When Allison Duff of South Daytona, Fla., and her husband, Garrett, went to the hospital to deliver their daughter, they did something most couples do – packed a bag for Mom, but they didn’t give much thought to what Dad would need. While she arrived ready and prepared, he didn’t have much to help him get through his two-day hospital stay.
“Honestly, we thought of more than we needed for me, but we didn’t think about packing for him,” she says. “He ended up sleeping in the chair next to me for two nights and had to drive back home to get his toiletries and other items that he wanted or needed.”
Most birth planners don’t include what a dad should bring.
Garrett learned quickly that they not only forgot to pack him some basic supplies, like toiletries and a change of clothing but that there were other things he could have used to make the stay more comfortable. Being a contact lens wearer, he would have benefited from taking his case and solution to the hospital.
“He was so exhausted that he couldn’t wear his contact lenses,” Duff says. When her husband was asked what he wished he had remembered to take, one word came to the top of his list: soap. The hospital offered only liquid soap, and he had to leave to buy some bar soap to take a shower.
Packing for Dad
“Most birth planners don’t include what a dad should bring,” says Dr. Bruce Linton, a licensed marriage and family therapist, author of Finding Time for Fatherhood: Men’s Concerns as Parents (Berkeley Hills Books, 2000) and founder of the Fathers’ Forum programs, offering classes and groups for expectant and new dads. “We, as expectant dads, are often so focused on our wives and what they need that we just don’t consider a few basic creature comforts for ourselves, like a clean shirt or an energy bar that might help us during our stay in the hospital.”
About two weeks prior to the baby’s due date, pack a bag for dad filled with things he may need. Some items to consider include the following:
- Cameras and batteries: Pack a digital camera and a video camera, if the birth will be recorded, along with additional batteries and a battery charger, if it needs one.
- Clothing: Include a change of clothing, something comfortable to sleep in and a sweater or sweatshirt. Many moms like to keep the room cool during labor, which can leave Dad freezing!
- Phone options: Pack a cell phone or pre-paid calling card, as well as the phone numbers that he will need for making those post-birth announcement calls. If a cell phone is being packed, including the charger, as well.
- Food: While the hospital has Mom covered, Dad will mostly be left to scrounge for himself. He will need to keep his energy up and should have a snack sack available that includes some high-energy options, including nuts, cereal or energy bars and a water bottle.
- Even if he’s not staying in the hospital overnight, he may want to freshen up.
- Medication: If he takes daily prescription medications, he will need them in the hospital. It is also a good idea to consider taking some over-the-counter pain reliever, in case he has a headache.
- Wallet: This may seem like an obvious one, but it is easy to forget in the heat of the moment when leaving the house. Dad will need to have his wallet, insurance papers, etc.
- Glasses: If he wears contact lenses, be sure to pack his glasses, contact lens case and storage solution.
- Music: Having an iPod, CD player or other sources of music can be helpful when looking for a way to relax or pass the time.
- Diary: Some dads like to write down what’s happening throughout the hospital stay.
- Entertainment: Whether he likes playing handheld game devices, reading or doing crossword puzzles, it’s wise to pack something entertaining to keep him busy. There may be “downtime” when Mom is sleeping and he needs to do something to pass some time or get his mind moving.
- Something to Imprint: Many dads like to take a new, light-colored T-shirt along for the birth. Once the baby is born and they are doing the finger and footprints, dad can request that the baby’s footprints also be stamped onto his shirt. This will create a long-lasting keepsake of the tiny prints.
- Gift for Mom: Something small and thoughtful for Mom can make a lasting impression when presented to her after all her hard work is done.
- Birthing Plans: Although the months leading up to the big day may have included going over the birth plan and learning all the breathing procedures, it’s easy to forget them when the time comes. Take the information along in the bag, just in case a reminder is needed.
Planning and packing early works great for a mom, and that is what people have mainly focused on, in the past. But when a dad is figured into the pre-planning stage, and a bag is packed for him, too, it can make the experience go more smoothly for all involved.
“And don’t forget a toothbrush!” Dr. Linton says. “Even if you are not there overnight, you may want to take a break and brush.”