My first experience packing a hospital bag did not go well. It was 2010, I was over 42 weeks pregnant and rocked up to the hospital for my induction with a bag that might have served me perfectly had I ended up having the birth I’d decided I was going to have. Or if I’d been going to a festival.

Sadly, despite plans for a water birth – hence the bikini (???), Joan Baez collection, and endless chocolate protein shakes – after four days of gels and drips and gas and air (mainly to alleviate the boredom), I ended up having a C-section.

By this point, I’d absent-mindedly applied 16 layers of fake tan to my cheeks, which had a curious camouflaging effect, given my yellow nightdress. And my hospital bag had pretty much been rendered obsolete.

Now, hours away from heading off for a planned C-section (after two unplanned ones it seemed the most appealing option), this time I’m better prepared… Here are my tips for the ultimate all-bases-covered hospital bag(s).

Cloud Q car seat by Cybex, £220

Bag one: baby

The first rule is, you actually need two bags. One for baby, one for you. And a car seat – this is important as most hospitals won’t let you take your baby home without one, regardless of whether you’re driving there or not. (N.B: If you’re buying a travel system buggy then make sure your car seat fits that system.)

All being well, chances are in the UK at least, you’ll be discharged within 24 hours – but do not under-estimate how many outfit changes/nappies your newborn will go through during that period…

A lightweight, cotton baby hat to protect their little head when they leave, and in case temperatures drop inside (which is unlikely as hospitals are often unseasonably warm). Polarn O Pyret have several lovely unisex options.

The least glamorous and most useful item on any new parent’s get-to-know list. A large piece of muslin material, it can be used to mop up baby-vom, protect your shoulders from baby-vom as you wind him/her, mop up more baby-vom… Buy in bulk! John Lewis is the go-to.

Polarn O Pyret newborn hat, £9

I know you have mental images of dressing your newborn in his/her cutest outfit for that all-important first pic; but the fact is, they’ll have poo-ed on it before you have time to focus your lens.

For the first day, pack a selection of plain white cotton babygros, ideally with closed feet and sewn-in scratch mitts – a combination of newborn and 0-3 months is a good idea in case they turn out to be bigger/smaller than anticipated. M&S, unsurprisingly, have an excellent practical and suitably soft selection.

Also pack at least five white long-sleeved bodysuits (they’re the ones with poppers around the bottom and no legs), to go underneath the bodysuit.

Allow for one an hour, which means taking a whole pack of newborn nappies with you. You won’t regret it.

Cotton wool
For the first few weeks, babies’ skin is too sensitive for baby wipes. You’ll be cleaning their tiny butts with cotton wool and water; the best cotton wool for this is the big rolls which you can tear chunks from in liberal handfuls.

A soft cellular blanket is what you want, and you might also try a swaddle blanket though, despite many babies loving it, neither of my kids so far ever took kindly to be bound like an Egyptian mummy. Mamas & Papas have some lovely, inexpensive options.

'Chevron' cellular blanket by Mamas & Papas, £29.95

Bag two: you

This list is slightly more extensive, as it’s important to pack for all eventualities.

NB: feel free to have a manicure/pedicure beforehand – it might be your last chance for a while – but be prepared for any polish to be cruelly removed prior to surgery, if you end up having a section. Alternatively go for a clear varnish, which you can claim is part of your natural sheen.

Maternity notes
This is a key one, for reasons you can probably imagine.

Labour is an energy-consuming business – as is hanging around for something to happen. So take plenty of nutritious, unchallenging snacks: cereal bars and protein-type drinks with straws are perfect for nibbling and sipping when you can.

Self-explanatory. I’m going for elastic ties and also a massive elasticated alice-band vibe, in case the mood takes me…

Anything that will see you through prolonged waiting periods. Watching films/listening to music might end up being the last thing on your mind, but something light-hearted or comforting might be well appreciated at some point.

A good hybnobirthing recording might be of comfort. I love the one by London Hypnobirthing’s Hollie De Cruz.

The Ren 'Grab And Go Kit', £20, has all of Charlotte's toiletries bases covered

Massage oil
I love the De-Stress Body Oil (lavender) from Aromatherapy Associates – perfect for sooting aching limbs, and good for those moments during labour when you (might) fancy a reassuring/alleviating lower back rub. Note: you might, alternatively, want to punch anyone who comes within 10 feet of you.

Maternity pads
Regardless of what birth you have, you’ll need to wear some rather glamorous maternity pads in your pants for a while afterwards so bring a pack with you. The ultra-absorbent option is never a bad idea.

Speaking of pants, go large… in every respect. After a section, if you have one, you’ll need something high-waisted so as not to irritate your abdomen. And in case of vaginal delivery you’ll want something loose, too. Black is a faultless option. Again, M&S are my go-to.

Nursing pads
This will help defend your dignity against any unruly milk leakages, whether you plan to breastfeed or not. Some are really scratchy and uncomfortable; the Johnsons ones are a little more expensive (£4.99 for 30) but they’re super-comfy, which makes them worth every penny.

A cotton night-dress is soft and comfortable, and won’t rub in the wrong places like pyjamas can.

Because hospital floors are not necessarily where you want your bare/socked feet to be.

The gold Silk Sleep Eye Mask from Jasmine Silk (£11)

Dressing gown
Whether you’re in a birthing centre or hospital, you can’t go wrong with a big flannel dressing gown to wrap around you and baby. Machine washable is a must.

A feeding pillow for the baby, and your favourite pillow from home for you, will never go unappreciated. Especially if you end up staying overnight on the ward.

Ideally, you’ll start taking arnica pills a few days before birth to help heal any bruising. Obviously you won’t want to apply arnica gel to any open wounds or sore patches.

A lovely plush towel – ideally in a dark colour – will be very much appreciated, not least following a water birth but also just for freshening up on the ward. Particularly if you’re staying in hospital for any length of time, creature comforts are the key right now.

Eye mask
With all the comings and goings of the hospital ward, it’s important to be able to tune out in those rare moments when your newborn isn’t requiring your attention in one way or another. The gold Silk Sleep Eye Mask from Jasmine Silk (£11) is my personal favourite.

Maternity Chambray Shirt by Topshop, £30

You’re going to want to freshen up, and having something that makes you feel and smell lovely will surely be welcome. If like me, you end up having a section, and also sometimes after vaginal delivery, you won’t be able to shower at first so take plenty of wipes and a flannel.

Toothbrush, hairbrush, and face wipes are a must, and you might want to go for a tinted moisturiser/dry shampoo to make you feel more human after/before the event. Or you may think: I’ve just had a baby, do you think I can be arsed to do anything other than stare endlessly at my clever creation?

I’ve gone for a selection of mini Ren products in the Grab and Go Kit, which includes face moisturiser, body cream, cleanser, and much more, for £20. And a nice lip-balm. I love the tinted rose version by Korres, which smells lovely and adds a touch of blush to your pout.

A loose cotton shirt that will enable you to breastfeed, should you choose to, is very sensible… I’m going for Topshop’s maternity range Chambray Shirt, £30 – pictured above – for ultimate forgivingness. And I’m all about the cotton harem pants for after birth. These suit natural and surgical deliveries as they are so roomy they can be pulled up or down when worn after the event to avoid sensitive areas, wherever these might be.

Slip-on comfy shoes are a must for heading home.

To alert the baited-breathed crowds and endlessly photograph your new love. But you knew that already… (Just don’t forget the charger!)

After consulting friends who’ve successfully had water-births, turns out you don’t actually need one. Who knew?

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