• Athina Vandevoort

Packing your hospital bag for birth in Singapore

Your birth is looming. The nursery has been set up. All those cute little onesies have been washed with a gentle detergent and lay patiently awaiting in their drawer. The only task left on your to-do list is pack your bag. But what to bring? Let's have a look!

What to pack for labour

This depends a lot on what type of birth you are striving to have. You will barely need anything for birth if you are planning to have an elective c-section in comparison to when you will try for a natural, medication-free birth. This list is as extensive as possible.

  • labouring clothes: research has shown that putting on a hospital gown will instantly make you feel and behave more like a patient, and staff will unknowingly treat you that way too. Wearing your own clothes during labour gives you more autonomy and confidence. Wear something comfortable, like an oversized shirt or a loose dress. Work with layers, as labouring moms often get hot easily. Bonus points if it's something you can easily pull over your head or open in the front, for when baby gets born and is brought to your chest.

  • Lip balm: for all the panting and breathing will dry out your lips.

  • A huge, refillable water bottle: preferably with a straw to nip from instead of having to tilt the bottle. Again, with the panting and heavy breathing. Staying hydrated during labour is also very important!

  • Snacks, juice boxes: Labour can stall when your body runs low on fuel. Pack some high-protein snacks like energy balls, muesli bars, nuts, dried fruits and such. Some women get nauseous during labour and can't eat, but have a blood sugar crush right after birth and need something to pick them up.

  • Hair ties: Although I am yet to meet a woman with long hair who doesn't carry a hair tie around her wrist: bring extra, just in case. On that note, if you have bangs or lots of short, layered hair around your face, a headband might be handy to keep your face free.

  • Music: Bring both speakers and earphones. One to set the mood in the room, the other one to lock the world out when there is a lot of commotion in the room, like at admission.

  • Labour tools: Depending on the type of birth you are planning for, different tools might come in handy. Planning on an active birth? Bring a yoga mat, so you can get down on hands and knees comfortably. Many women find a big exercise ball to sit and bounce on comfortable, but some hospitals have these available. Register here to our mailing list and receive our Ultimate Guide to birth in Singapore, which contains a handy list of which hospital carries which tools. Some women also like to use a TENS machine during labour. As a doula, I always carry one with me for my labouring women.

  • If you are planning on an epidural birth, it might be handy to bring a peanut ball; which is a blow-up exercise ball shaped like a peanut, that fits between your knees, therefor effectively keeping your pelvis open to have baby descend (epidurals often slow down labouring process because you are no longer moving around, meaning the dimensions of the pelvis become difficult for baby to move through). If you want to find out more about how to keep an epidural birth as short, efficient and effective as possible, hire a doula or take antenatal classes here

What to pack for postpartum

Many, if not all hospitals in Singapore offer clothes, linen and towels for both you and baby, so you only need to bring these if you don't want to wear the hospital ones.

  • The number one most important ever: A car seat!!! While we know the Singaporean government allows for babies to be held in your arms while using a taxi, it is a good idea to start using safe transportation methods for your baby straight from birth. The results of holding baby in your arms during a car accident would be devastating. Many healthcare providers are currently lobbying to change the legislation and make car seats mandatory for all babies and children, in every car, period.

  • Clothes: if not for during your postpartum stay, then for going home. Babies don't need hats, socks and mittens in the Singaporean climate. A short-sleeved onesie and a swaddle or blanket are more than enough.

  • Underwear: a good nursing bra will save your sanity. Look into a flexible one without wires that you can also wear to sleep. Small tip: there are pretty ones on the market that will still make you feel like a woman, with bags under your eyes and leaking breasts and all. Don't skimp on aesthetics. The hospital will provide you with these very comfy, mesh stretchy throw-away panties. Not very ecological, so if you want to use your own underwear, bring your period panties that are big enough to fit some pads.

  • Nipple cream: good-old lanolin cream will do, no need for anything special.

  • Other breastfeeding accessories: many women wonder if they need to bring an electric breast pump to the hospital. Firstly, the hospital should be able to provide you with one if the need would arise, but this would only be advisable if you are separated from bub straight after birth for several days. Otherwise, it would be much handier to manually express if you need to fully empty the breasts after baby only had a small feed. The Haakaa manual pump has been lauded by many breastfeeding women, as it pops on one boob while you are feeding from the other side, enabling you to catch the letdown and further stimulating the breasts.

  • Tech: phone charger, and an ipad or laptop to keep you entertained during those middle of the night feedings.

As you can see, this list isn't very long. As a mother and a midwife, in my experience, less is usually better. As long as baby is fed and both of you are clothed, you'll be fine. The hospital should be able to provide you with everything you need and, if you have insurance, this way it would also be covered by them. What are any necessities we have left out?