New Dads: What to expect when staying in the hospital, what to bring, and how to eat for free

Depending on your partner's situation and pregnancy, you can probably expect to spend some time in the hospital.

For example,

After endless ultrasounds and weekly checkups with a Maternal Fetal Medicine specialist, it was determined that my wife would need to be induced at 39 weeks. This was because our baby was small, 5th percentile small, and our doctor determined it would be better if the wee lass continued growing outside of the womb.

What we were told would be a relatively simple process turned out to be somewhat of a nightmare. Staying on topic, we were told to prepare to be at the hospital for 7 days, and so we set forth only packing for 4 days.

 Turns out the doctor was right and we were there for 7 days. Whoops.

I'm going to provide information to some questions you may be wondering (and possibly too embarrassed to ask) such as "what will I eat?" and "will the nurse's judge me for not being the perfect labor coach?"

I will also share with you how I completely avoided paying 12$ a meal for mediocre hospital food. Three meals a day would have been 252$ for 7 days.

How long will I be in the hospital?

Each person's situation is going to be different, and when you're nearing your baby's due date it'll be clearer what to expect. A general guestimate based off of several common scenarios would be:

Good ol' zero complications vaginal delivery: 1 to 2 days

A planned C-section: 3-4 days depending on healing time

Inducing labor: 4-7 days

Ask as many questions as you can at every appointment you have.

How much is hospital food? Is it worth it?

Only your lady will likely be receiving free meals and room service during your stay. This means you are responsible for feeding yourself. I assumed I would just go to the hospital's cafeteria every day, and maybe slip out every once in a while for some food from the outside world. It's also worth mentioning in most cases, your nurses will have to approve of what you bring to your wife for her to eat.

If you plan on staying the entire time, make sure to pack some snacks. 

Some convenient snack ideas include: 

  • bars 
  • dried fruit 
  • apple sauce 
  • trail mix 
  • jerky 
  • sandwiches (throw that sucker in a zip lock bag or airtight container)
  • Chips if you can prevent them from getting crushed

Your hospital will absolutely have a cafeteria, vending machines around the halls, and possibly even some other food options (some hospitals have a Subway, Panera Bread, coffee shops, etc.). You can expect your cafeteria to charge for full meal tickets ranging around 12$. It always pays off to check with the hospital you're going to beforehand.

If you're preparing for the mass amounts of diapers and wet wipes you're about to have to buy, or you're going to be there for a while, this is how I managed to eat for free.

Simply ask your partner to order an extra entrée and/or sides. Originally I was planning to use the cafeteria and buy food for all 7 days, and then our first nurse (we'll call her Molly) blessed us with one simple phrase: "You can order extra food, they don't dare deny a pregnant lady." Thanks Molly.

Keep in mind some hospitals may in fact have the audacity to deny a pregnant lady, but it's worth a try. The worst that could happen is they'll simply say no.

Where do I sleep?

This is where a lot of partners tap out after a day or two. I lived almost 2 hours away from the hospital and did not want to miss my baby's birth, I also didn't have the heart to leave my wife alone. Fortunately our room had a couch where I slept, which was more appealing than the floor -- but not by much.

You can expect your room to have a guest couch or futon, television, bathroom and shower, and sometimes a refrigerator. But there are chances you'll have nothing but a chair. I've also heard of guys cuddling up on the medical bed with their wife. Some nurses may not appreciate this gesture.

With most hospitals you can check out what the maternity centers and birthing suites are like on their websites so you can know what to expect.

Or of course you can call ahead and ask what the rooms contain. This way you'll know if you should bring some sort of cushioning or sleeping bag beforehand. Who knows, maybe you'll have a jacuzzi tub and refrigerator in your room?

What else should I bring in my hospital bag?

  • Enough clothes, and a spare too. Just in case baby spits up on you while you're staying in recovery.
  • Entertainment. Phone charger, Nintendo Switch (enjoy it while it lasts), crosswords (if you're bringing this you're probably already a dad), 
  • Personal hygiene products. Toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, razors, you know the drill.
  • Stuff for your lady 'n baby. Oh the surprised look on your partner's face when you whip out the hair ties she may have forgotten. Make sure she also has some loose clothes to come home in, and baby will need an outfit to come home in as well.

How do I be a good supporting partner?

This is a whole separate topic that I can't fully cover in one small section, but you should invest some time planning and thinking on how to be a good supporting partner during and after labor.

If you're there with her, especially every day she's stuck in the hospital, you're already doing an amazing job. Being present should make the whole process easier for her, so make your stay as uplifting as possible. And speaking of,

Try not to bring up stressful topics (unless she finds relief in that juicy gossip). Talk a lot about feelings, and make a lot of positive statements like how the baby will be here soon, what baby will be like, getting to go home.

If she wants, hold her hand, rub her shoulder, caress her hair, do what comforts her when she's enduring pain (strong contractions, cervix check, labor)

Remind her how good of a job she's doing bringing a new life into this world, and how you're proud of her.

And if any complications occur, remind her this not her fault. It's hard not to blame yourself even if it's something you have no control over.

Baby vector by Grmarc

After baby was born, we were moved to a recovery room for 2 days, which also had a couch (a comfier one this time), a TV, no refrigerator like the first one, and a bathroom with a shower. 

One bonus tip: If you have any dogs at home, it may be helpful to have them sniff something the baby has worn like their hat or swaddle before bringing baby home. 

Good luck, congratulations, and don't forget -- the journey is only just beginning.

Next you may want to read First Week With Baby: What to Expect and Lifehacks to Make it Easier

My baby Melody and me on our first day