What to Actually pack
Now that you have your hospital bag, we need to focus on what to pack in them so that you can be comfortable during your time on the ward with your child. Please bear in mind that these suggestions are based upon a stay in a UK hospital.
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‘Grab and Go’ Clothing Bags
Packing your bag for the hospital can be its own form of hell if you are not used to it. As a naturally frugal person, I am a huge fan of using simple large zip lock bags and the ‘fold and roll’ method to pack my clothing. Despite being cheap, I have found that Ziplock bags work really well to separate each days outfit. You will also find multiple uses for them while you are in hospital.
To make the most out of your bags, put your outfit (and when I say outfit I mean it – everything from your underwear and hair accessories to clothing) in a large ziplock bag. Zip the bag up ¾ of the way and then roll the bag squeezing as much air out of the bag as you can before sealing the zip completely. They work a treat.
You could also use regular travel space bags, these ones work really well and are budget-friendly. You just need time to be able to order them, in an emergency that may not be an option, which is where the Ziploc bags come in. If you have time to prep then these bags are budget-friendly.
The wonderful thing about zip lock and travel space bags is that everything that comes OUT of them clean, can go back IN them when dirty. That means no smelly clothing spilling out of an open bag in front of consultants and guests that drop in to see your child.
Organise your items
If you are coordination junky, then these may be ideal. They will not compact your clothing as much, but you can separate things easily and it looks neat.
Sometimes having things coordinated and compartmentalised can be very resting to a mind that is already cluttered with too many things to remember.
Whatever gets you through, I say!
When we are in the hospital, I always have a notepad and pen with me. As each shift changes, I write down the names of our nurses, porters, consultants, catering team so that I always remember who people are. Stress means my brain is focussed solely on the little person in the big hospital bed, so having my memory on paper, is a real lifesaver.
What to Wear…
I am going to keep it very real here – by the time I am on the ward, I actually could not care less what I look like. Once I am bedside I am no longer top of my priority list, my child is. Therefore, fashion and I cease to be friends for the time we are ‘on-ward’ and I am OK with that. Mostly.
That said, I do pack my bag by outfits, to begin with. It sounds a bit ridiculous, but this is done simply to make my life easier and something I learned after our first time spending days on the ward. Less thinking about the mundane stuff, more time focus on the big stuff happening to short-stuff.
You will often be sharing bathroom space with no fewer than 5 other ward families – each with their own medical schedule and needs. That means you often have less than fifteen minutes in the bathroom a day. The less I have to think about in those fifteen minutes, the better. Having clothing rolled up and packed into outfits and a ready to go toiletry bag really makes life a lot easier. I can leave my brain in neutral and just autopilot my sleepless self through the morning routine.
What to wear on the ward is difficult, some hospitals keep their wards cool, others level out at about 20 degrees and keep it stable all day and night. My advice is to always think about your clothing in terms of LAYERS!
One thing I will tell you is that not another parent or nurse anywhere on your ward cares what you look like. There are no fashion police on the ward. So you can surrender to yoga pants and tunics with impunity.
Tunics are great!
Standard hospital wear for me is a loose dress or long tunic and leggings – or loose-fitting pants and a tunic top. The ones I use are generally made of a thin jersey material so they wear well, layer well with tank tops and take up very little room.
Lightweight tunics also work well as stains wash out quickly. That means they can be washed in a hospital bathroom sink, rolled in a towel and stomped on to dry off (hospital Mummy/savvy traveler trick) and hung over the end of the bed and be dry, or close to dry, by morning.
Comfort and convenience are now everything, the clothing you just put on may need to last you until 3am tomorrow when you finally get time to change again. For real.
Two cardi’s are essential!
In addition to tunics, leggings, and dresses, I always take two long line cardigans with me. These are part of my staple wardrobe, but they’re essentials on the ward. One of the cardigans is in a jersey fabric – it is light and perfect for when the ward is warm but too cool for bare arms. The other cardigan is an acrylic one that is great if the temperature drops during the night or for trips outside the hospital.
Why cardigans? They’re easy to remove in a hurry. In the past, I have had to remove a puke decorated cardigan whilst cradling my screaming post-op child who simply would not allow me to put her down. If it had been a jumper or hoodie, I’d have been caged in smelly discomfort for hours. Instead, it was a shrug and a wriggle and then bye bye pukey stuff. There is often a method in my madness when recommending items of clothing.
I am only going to say this once. When it comes to your smalls, think cotton and comfort –ban the underwire and go for the comfy stuff! There is a distinct possibility that you are going to be the most uncomfortable you have been in a long time. You’ll be hot, tired, aggravated and worried – nobody needs to deal with underwire or wedgie issues when they feel like that. Give in to the comfy undies and sleep bras.
Off the ward shoes
Footwear is something that can take up a lot of space, so you need to think carefully about what you take with you. For me, trainers are my ‘long walk’ shoes and I wear them into the hospital on the first day to save packing space, as most can be bulky. I store mine behind the bedside chair when I am not wearing them to keep them out of the way.
It is tempting to think ‘I’ll pack ballet flats as they take up less room’ and you’d be right, they do, but I now only use ballet flats for bedside wear and around the ward. This was a lesson learned the hard way.
In one hospital we were guests in, I had to walk for almost 1.5 miles each way through halls and underground tunnels to get to a scan. By the time we got back onto the ward, I had blisters from my ballet flats. Lesson learned; trainers go on when we are heading off the ward and ballet flats like these ones are your best friend bedside as they offer some support. Those hospital floors seem to be made of a special blend of bone-jarring concrete after a while.
Bring flip flops to wear in the bathroom. Hospital bathrooms are clean, but you’re still sharing them with people you don’t know. I keep a ziplock bag in my toiletry bag and my flip flops live in there so I can ‘grab and go’ with the bag when I need it.
Speaking of the toiletry bag, I’ll be talking about that in my next post – stay tuned. If you have any hospital ward essential items, then I would LOVE to hear about them.
Share your tips and tricks in the comments section.