Preparing for a hospital stay after birth

Jul 3, 2009 at 3:50 p.m. ET

There are so many unknowns when preparing for childbirth. Among those unknowns for many women is what the hospital stay will be like? Knowing what to expect for the hospital stay can help you ease the nerves of the unknown. So, what do you need to know?

Woman with Newborn

If you spend any degree of time scrolling through pregnancy sites and message boards (such as the SK message boards), you probably will have noticed women talking about packing for their hospital stay. There is so much emphasis placed on what to pack and packing the "right" things. But for many women, the hospital stay is a relative unknown -- something they haven't experienced since birth.

Preparing for that stay starts with knowledge. Women preparing to birth in a hospital should visit the hospital they will be birthing at. Find out not only about the birthing rooms and facilities, but also about the rooms where moms stay with their newborn after birth. Be sure to ask a lot of questions! Are rooms singles or do some women have to share a room with another patient? Where is the nursery, and do they cater to moms who are breastfeeding on demand? What are the meals like? Is there a way to get late-night food? Don't be afraid to find out exactly what you want to know.

In addition to knowing about your hospital, it's also good to know some good old fashioned advice from other moms who've been there.

Use the nursery

After giving birth -- no matter what method of birth it is -- you need rest. But there is also this newborn who needs care and attention. Don't be afraid to send the baby to the nursery so that you can rest up and regain strength.

"Rooming in sounds like a great idea but this is your last chance to get some rest. If the hospital is willing to bring the baby to you for feedings (which most do now) put the baby in the nursery at night and sleep between feedings. You'll heal better and be better rested when you get home and are on your own," says Beth Tallent, who delivered a baby girl in March.

Tallent isn't kidding. Once you are home, you won't have another opportunity to get the same degree of rest -- even if you are splitting responsibilities 50/50.

Soak in the breastfeeding knowledge

Planning to breastfeed? If you are (and not everyone does!), then utilize your time in the hospital to its fullest extent. While in the hospital, you have access to lactation specialists, doctors and other experienced medical professionals who can help you navigate the new and uncertain road of breastfeeding.

"If you are breastfeeding, talk to as many nurses and lactation specialists as you can at the hospital. They all have different recommendations, experiences and advice. Take it all in but do what's best for you," says Beth.

Also, be sure to borrow a hospital-grade pump while you are there to pump and store your milk. This will come in handy for when you need someone else to watch the baby for a few minutes or while you get a little extra sleep.

Ask for help

Whether it's a hand getting to the bathroom or some sheets in need of replacement, don't be afraid to communicate your needs. No matter how personal, the medical staff will be able to help you in many ways (having difficulty peeing? they can help!).

Quite honestly, there is little that the hospital staff has not seen before, so nothing will phase them. In fact, they might just be able to provide more help than you are anticipating. "Tell the nurses/staff what you need. They are there to help you. It's hard to ask for help, but this is your time," says mom of two Robin M. Bectel.

Those same medical professionals might also interrupt your sleep a little -- but they have to. After birth, there is a certain amount of monitoring that has to be done to be sure everything is okay inside of you (more so if you have a cesaeran), so you might get a few unexpected or early wake ups.

Bring some snacks

Although some hospitals have 24-hour cafeterias and stocked snack pantries for the maternity ward, some don't. And even if those two things are present, they may not have something that you truly want to eat after delivering a baby. So pack up a few non-perishable snacks to help fight the post-birth hunger.

"There's an excellent chance you will be starving after giving birth. I know I was - both times. But sometimes the hospital cafeteria is closed (say, if you give birth at 2 AM). Check and see if the hospital has options for you should this occur. And if there is nothing available through the hospital, keep some ready-made food available in your house in case of emergency (like cheese and crackers or microwave meals). Alternatively, you can keep handy a list of all-night take-out or delivery places," suggests mom Holly Chestman.

Take what you can

In the hospital, you will be provided with bulb syringes for sucking mucus out of baby's nose. There will be a bounty of diapers on hand, along with creams, pacifiers and other things. Take it home. Take as much as you can -- of they things you will use and need. And really, as part of your hospital bill, you are paying for it anyway.

Tell us: What is your tip for moms preparing for a hospital stay after childbirth? Comment below!

Read more on preparing for childbirth: