Googling “birth center packing list” yields a few helpful results, but most of what comes up is the same as a hospital packing list. But a birth center is NOT a hospital, and the list of things you might like to have with you is definitely a little different.
I say “things you might like to have” as opposed to “things you need” because as long as you show up with a carseat and an outfit to dress your baby in, you could get by with nothing else. It might be a slightly better experience with a few extra things in your bag, but my advice (having severely over-packed once before) is not to sweat it too much. Easier said than done, I know, but if you’re pregnant you have more than enough on your mind already. No need to panic en route to the birth center because you left your lavender-scented candle and one of twelve possible going-home outfits for baby on the counter.
Having a birth center birth is different from a hospital birth in terms of what to pack for couple of reasons:
1) Your stay is typically MUCH shorter. As opposed to spending a few days in the hospital, you’ll be out of the birth center between 6-12 hours after the birth (assuming everyone is healthy, of course). That means you don’t need to worry about a stack of paperback books/movies loaded onto your Kindle/entire scrapbook you’d like to complete during your stay. You just don’t have the time. You also don’t need to cart along your whole wardrobe; one outfit to wear home is just fine.
2) You can eat whatever you want but there usually isn’t any food on-site. Neither our birth center in Massachusetts nor the one here in Knoxville has any kind of cafeteria; there’s a regular-size kitchen where you can store a casserole in the fridge or even bake a birthday cake if your crazy little heart so desires (people have actually done this). It’s fantastic to be able to eat or drink whatever you want during labor; the flip side is that you have to bring all your food and beverages with you.
3) Birth centers are not as well-stocked as hospitals when it comes to postpartum supplies (pads/mesh underwear, diapers for the baby, etc.). You’ll definitely want to make sure you bring some of your own with you. They’ll send you home with a little goodie bag of essentials though (“Ooh, you mean this peri bottle is MINE? Like to KEEP? SCORE!”)
Keeping those things in mind, here’s my list of what’s making the cut this time around. (The car seat is a no-brainer so I’m not going to mention that one again. Also, affiliate links throughout.)
The backpack is by Ergo Baby but is discontinued, sadly, so no link for that.
A going-home outfit. Natalie barely fit in the newborn outfit we brought for her, so I’m bringing one outfit that’s newborn (Carter’s) and another that’s 0-3 months (Baby Gap).
Diapers. We did cloth diapers from birth and plan on doing the same thing again. I’m bringing a half-dozen newborn prefolds, some snappis, a wet bag, wipes, a squirt bottle to wet the wipes, and a few diaper covers.
Aiden + Anais blanket. It’s going to be HOT when we leave the birth center but quite cool in the car, so the blanket is just to tuck into the carseat if we need it once we leave.
Clothing. I have one outfit ready to go to wear to the birth center, and that’s a very light sweatshirt, skirt (not maternity, just a basic knit skirt), nursing tank, comfy underoos that would not leave me heartbroken should I have to throw them away, and my new favorite sandals ever (they can go in the washing machine!). I’m also bringing my bathing suit top (water birth is an option, but I don’t know if I’ll go for it or not), a bathrobe, and a sports bra that zips up the front. With Natalie I wore a nursing sleep bra during labor and getting it over my head right before she was born was torturous, if memory serves (it probably doesn’t). I was pumped to find this sports bra on sale at Sears, especially since I can also wear it in the tub if I don’t want to put on my bathing suit top. There’s a LOT to be said for easy on/easy off clothing during labor. My going-home outfit is a nursing tank and bra, and another skirt (noticing a theme here? #nopants).
Toiletries. Just the basics…shampoo/conditioner, body and face wash, toothbrush and toothpaste, deodorant, chapstick, hair ties and a headband. Although we were in and out of the birth center so quickly before that I didn’t shower until we got home, so I didn’t use anything from the toiletries bag except deodorant. You’re welcome.
Water bottle and a straw. And a tiny tupperware container of instant lemonade. I spent a good portion of my labor either reclining or lying on my side and couldn’t drink much of anything unless it had a straw in it.
Snacks. So far Larabars and Clif Bars are the only things on the list. Last time I think I only ate one bar while I was in labor and one afterwards, and then Will went out and got me two grilled cheese sandwiches and a giant lemonade and I’m quite sure I heard angels singing while I inhaled it. So I’m not planning on eating a ton of food during labor, but do want to have a few options on hand.
Various and sundry feminine hygiene products. I definitely won’t use all of this stuff, for sure. But since I’m not certain exactly what the birth center has and what they don’t (and they did suggest bringing your own pads on their packing list), I just tossed a few of everything in the bag. These are my favorite, favorite, favorite postpartum pads — well, once you’re past the stage of wearing giant mesh underwear. Or Depends. Truth: I wore Depends for the first several days (probably like 4-5) after Natalie was born. I was so sore and the Depends are very stretchy (plenty of room for those ice packs!) and you don’t have to worry about ruining your own underwear. It’s not glamorous but it works.
Camera and memory cards. I have a vague memory of my midwife last time exclaiming over how glorious my belly was (or something to that effect) and telling Will that he should take some pictures of me while I was laboring, and he said no, he didn’t think I’d really want that. At the time it went in one ear and out the other and so I didn’t say anything, just kept doing my birth breathing (thanks, Hypnobirthing! 99% of the time that’s a very good thing), but now I really regret not having ANY pictures until after Natalie was born. So hopefully this time I can get Will to document a little bit more of the whole thing. Well, not the WHOLE thing; there are some parts of birth that are better left undocumented. Let’s just stick to the cleaner parts.
Cell phone and charger. My Hypnobirthing labor relaxation tracks are on there, and I’ll probably put together a playlist of relaxing music that I’ll spend about two minutes listening to before demanding that it be turned off since it’s breaking my concentration. Side note: How on EARTH do you guys listen to “empowering” playlists during labor? I’m talking Katy Perry’s “Roar” and songs like that. Isn’t it horrifically distracting? I love that music for running and anything else I want to get amped up for, but I don’t really want to hear Flo Rida while I’m working on relaxing my entire body during contractions. I’ve seen some truly awesome birth playlists before and I’m kind of jealous that there’s absolutely no way it would work for me.
Uh, nothing? He’s an adult and I trust that if there’s anything he wants to bring, he’ll toss it in my bag.
Aaaaand I think that’s it! Now that everything is all packed, this baby is totally staying put for, like, 5 weeks. But when she’s ready…so are we!