Certified Child Life Specialist, Child Life on Call founder, and expert Piper + Enza contributor Katie Taylor has supported her share of inpatient kids and their families over the years, and offers her advice on what to pack when your child has an overnight stay at the hospital.
When your child is admitted to the hospital, knowing what to pack and how to prepare can be difficult. You may feel like you’re in uncharted territory and don’t know where to start. The hospital staff may be busy and not have time to answer all of your questions.
This blog post will help you pack for any type of hospital stay with your child, offer tips for preparing your child and advice for staying organized during your stay.
To make the experience as comfortable and bearable as possible, here are some essential items to pack in order to ensure that your little one has everything they need.
…for you and your child. The first thing you should include when packing for an overnight stay at the hospital is pajamas. Look for ones made from soft cotton with comfortable waistbands, as these will be most comfortable for your child during a long night away from home. Button pajamas are easiest so that EKG wires can comfortably reach the monitor without pulling up your child’s shirt.
For you, think about soft, stretchy items that can take you from the hospital room to the cafeteria. Long sleeve items and sweatpants can help you feel comfortable while also navigating the unknowns that may come throughout the day. However, if you find that getting dressed up a bit can help you feel more confident as you interact with the care team, pack a couple of outfits that help you feel your best. Bring slippers or comfortable socks so you can walk in the hospital room without having cold feet.
You may also want to add a couple of cozy blankets and stuffed animals so your child can sleep peacefully and feel safe, even while they are away from home. If your child needs white noise to sleep, bring the machine with you from home or download a white noise app to your phone. Eye covers can help block out light if there are windows in your room.
When your child is in the hospital, it’s understandable that they may feel less like a “kid” and more like a “patient.” Consider items that help them feel like themselves while offering a distraction. This could include books, crayons and paper, hand-held electronics or digital devices with pre-loaded games on them, and even headphones if it would help keep your child distracted.
Food and Drink
Check with the care team before you arrive to see if your child can eat and drink like normal. If so, pack snacks that are tried and true favorites as well as treats in case boredom sets in during any downtime at the hospital – this way, your little one can enjoy something familiar despite being away from home.
Bring your favorite items to eat and snack on so that if you’re not able to order a parent tray for meals or don’t have time to run to the cafeteria, you have options to keep you filled.
Lastly, don’t forget to bring along toiletries such as toothpaste, toothbrush, shampoo, and soap so that all of your and your child’s needs can be taken care of while they are there. Having these items packed ahead of time will help ease any stress associated with this unexpected stay. There is a chance that your child’s room may not have a bathtub (you can ask this ahead of time), and bringing normal items can help make this activity feel more like home. Towels on the pediatric unit tend to be small, so consider bringing your own towels from home if that’s more comfortable for you.
By following these tips on what to pack when your child has an overnight stay at the hospital, you can make sure that their experience is more comfortable, as well as help them feel more secure in an unknown environment.
Katie Taylor is certified child life specialist, podcast host and CEO + Founder Child Life On Call, and a Piper+Enza expert contributor.