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7 Essentials For Your Hospital Bag

Find out what you need for birth and what you should leave home.

7 Essentials For Your Hospital Bag
Are you getting ready to meet you little bundle of joy? If so, now is the time to gather all the essentials for the birth and your hospital stay. Whether you are birthing in a hospital or birth center, having your bag ready from about 37 weeks is a good idea since you may need to go unexpectedly. That said, there will be things that you won't be able to put in the bag right away. So keep a list of the things you need to add with your bag so you can can quickly grab them on your way out the door. Here are 7 things you need in your hospital bag, along with the things that you can leave behind. 1. All the paperwork! If you have medical records, test results, or other papers your care provider told you to bring, make sure you have those. Do not forget your driver's license or picture ID, your birth plan or preferences (if you have one), your insurance card, your marriage certificate (if you are married but have different last names, or are a same sex couple — this is for paternity/second parent on the birth certificate), your health care proxy (especially for unmarried couples or single parents), and any other legal materials as needed (such as adoption paperwork).

2. Your Toiletries! Labor is tough enough, you definitely do not want to have to do it without your basic supplies like a toothbrush and toothpaste, chap stick (all that breathing during labor will dry your lips out), hair ties or head bands. Lotion is super helpful if an epidural makes you itchy, and Tums, if you have been taking them, can continue to relieve you until the heartburn goes away, which shouldn't be long after birth. Finally, make sure to bring any and all everyday toiletries and personal care essentials you or your partner need: glasses or contacts, prescription medications, and pain medicine in case your partner gets headache.

3. Provisions! Most hospitals will let you have clear fluids during labor so bring plenty of those (water, coconut water, juice boxes, seltzer, electrolyte drinks, etc). Your partner might also appreciate some middle-of-the-night energy, like a coffee drink, energy drink, or soda. You should pack snacks. Many hospitals do not allow eating during labor, but you can eat once you give birth, and you even might be very hungry! Non-perishables like granola or protein bars, crackers, nuts, cookies, and dried fruit are popular options.

4. Your Electronics! Make sure you have your phones, a camera (if separate from your phone), a speaker for music (if desired), and anything else you need for entertainment or communication, like a tablet, a laptop, or an eReader. You'll be at the hospital for a couple of days, so don't forget your cords, cables, batteries, and chargers. Also, a short extension cord can come in handy! The outlets are frequently in inconvenient places, and an extension cord can make it possible for you to have your phone near you in bed even when it is charging.

5. Your Clothes! Hospitals (and some birth centers) provide gowns for you to labor in. But you can bring your own clothing — a tank and skirt, a sleeveless nightgown, or a labor gown of your own. Whatever you bring, anticipate that it might get heavily soiled and thrown away. So don't bring your favorite nightwear. You will need clothing for afterwards. Make sure to keep it comfortable: shirts, yoga pants/pajama pants/leggings, a hoodie or sweatshirt, a robe if you’d like. The first couple of days, you will be bleeding so bring items you're okay soiling. Your partner should also have a change of clothes and a hoodie or sweater. Remember your body will still be pregnant-looking postpartum, so anticipate needing outfits that would have fit at 6 or 7 months pregnant. If you plan on breastfeeding, favor button-down shirts and gowns or nursing clothes.

6. Optional Comfort Items! Do you want to get extra comfy to help you stay relax throughout labor? Massage oils, aromatherapy, heating pad and hot water bottle, electric candles, a picture or image, music, yoga ball, peanut ball, wash cloths, a hand held fan and straws are all great things to consider adding to your birthing artillery. If you have a doula, ask her what she will be bringing and what your hospital or birth center already stocks. You might also want flip flops or slipper, though hospitals usually provide non-slip socks in abundance. Hospitals also have towels, but they are small. So you might want your own, along with a cozy blanket and one or two pillows. If you don't want the hospital to swipe your towels and blankets with theirs, opt for colors that stand out. And, if you are bringing home your placenta, make sure you have gallon sized zip lock bags and a soft cooler to transport it in.

7. Baby's Going-Home Essentials! You will need a car seat to bring your baby home in and an outfit with legs so your baby can be safely secured with the 5-point harness. Bring seasonally appropriate accessories, including a blanket for the ride home. Ideally these things can be left at home and brought in by a friend or family member later if you’re in the hospital for a couple of days. Want to keep your birth load as light as possible? What NOT to Bring! The hospital or birth center should have an abundance of pads, disposable underwear for labor and postpartum. They also have diapers. They should have a breast pump as well as stock formula and bottles. They usually supply hats, shirts, and blankets for your baby so you don't have to bring more than one or two outfits. They have peri bottles and sitz baths for you to take home. You should not need a breastfeeding pillow or breast pads during your short stay. Don't bring your heavy labor and birth books, and don't bring work! The only work you'll be doing while you are giving birth is, well, giving birth and enjoying that beautiful baby of yours once he or she is earth side. Congrats!

In This Article

    Ara Katz/Seed

    We spoke to Ara Katz, co-founder and co-CEO of Seed, who shared her journey to (and through) motherhood—and gave us the lowdown on how probiotics can benefit mamas and children alike.

    Chances are, you're aware that probiotics can help us digest the food we eat, keep inflammation at bay, synthesize essential vitamins and more. But here's the thing: When it comes to probiotics, there's a lot of misinformation… and because of that, it's hard to know what's actually a probiotic and which is the right one for you.

    That's why we chatted with Ara Katz, who is a mama to son Pax and the co-founder of Seed, a company disrupting the probiotics industry. The entrepreneur told us about her motherhood journey, what led her to start her company and what she wants other parents to know about probiotics.

    Q. What was life like for you before you became a mama?

    I was bi-coastal after co-founding a mobile tech company in New York City with a partner in LA. My life was, for as long as I can remember, consumed by creating and work. I was fairly nomadic, loved to travel, spent many hours reading and practicing yoga, being with friends [and] waking up at the crack of dawn. [I] was fairly sure I would never marry or have children. And then something shifted.

    Q. What were some pivotal moments that defined your journey to motherhood?

    Ha, that makes it sound like motherhood is a destination when at this very moment, more than ever, it evolves daily. I lost my mom when I was 17 and spent most of my life believing I didn't want to be a mother. I had a lot of wiring about its limitations and constraints—I'm sure relics of grief and the fear of loss.

    My journey started with a physiological wanting to be pregnant and have a baby. There was a kind of visceral sense that my body wanted to know what that was like and a strange curiosity that, at least for that period of time, usurped my ambivalence about motherhood.

    Then I had a miscarriage—a beautiful inflection point in my story. I resigned from my company, chose a coast, committed to be more committed to my (then) boyfriend, now husband, and tried again. I got pregnant shortly after that and found pregnancy to be a profound journey within, a reshaping of my life and the tiniest glimpse of how motherhood would unfold.

    In the 55 months since giving birth (and I like to use months because I have learned in the moments that I am most frustrated as a mom that he has only been on this planet for less than 14 fiscal quarters), I have realized and surrendered to a definition of motherhood that is a process. One of cultivating, creating, recreating, shapeshifting, learning, feeling, healing, hurting and experiencing the most potent form of presence I have ever experienced—and an aching, expansive love I didn't know possible—not just for my son, but for all living things.

    Q. How did motherhood change your approach to your career?

    Becoming a mother is certainly a persistent lens on all of my choices, but it was really my miscarriage that recalibrated my path. My pregnancy rekindled my love of biology and health and led me to my co-founder and the microbiome. My breastfeeding experience incepted our first product focus, and the newfound accountability for a human inspired our brand.

    Q. What inspired you to co-found Seed?

    I met my co-founder, Raja, during my pregnancy with Pax. [I] was immediately awestruck by his ability to both deeply understand science and to methodically break down a product, dietary question or piece of advice in a way that's educational (you actually learn something about your body), actionable (you understand what to do with the information) and foundational (you can build on that knowledge in the future to continue to make better choices).

    As we spent more time, our combined passion for microbes, their potential impact on both human health and the environment, and how to set up a child for a healthy life became increasingly clear. And through birth, seeding (the process by which we get our foundational microbes and the inspiration for the name of our company) Pax and my struggles with breastfeeding, my entrepreneurial spirit was lit to build something with Raja. His deep experience in translating science to product, and mine in consumer, community-building and translating through storytelling, culminated in a shared vision to set a new standard in health through bacteria.

    Q. Probiotics have been trending in recent years, but they're nothing new—can you talk a bit about the importance of probiotics?

    Interest in gut health and probiotics increases month by month. However, despite the quickly growing number of "probiotic" supplements, foods and beverages out there, there's still a lot of consumer confusion—particularly around what they are, how they work and why we should take them. Probiotics have been studied extensively across various life stages, body sites and for many benefits. Digestion is an obvious and immediate one (and the primary reason most people currently take probiotics). But other strains have also been studied for skin health, heart health and gut health (including gut immune function and gut barrier integrity). But this doesn't mean that any and all probiotics can do these things—this is the importance of 'strain specificity.' In other words, ensuring that the specific strains in your probiotic have been studied for the benefit you desire is critical.

    Seed Daily Synbiotic

    Seed

    Seed's Daily Synbiotic is a 24-strain probiotic + prebiotic formulated for whole-body benefits, including gut, skin and heart health.


    Q. How do probiotics play a role in your life?

    I mean, I take them, I develop them and I work with some of the leading scientists from around the world advancing the field—so they play a big role. As for my personal health, I take our Daily Synbiotic daily and my son also takes specific strains for gastrointestinal health and gut immune function. Beyond that, it's the re-orientation around my microbiome that guides many of my choices: how important fiber is, specific compounds like polyphenols found in berries, green tea and other foods, avoiding the use of NSAIDS like ibuprofen and antibiotics when not needed, exercise, sleep and time in nature [are] all aspects of our daily life that impact our microbiome and our health.

    Q. What are some misconceptions about probiotics that you would like to set straight?

    There's one main myth on from which all the other stem: that probiotics aren't considered a serious science. On the contrary, it's a field of inquiry that demands incredible rigor and extensive research. And when anything and everything from chocolate to ice cream to fermented food and kombucha to mattresses can call itself "probiotic" due to underregulation in the category, that grossly undermines the science and their potential.

    The term 'probiotic' has a globally-accepted scientific definition that was actually co-authored by our Chief Scientist, Dr. Gregor Reid ,for the United Nations/World Health Organization.

    At Seed, we work to reclaim the term for science, through the development of next-generation probiotics that include clinically validated strains and undergo the most rigorous safety, purity and efficacy testing procedures. Because why would you invite billions of unknown microbes into your body without asking "what's in here, is it the correct dosage that was studied, and has that strain in that amount been studied in human clinical trials to do something beneficial for my body"?

    Q. Can you tell us a little bit about what product you plan to launch next?

    We are developing a pipeline of consumer probiotics to target specific ecosystems of the body and life stages, including a synbiotic for children. Our next product will reflect a unique breakthrough in the field of pediatric probiotics, which we are excited to announce soon.

    This article was sponsored by Seed. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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    Tips parents need to know about poor air quality and caring for kids with asthma

    There are steps parents can take to keep their children as healthy as possible.

    When wildfires struck the West Coast in September 2020, there was a lot for parents to worry about. For parents of children with asthma, though, the danger could be even greater. "There are more than 400 toxins that are present in wildfire smoke. That can activate the immune system in ways that aren't helpful by both causing an inflammatory response and distracting the immune system from fighting infection," says Amy Oro, MD, a pediatrician at Stanford Children's Health. "When smoke enters into the lungs, it causes irritation and muscle spasms of the smooth muscle that is around the small breathing tubes in the lungs. This can lead to difficulty with breathing and wheezing. It's really difficult on the lungs."

    With the added concern of COVID-19 and the effect it can have on breathing, many parents feel unsure about how to keep their children protected. The good news is that there are steps parents can take to keep their children as healthy as possible.

    Here are tips parents need to know about how to deal with poor air quality when your child has asthma.

    Minimize smoke exposure.

    Especially when the air quality index reaches dangerous levels, it's best to stay indoors as much as possible. You can find out your area's AQI at AirNow.gov. An under 50 rating is the safest, but between 100-150 is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, such as children with asthma. "If you're being told to stay indoors, listen. If you can, keep the windows and doors closed," Oro says.

    Do your best to filter the air.

    According to Oro, a HEPA filter is your best bet to effectively clean pollutants from the air. Many homes are equipped with a built-in HEPA filter in their air conditioning systems, but you can also get a canister filter. Oro says her family (her husband and children all suffer from asthma) also made use of a hack from the New York Times and built their own filter by duct taping a HEPA furnace filter to the front of a box fan. "It was pretty disgusting what we accumulated in the first 20 hours in our fan," she says.

    Avoid letting your child play outside or overly exert themselves in open air.

    "Unfortunately, cloth masks don't do very much [to protect you from the smoke pollution]," Oro says. "You really need an N95 mask, and most of those have been allocated toward essential workers." To keep at-risk children safer, Oro recommends avoiding brisk exercise outdoors. Instead, set up an indoor obstacle course or challenge your family to jumping jacks periodically to keep everyone moving safely.

    Know the difference between smoke exposure and COVID-19.

    "COVID-19 can have a lot of the same symptoms—dry cough, sore throat, shortness of breath and chest pain could overlap. But what COVID and other viruses generally cause are fever, chills, vomiting, diarrhea and body aches. Those would tell you it's not just smoke exposure," Oro says. When a child has been exposed to smoke, they often complain of a "scrape" in their throat, burning eyes, cough, shortness of breath, chest pain or wheezing. If the child has asthma, parents should watch for a flare of symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing or a tight sensation in their chest.

    Unfortunately, not much is known about long-term exposure to wildfire smoke on a healthy or compromised immune system, but elevated levels of air pollution have been associated with increased COVID-19 rates. That's because whenever there's an issue with your immune system, it distracts your immune system from fighting infections and you have a harder time fighting off viruses. Limiting your exposure to wildfire smoke is your best bet to keep immune systems strong.

    Have a plan in place if you think your child is suffering from smoke exposure.

    Whatever type of medication your child takes for asthma, make sure you have it on-hand and that your child is keeping up with regular doses. Contact your child's pediatrician, especially if your area has a hazardous air quality—they may want to adjust your child's medication schedule or dosage to prevent an attack. Oro also recommends that, if your child has asthma, it might be helpful to have a stethoscope or even a pulse oximeter at home to help diagnose issues with your pediatrician through telehealth.

    Most importantly, don't panic.

    In some cases, social distancing and distance learning due to COVID may be helping to keep sensitive groups like children with asthma safer. Oro says wildfires in past years have generally resulted in more ER visits for children, but the most recent fires haven't seen the same results. "A lot of what we've seen is that the smoke really adversely affects adults, especially older adults over 65," Oro says. "Children tend to be really resilient."

    This article was sponsored by Stanford Children's Health. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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    Mama, all I see is you

    A love letter from your baby.

    Mama,

    I can't see past you right now, I'm so small and everything's a little blurry.

    All I see is you.

    When you feel alone, like the walls are closing in, remember I'm here too. I know your world has changed and the days feel a little lonely. But they aren't lonely for me.

    You are my everything.

    When you feel like you don't know what you're doing, you're making it look easy to me. Even though we're still getting to know each other, you know me better than anyone.

    I trust you.

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