If you know your baby is going to be hospitalized for an extended stay after birth you may be wondering, “What on earth do I pack for my baby’s heart surgery??” I had the same thought before my son was born. We were told to expect anywhere from a 2-6 week stay or more right after birth. I tried googling “what to pack for the hospital” and was met with bright, airy photos of mothers breastfeeding their newborns and two day hospital stay packing lists. I knew that wasn’t going to be our experience and it was actually more depressing than helpful!
Here is a list of items I found to be most useful, compiled with the help of a few other experienced mommas. I’m going to tell you about a few of my favorite items, but you can download the full packing list for moms and the packing list for baby.
Nursing pillow snuggles
One item that was GOLD for us was a boppy-type pillow. I honestly didn’t expect to need one of these in the hospital. I didn’t even buy one and ended up last minute borrowing one from a friend! We knew when Calvin was born that he would not be allowed to eat until after his first surgery. I planned to start off pumping and hoped to try nursing later. BUT, the these pillows are so helpful for support while you hold your baby both before and after surgery.
It was a little bit of an ordeal to get Calvin from his bed to my arms those first two weeks. It took two nurses a full 10 minutes to complete the task. So once I was situated I usually tried to stay put for a good 2-3 hours. Y’all, no matter how small that baby is your arm is going to start getting tired in about 10 minutes! This pillow is going to save your strength and extend snuggle time 10 fold! My favorite is this My Breast Friend pillow. It’s actually made out of foam and holds its shape better than the pillow texture of the famous boppy.
The favorite comfort item
Our next most used item was a pacifier. This little paci offered sweet comfort to Calvin when he couldn’t eat or be held and also kept his sucking reflex well-practiced. Most hospitals will have pacifiers but typically only one type. Calvin couldn’t keep the hospital paci in his mouth. He loved it but it popped out every 5 seconds and made him cry. He loved the Phillips Avent paci and so did my daughter (obsessed is probably a better word). But, different babies like different pacis. The MAM pacifiers also seem to be well loved by babies. Wubbanub just came out with a special CHD awareness paci and the little animal has a heart surgery scar. Precious!
#1 item to pack for baby
Snap up sleepers and/or gowns are the perfect items to pack for after baby’s heart surgery. These Burts Bees sleepers are sooo soft and they were easy to get on since they don’t have to go overhead. They also allow for wires to go in between the snaps or out the bottom for the gowns. Having the side snaps off-set from the incision line was also a great added bonus. I think it was also kind of good for my momma heart to get to dress my baby up a little bit.
I highly recommend a sound machine! A little soft white noise helped both Calvin and I somewhat ignore the constant come and go of nurses throughout the night. We used the white noise on a soft setting most of the time, but this machine also has 6 different soothing nature sounds. It even has a light with 4 different brightness settings for diaper changes and midnight vitals. If you don’t sleep well with background noise I would recommend a set of foam earplugs. The hospital can be a noisy place day and night!
And lastly, a bouncy seat for the hospital was so nice to have. Our hospital had a few but usually they were all in use by other families, so we brought one from home. I left it in the trunk of the car until he was ready for it. Remember any type of movement is stimulating for development. So even a bouncy seat with vibration can be a nice change from the hospital bed. My favorite swing by far is the Mamaroo. It’s definitely high-tech, with several different settings that soothed both my babies so well. Plus, the incline is adjustable – so this swing became my son’s go-to spot after feedings so he could sit up straighter and reduce spit ups!
What else will I need?
Remember, hospitals will supply all the “needs” – diapers, wipes, baby blankets, pillows, paci, bottles, breast pump, formula, towels, baby shampoo – pretty much anything to cover the basics for your baby. The recommendations on the lists are comfort items and may bring a little “normal” to your stay.
If you are likely spending more than a week in the hospital I would plan to wash clothes and bring a small laundry basket, a few travel size packets of laundry detergent, and some coins. If you have family or friends close by who are offering to help, laundry would be a great task to ask for help on. See if someone will pick up your clothes, wash, and return about a week into your stay. It’s hard for me to ask for help, but through our experience in the hospital I learned that people really wanted to help us, they just didn’t know what to do!