So you’ve got an upcoming hospital stay and you’re not sure what to bring? After several dozen hospital stays of varying lengths, most averaging two weeks, during my son’s first three years of life, I’ve got plenty of experience in knowing what is and isn’t useful in a hospital! Even these days, when we’re in a period of relatively few long hospital stays, I keep the suitcase packed and stocked. Partly because, with my son’s medical conditions, you just never know when you’ll suddenly be thrown back into long stays, and partly because most of the things in the suitcase were purchased specifically for the hospital and I truly have no other place to keep them.
My hospital packing is actually two-pronged. I have the suitcase, whose contents rarely vary. And then I also have what I call the “fun bag.” (OK, I only call it that to myself. I don’t think I’ve ever said that out loud.) The “fun bag” is for all the “current” things that we’ll want while we’re at the hospital. My knitting, a book, my notebook, his current favorite toys, our bedtime reading book, technology and chargers, etc. And then he is allowed to pack some number of stuffed animals and toys in his backpack, as well.
Your needs will obviously vary depending on your child’s needs, your individual needs and wishes, your child’s age, and what is available at your hospital.
So here’s what’s in my suitcase, and why.
- Packaged blended food (Real Food Blends), enough to last a week. My husband or someone else can either bring us additional food if we’ll be staying for longer than a week, or they can mail it. Our hospital is reasonably supportive of blended diets (DS gets real food blended up through his feeding tube) but I prefer to bring our home food and let him order from the menu for oral food. I consider asking them to blend up something from their menu as a last resort.
- Immersion blender. I need to mix the RFB with water to make them thin enough to go through the pump, and I do this with the blender.
- His feeding pump and feeding sets. At some point, our hospital switched to Kangaroo pumps, and their pumps don’t work well with blended diets. I just bring our own. I also have several extensions in the suitcase, but generally just use hospital provided extensions.
- Diapers. Teddy’s in a size 7, and our hospital doesn’t stock that size for some bizarre reason. I keep a pack in the suitcase.
- Clothes. This is a variety of hospital gowns I’ve made him, a set of commercial pajamas, underwear and socks, and a few shirt/sweatpants combos. There’s a hoodie for him, and also a pair of slippers, though he thinks hospital socks are the best things ever. I sewed up a soft fabric basket that holds his clothes in the suitcase to keep them all together and to make them easy to find quickly.
- Activities. I keep an inflatable ball in the suitcase, as well as some coloring books and markers. (I don’t pack crayons, but that’s because I keep crayons in my every day bag.) A floor cloth – I think this is technically a beach cloth? I found it on clearance at Toys R Us. It folds up small and we use it on the floor so he has a clean place to play.
- A sippy cup. He’s technically too old for sippy cups, but I find they’re still handy for when he wants to drink but doesn’t feel very well and wants to lay down.
- Personal care items. I pack special soap and lotion, his toothbrush and toothpaste, and nail clippers.
- A special pillowcase.
- Last minute, we put his weighted blanket in the suitcase, as well.
- Food. I can’t always leave to get food in the cafeteria, and I don’t always want to order from the parent menu for home delivery. Ordering outside delivery food all the time gets expensive. I started packing shelf stable microwave meals for myself and honestly it’s been awesome. It’s not the BEST food, but when your kid is miserable and you don’t want meal service pizza again, it’s not bad at all. I tend to get noodle dishes, soups, ramen, instant mashed potatoes with canned meat, and those Ready Rice packages also with canned meat. (Not many vegetables here, so when I have the opportunity, I do run down to the cafeteria and stock up on veggies from the salad bar as well as whatever hot veggies they have.)
- Things to make the food. A two cup Pyrex cup. Some spoons and a knife. A bottle brush, though I think this is leftover from when I used bottles to store pumped breastmilk.
- Clothes. I keep three sets of clothes in my suitcase, so combined with the one I’m wearing when I arrive, I can go three days between laundry. I pack extra socks because socks get nasty in hospitals. A pair of slippers. Pajamas. My hospital pajamas are yoga pants and a shirt – so they’re not obviously PJs. I feel ridiculous talking to doctors half my age when I’m wearing my jimjams, so I prefer to look like I’m actually wearing clothes regardless of what time it is. A hoodie. A spare belt. I usually wear skirts, but we had a hospital stay once where it was so cold in our room that I mostly wore a pair of jeans I had packed, but I had no belt and spent two weeks pulling up my darn pants. NEVER AGAIN. Like with his clothes, I keep mine in a soft fabric basket inside the suitcase.
- Personal care items. All the usual things. Deodorant, brush, toothbrush and paste, hair ties. I cover my hair, so I have a few casual covers in there. Some OTC meds like allergy and advil. Travel size shampoo and conditioner. Good lotion. Scissors. (I don’t shave, so I don’t pack a razor, but obviously you’d want that if you do.) Pads, enough for a whole cycle.
- Miscellaneous things that make me happy. Tea packets. A hot chocolate or cider packet or two. Gum because I grind my teeth when stressed and this somewhat mitigates that. An insulated, lidded mug.
- Envelopes and stamps. I don’t use these as much any more, but when my other kids were younger, they enjoyed getting mail from me from the hospital.
- Notebook and pen. I take notes during rounds. Some moms keep a journal.
- Humidifier. I found a small portable humidifier at Target one year. It holds a water bottle. Hospital air is so very very dry. This is one of my favorite hospital bag things.
- An internet television device. I call mine my Fauxku because it’s like an off brand Roku. I can hook it up to the hospital TV and get Netflix, so we’re not limited to the movies the hospital provides on the entertainment system, if they have one. Our hospital does NOW but hasn’t always.
- Spare cords. I have a handful of phone, kindle, and ipad cords, and an extra cord for my laptop. Because I can always remember my laptop but for some reason, I can’t always remember the cord.
- Two empty tote bags. Because you just never know.