There's nothing quite like packing a hospital bag for focussing you on the imminent arrival of your baby, especially if you're a first-time mum.
It's best to get your bag packed at least four weeks before your due date, just in case!
We’ve put together a list of things that lots of mums - and their birthing partners - find useful to have with them.
Before the birth
Your maternity notes.
Your birth plan (if you have written one).
Change for the carpark and money for snacks and drinks.
Loose clothing such as a nightshirt or big T-shirt. Pack a few just in case they get messy.
Warm socks and slippers (hospital floors can be cold!).
Toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash (if used) and your make-up bag and beauty products.
Hairbrush and, if you have long hair, hair bands.
A pillow, if you wish to use your own.
Essential oils if you choose to use them.
Snacks and drinks for you and your partner (cereal bars and energy drinks will give you a much needed boost).
Books, magazines, ipod, puzzles - anything that will keep you entertained.
Your camera or video equipment.
A TENs machine, if you're using one.
If it is hot, you may want a mini fan or a face spray.
For after the birth:
Nightdresses (a couple, in case you have to stay in longer than expected). If you are planning to breastfeed, it's a good idea to get nightdresses that are specially designed for breastfeeding or have button fastening at the front.
Very important: shower gel, moisturiser, shampoo and conditioner (treat yourself to a luxurious brand, you deserve to feel pampered after giving birth).
Maternity sanitary towels.
If you plan to breastfeed: nursing bra, breast pads, and nipple cream/guards. Breast pump (this is optional as most maternity units have breast pumps, but they are usually shared so you might want to use your own – check with your maternity unit).
Shawl or pashmina (optional), so you can look glamorous when guests arrive.
Comfy clothes (this is no time for skinny jeans!) and flat shoes to go home in.
For your baby
Two/three newborn baby grows (sleepsuits).
Two bodysuits (with sleeves if it is cold, without in the summer).
A baby blanket (cellular blanket).
Baby hat and scratch mittens.
A going home outfit - if it is winter make sure you pack a warm cardigan; in the summer a hat to keep the sun off little eyes is essential.
One pack of newborn nappies.
Cotton wool or baby wipes.
One pack of muslin cloths - essential for pretty much everything, but come especially in handy when your baby possets (brings up milk).
For your partner
A spare set of clothes for labour and after the birth. He or she may be there for the long haul so make sure they bring a change. Maternity units are set at a higher temperature so that babies are kept warm at all times, which means they'll probably be more comfortable in lighter clothes.
Books, magazines, CD player/ipod, food and drinks.
Camera and video equipment.
A list of friends' and family phone numbers plus lots of change or phonecards in case calls cannot be from the hospital.
Change for car parking, drinks, snacks etc.
Infant car seat – most hospitals won’t let you leave until they see you have a car seat for your baby. Buy it in advance of the birth and practise fitting it properly.
You'll be surprised at how little you had with you when you arrived at the hospital, and how much you take home. Flowers, gifts for you and the baby, not to mention your baby, baby bag, toys etc! A good tip is to ask friends and relatives to take a few things with them when they come to visit (flowers, for example) so you won’t have so much to carry when you leave.
For advice on what to pack in your hospital bag, look at mothercare.com for essentials you'll need and top tips on packing...