Preparing for a free standing birth center birth is a little bit different than preparing for a hospital birth. There is quite a differece in things you will need to bring, the biggest reasons being:
1. you will not have to spend the night (at most birth centers)
2. less is provided by the birth center
Most birth centers provide a few items for the mother, like a water bottle, peri bottle, those big stretchy mesh undies, and a small tote to bring things home in. But they don't provide things like a gown for mom to deliver baby in, diapers/wipes/hats/blankets/clothes for baby or any kind of food. So packing/preparing is just a little bit different when you plan on giving birth at a Birth Center.
- Trash bag/towel - for placing on your carseat during the drive to the birth center if your water hasn't broken.
- Robe - a short, cotton robe is really nice during labor or for right after birth if you get chilly I didn't bring this with Riggs and wished I would have had it. Target has a great selection of short robes.
- Nightshirt - a short (see a trend here? nobody wants anything hanging around their legs during labor), soft/comfy nightshirt or large t-shirt to labor in, or whatever you're comfortable in. Some people are more comfortable in just a light sports bra. If it's your first baby maybe bring a few items. If you've already given birth you probably know what will be comfortable for you. I grabbed this one from Target and have another that I will bring as an extra. I labored with Riggs in the shower for over an hour, spent some time in the tub and didn't put anything on when I got out and delivered him on the bed. But it was really nice to slip on something cozy right after he was born.
- Slippers - for walking around the birth center while you're in labor. Also flip flops for the shower during/after labor.
- Nursing Cami/Bra - for after birth. I prefer a nursing cami with a cozy cardi/hoodie to a nursing bra and shirt. Also a maxi dress that is easy to nurse in would be really comfortable.
- Leggings/Yoga pants - for wearing after birth and going home. Something with a stretchy, comfortable waistband - I want to go try these from Gap, they look sooo comfy.
- Shoes - for me it will be my birkenstocks (of course) but if your baby is due in winter be sure to bring boots just in case. Steve made me last time and I was really glad since it was literally a blizzard when Riggs was born and snowed over a foot during the 6 hours we were at the birth center.
- Toiletries: brush/comb, make-up wipes, shampoo/conditioner, dry shampoo, face lotion, minimal make-up, toothbrush/toothpaste, bobby pins, blow dryer. When I had Riggs I actually didn't wash my hair when I took a shower since it was only second day hair and was still relatively intact. But when packing it's nice to have the option to either wash and dry or just use a little dry shampoo. I also like washing my face, moisturizing and putting on a little makeup (pretty much just under eye concealer, eyeliner and mascara). It takes less than five minutes and makes a huge difference in pictures and in feeling somewhat normal. Also be sure to remember both glasses and contacts if you need them.
- food/drink for labor - Bottled water, coconut water, and fruit juice are great options for during labor. My midwives also recommend food items that you would eat when recovering from the flu, like broth, popsicles, toast, etc. My labor with Riggs was fast and eating never crossed my mind. They offered me water and juice pretty often and I'd take sips here and there but really I was mostly interested in getting my baby out, haha.
- food/drink for after birth - something nourishing but not too heavy. I was scared to eat heavy foods because I was scared of that first postpartum poop. But whatever sounds good to you. All birth centers have kitchens where you can store food in the fridge and heat it up in an oven, microwave oven or stove top. Bringing money for ordering food is also a great option. Our birth center is really close to a popular pizza place (Moose's Tooth for you AK people) and the midwives say they have a lot of patients ordering from there after birth.
- iPhone, charger - pretty obvious. You'll want to take tons of pictures and videos and text and call people.
- camera, charger/extra battery - Bringing a 'real' camera is a must for capturing those first memories with your new baby. It's nice to be able to designate an 'official' picture taker for during birth and after. Birth Centers are usually very open to videos during birth as well, so a video camera and tripod might be good to bring if you want a video (I didn't).
- file folder - It's a good idea to bring a folder for all the paperwork you'll take home with you. My midwives provide one from the beginning of care with them, so I'll just bring that along.
- paperwork - Photo ID, insurance card, preregistration papers for hospital of choice and birth plan in case you need to be transferred to the hospital.
- WHAT YOU DON'T NEED: Baby book for footprints/handprints (our birth center doesn't do them, I did them myself when we got home). Nursing pillow - bring it if you want, but it's a lot for a 4 hour maximum stay. Laptop/iPad - unless you're using it for music during labor. You don't go to the birth center until you're in active labor and they don't provide pain medication like epidurals so you're not going to have much 'leisure' time while laboring and since you only stay for four hours max after baby you won't need it then either.
- hat - it's a good idea to bring two hats, one for right after birth and one for heading home. At our birth center they have a few for right after birth if you don't bring one, but they ask you to bring at least one for baby to wear home. Babies lose most of their heat from their head and since you're going home when baby is 3-4 hours old it's extremely important for them to wear a hat. A stretchy cotton hat is perfect. I ordered this one for baby girl.
- blanket - two or three soft cotton blankets are essential. Aden + Anais muslin swaddle blankets are great for this, but any soft, cotton blanket with a little stretch will work. We had Riggs wrapped in just a blanket for the first hour or two after he was born. It made it so easy to do skin-to-skin with him, breastfeed him, and for the midwives to do his newborn exam.
- diapers - disposable or cloth depending on your preference. Personally I think disposables are great to bring along even if you plan on cloth diapering, especially since their diapers are mostly meconium for the first couple of days. We use Honest diapers and love them.
- going home outfit - Something soft and simple and special that fits close so you can safely buckle them in the carseat (not a gown or dress or a thick snowsuit - if it's cold be sure to dress baby with hat and mittens and use blankets over them in the carseat). Bringing two separate outfits is a good idea incase baby poops in one before you leave. Also it might be a good idea to bring two sizes, either preemie and newborn or newborn and 0-3 months, which is what I'll be doing since Riggs was 9lbs 4oz and 21.5 inches long when he was born and was too long for newborn one-piece sleepers. I plan on bringing a one-piece with a soft bodysuit underneath for baby girl to wear home.
- carseat - Either an infant carseat or a convertible carseat with the right weight requirements. At our birth center they ask you to bring the carseat in and they check it after you've buckled baby in (if you're using a convertible they will come out to the car with you). We have the Maxi Cosi Mico and already love how light it is compared to the Britax Chaperone we had with Riggs.
- Magazine/Books - something to do while wife labors. I was a very independent laborer and wanted my space and to be 'alone' (with Steve and my mom in the same room but not right near me) so Steve actually ended up reading all the magazines I threw in the bag for him, even though it was only two hours from when we arrived at the birth center to pushing.
- Change of clothes - for if labor is long or clothes get dirty after baby is born. Also just in case dad has to come straight from work.
- Swim trunks - for if dad is going to get in the tub during labor with you. We didn't bother and won't this time because I'm a very independent laborer (and hate being touched by anyone while I'm having contractions) and I didn't enjoy laboring in the tub anyway.
- Toiletries - toothbrush/toothpaste, glasses/contacts, face lotion, etc.
- Slippers/flip flops - slippers for wearing around the birth center; flip flops for if dad is going to go in the shower with you or take a shower after the birth.
- Wallet - with cash for ordering food afterwards (or during labor if dad had to come straight from work and is very hungry).
- Cell phone/charger
for older sibling/s
- Overnight bag - what you need to pack for older siblings depends on wether they will be staying home with a caregiver or going to a caregivers house while you're off having baby. If I go into labor in the middle of the night we will have someone come stay at our house so Riggs can finish the nights sleep in his own bed. If I go into labor during the day he'll probably go to a family members house. Either way I am going to pack him an overnight bag to be ready just in case, with two outfits, two sets of PJs, diapers, wipes, his lotion, a few books and toys, and his lovey. We'll also grab his blankets and a favorite stuffed animal as we leave the house.
- Gift - Something special for big brother or big sister. We won't bring this with us to the birth center, but we'll have it ready and waiting for when we get home with baby.
for at home
items to purchase and have ready for immediately after birth
- thermometer - 'stick' style thermometer for oral, rectal and underarm use. Since you leave a birth center much sooner than a hospital you have to monitor both baby and mama's temperature every four hours the first 24 hours and then once a day for the first week.
- large sanitary napkins/adult diapers - depending on your preference. I actually really like using depends, they are very thin and comfortable and I didn't have to worry about 'missing the pad' (you know what I mean).
- ice packs - also known as 'padsicles' - either maxi pads or newborn diapers filled with ice for down there. Icing makes a huge difference in swelling and if not done right in the first 24 hours can lead to extra uncomfortable conditions down below for up to a week.
- tucks pads - witch hazel soaked cotton pads to relieve discomfort and itching especially if you had to get stitches or develop hemorrhoids.
- ibuprofen - to manage pain and discomfort after birth. I hear uterine cramping is much worse with subsequent babies and it was already bad enough with Riggs (every time he nursed for the first couple of days, ugh) so I plan to have ibuprofen ready and waiting.
- Chux or 'underpads' - these are those large, thin pads with the waterproof blue backing they use in hospitals. They are great to have under you on the couch or in bed for in case your underwear/pad shift while you're sitting or sleeping.
- nursing pillow - I used the boppy and I loved it! It's very important to have some sort of positioning pillow for nursing a newborn, as it helps to relieve stress on your back by bringing them up to breast level without you having to hunch over.
This is a horribly long post with so much information crammed in, but I'm glad to have it all written down. I wrote it down by hand in my notebook as I thought of things but I can barely read my own scribbling so this is much more useful, haha. Let me know if there's any essentials I didn't include that I need to grab, I'm always open for suggestions!!