wow, I hope no one notices my feet.”

I wish I’d remembered to bring: "Dried fruit, a tasty way to get my digestive system to start moving again."

I’m glad I remembered to bring: "Extremely large underwear. Huge!" says Stephanie C., a mom of one in Dallas, Texas. "After you give birth you have to wear a gigantic pad, and the hospital’s mesh undies aren’t that fabulous."

I wish I’d remembered to bring: "A sleeping mask, or even a scarf to wrap over my eyes. They tell you to rest once you have the epidural, but all the flashing lights and activity keep you awake."

I’m glad I remembered to bring: "Wet wipes," says Lauren G., a mom of two in Little Falls, New Jersey. "I was very sensitive after giving birth, and wipes were way better than toilet paper."

I wish I’d remembered to bring: "My favorite lotion. The hospital soaps and sheets are on the rough side and it can get chilly, both of which cause dry skin."

I’m glad I remembered to bring: "A pair of comfy pants to go home in," says Desiree W., a mom of one in Las Vegas, Nevada. "You’re larger than you think you’ll be when you leave the hospital, but I felt fine in soft, elastic-waist pants."

I wish I'd remembered to bring: "An iPod. It would have been a way to deflect family who dropped by to chitchat. I love them, but it was like, Look, I’m in labor here!”


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Mom-Approved Hospital Bag Checklist


Mixed Emotions Leading up to and after the Delivery

By Jeana Lee Tahnk

Having a baby is one of the biggest events in your life, regardless of whether it's baby No. 1 or baby No. 4. It's normal to go through periods when you're so excited to meet your little one and then terrified of what life with that little one is going to be like, especially the first time around.

The reality is that every baby is different and every baby has different needs. Even though you may have walked the road before and know the ins and outs of newborn care, you can never anticipate what it's really going to be like. Although, anyone who has gone through a pregnancy knows the highs and lows that result from the hormonal shifts and emotions surrounding this huge life transition.

During my third pregnancy (with two very active older kids), I was able to acknowledge all the emotions I was having - good or bad - and realized it was my own way of processing what was about to happen. I was always conscious of the fact that this was going to be my last one. My last 20-week ultrasound, my last baby bump, my last labor ... You get the gist.

Having that sense of finality definitely made it an emotional experience. I am one of those people who happen to love being pregnant, and I kept reminding myself to appreciate this last pregnancy to its fullest (despite the nagging indigestion). Add the usual flux of hormones that comes along with any pregnancy, and it's safe to say I was a bundle of emotions throughout the nine months.

I asked myself, was I ready to go back into the diaper-changing/up-all-night/newborn stage that can be so exhausting and draining at times? Of course, it was a little too late to be questioning it, but the reality of having a baby in the house after so many years definitely was a source of anticipatory anxiety.

In addition to my own emotions, of course, I had to consider how my kids would handle having a new baby in the house. Would it change the dynamic considerably? Would they be jealous? Luckily, we benefited from them being older, more mature and better able to understand the change that was coming, but still, it was a huge transition for everyone involved.

Be especially kind to yourself during this time of change and know that whatever you're feeling most likely is something every other mom-to-be and new mom has felt before.

Read More by Jeana Lee Tahnk

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