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So, you’ve got everything else squared away for the big day – the hospital bag for mom is packed, the car seat is installed, and your support network is on standby.
But have you given any thought to what you’ll need to keep your energy levels up during those long hours (or days) in the labor room?
When you’re heading to the hospital, having healthy snacks for labor is a must.
It’s important to prepare a variety of nourishing, light, and easy-to-pack options. And to be mindful of the foods that are best avoided.
But before you and I get into the details of the best snacks to bring to hospital for labor, let me answer some of the most worrisome questions you might be having!
Can You Eat During Labor?
It’s generally safe to eat during labor in case of a low-risk pregnancy and if contractions are at a manageable level. However, when active labor starts and you’re dilated past 4 cm your obstetrician might put restrictions on your eating – especially if you’re planning to get an epidural or there’s a risk for a C-section.
You might be wondering: when labor starts, I’m in pain and contracting how can I even eat?
Well, if your labor progresses slowly with cervix dilation delay, it might take long hours or even days in the labor room.
And while it’s best to avoid heavy foods, you do need to eat to keep going.
Plus, having a snack can help with keeping your spirits high.
And don’t forget that not only will you be packing snacks for labor but for after delivery.
Yes, the hospital will provide you with meals. But it’s always good to also have your favorite treats available.
Especially if you plan to breastfeed and need that extra boost of energy!
When Can’t You Eat During Labor?
There is no hard rule as to when you won’t be allowed to eat at all once your labor starts.
So this is something you need to discuss in detail with your obstetrician at one of the appointments leading to your delivery.
Some hospitals have very strict rules when it comes to food in the labor room, while others are totally lenient.
The reason some healthcare providers insist on an empty stomach once labor starts is the risk of aspiration in case of an emergency C-section and if general anesthesia is required.
Aspiration is when some of the food you vomit under general anesthesia goes back down your airways and creates breathing problems and other complications.
However, this is an outdated policy coming from 1940s when doctors weren’t using any tools or using very primitive tools to keep the airway open when under general anesthesia.
Nowadays, firstly general anesthesia isn’t very common and secondly, there are advanced tools that help keep the airway open during surgeries under general anesthesia.
That being said, some hospitals still do not allow any hard food at least 8-12 hours before a planned C-section or once an epidural is requested during vaginal birth.
And even if you’re not allowed any food during labor, it’s still better to have your favorite snacks in the hospital bag for after your baby arrives.
Can You Bring Snacks To Labor And Delivery?
I delivered my girl in June 2020 – when COVID was at its peak.
And as you can imagine, rigorous restrictions were in place then.
No food was allowed, only one support person could be with me in the labor room for the entire stay, and once entered no one could leave the room.
So my husband and I had to totally rely on hospital food.
My husband couldn’t even leave the room and bring me water if I was thirsty – every time we needed to call the nurse. And the nurse would only bring a small cup of water and he and I would share.
It wasn’t fun, I should say.
Luckily for you, things are different now, as most of the restrictions are lifted.
Many hospitals now allow moms-to-be to bring their own food to labor and delivery.
However, it’s important to check with your doctor and the hospital beforehand if there are any specific guidelines or limitations.
Don’t skip this step to avoid major surprised on the day of delivery.
Why Bring Your Own Snacks To Hospital For Labor?
Here are some of the reasons why having your own snacks during labor is beneficial:
- This gives you control over what you eat, especially if you had aversions to certain foods during your pregnancy or have certain dietary restrictions – vegetarian, vegan, keto, etc.
- Having your favorite snacks provide you with a sense of comfort and familiarity amid the stress of long labor.
- Snacking is a good way of distraction and will give you something to focus on in between contractions and nurses’ check-ins.
- When you don’t feel like eating a full hospital meal, light but filling snacks are great options to help you sustain the needed energy.
- If you have strong cravings for certain foods, you need to make sure you pack some of those snacks in your hospital bag.
- The hospital’s kitchen closes at a certain time. When you’re finally through labor and deliver your sweet bundle of joy, you’ll feel an intense urge to eat. And if it’s nighttime, you won’t be able to request a hospital meal. So your husband will have to run out and bring the first crappy food that he finds near the hospital at that hour. Or if he doesn’t find anything, then eating your husband will be your only option, lol!
In short, let’s agree that packing good snacks in your hospital bag needs to be one of the top priorities.
Snacks are really the unsung heroes of childbirth!
Tips On What To Eat During Contractions
Once you received a green light from your doctor about eating during the early stage of labor, here are some tips for eating during contractions.
- Choose foods that are healthy, easy-to-digest and not too high in sugar. Plain yogurt, oatmeal, whole-grain crackers, or an avocado are great options and provide sustained energy.
- Avoid foods that cause gas and bloating. It’s better to skip eating beans, broccoli, onions and fried foods the days leading to and during labor. These foods can cause gas and bloating and make you feel uncomfortable during contractions.
- Eat small, frequent meals. During labor you might start feeling nauseous so small snacks can help you keep your digestion under control and prevent you from feeling too full.
- Pack a variety of snacks so you have something to suit every mood. Think crunchy and salty (for when you’re feeling angry or frustrated), sweet and comforting (for when you’re feeling scared or overwhelmed), and healthy and energizing (for when you need a an energy boost).
- Stay hydrated. Dehydration can worsen your contractions so drink lots of water, electrolyte drinks and coconut water.
And remember! If you don’t feel like eating at all, that’s perfectly fine! Your body will be getting enough energy from the reserves.
So just breathe, relax, and prepare for the happiest moment in your life!
Best Hospital Snacks For Labor
Now that I convinced you that bringing snacks to the hospital is a no-brainer, let me give you some great suggestions.
Remember, we’ll be focusing on snacks that are healthy, easy to pack and are high in protein and fiber.
Plus, we’ll try to think of snacks that don’t require refrigeration. Do check with your hospital if the labor room comes with a fridge. If yes, you can expand your options and add perishable foods too.
To make things easier for you, I made different categories. Try to pack 2-3 snacks from each category to ensure you have a needed variety. When in labor, you’ll have strange cravings and aversions, so you might prefer one snack over another. That’s why variety is key!
1. High-Protein Snacks For Labor
You need protein for strength and energy! But do keep in mind that foods high in protein are not as easily digested as carbs and fiber.
So always listen to your body. And when your body tells you that it’s time for more fuel, here are some great protein-heavy snacks for early labor:
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Cheese (grab a pack of string cheese to last for your entire stay)
- Plain yogurt
- Turkey breast
- Nut butter (this vareity pack of 5 flavors is perfect for your hospital bag)
- Meat jerky sticks (this is a variety pack of grass fed beef, chicken, and turkey)
2. Healthy Snacks For Hospital Bag
- Fresh fruit (choose fruit that stays fresh longer and pairs well with yogurt and nut butter – bananas, apples, grapes, avocado)
- Veggies (carrots, celery, cucumbers – these pair well with hummus and are hydrating)
- Dried fruit (apricots, raisins, dates and espeially prunes)
- Nuts (a pack or two of your favorite nuts or this variety pack)
- Whole grain crackers or bread sticks (if you feel nauseous)
- Instant oatmeal (only one ingredient – whole grain oats!)
3. Savory Snacks For Labor
When your contractions start, you might start having different cravings. Your strong urge to eat salty and crunchy and then sweet or aversion to any food at all can change within minutes.
You’d still want to avoid too much salt and too much sugar, so here are some healthy savory snacks for your hospital bag.
- Pretzel or Saltine crackers (these pair well with nut butter and hummus)
- Kale chips or any other veggie chips (these are a great healthier alternative to potato chips)
- Lightly salted rice crisps
4. Sweet Snacks For Labor And Delivery
When you crave sugar, it’s likely your body tells you that it needs a quick energy boost. But of course, you don’t want to have a crash of blood sugar in the middle of labor either. So it’s always best to opt for natural sources of sugar. Here are the best options!
- Honey sticks (these are perfect to satisfy your sweet tooth in a less guilty way)
- Trail mix (if you crave salty, sweet, and spicey at the same time – believe me everything is possible during labor!)
- dark chocolate bars
5. Liquids To Pack In Your Hospital Bag
While you can skip eating if you don’t feel like it, staying hydrated is crucial during labor. So don’t forget to grab your refillable water bottle, but also pack some more nourishing fluids. You can sip on those to get the needed nutrition for long hours of labor.
While not necessary liquids I include smoothies and applesauce pouches in this category as they are satisfying and easy to mouth without too much effort.
- Coconut water (best hydrating drink as it contains electrolytes and natural sugars)
- Bone broth (works best if you don’t feel like eating but need the energy to power through)
- Smoothie pouches
- Apple sauce pouches (variety pack of different fruit combinations)
What If You’re Having A C-Section?
Even if you’re a low-risk pregnancy and everything progresses well, there is always a slight risk that you might end up having an emergency C-section.
And of course, if you’re heading to the hospital for a planned C-section you need to prepare accordingly.
Before we discuss the snacks that would be best after C-section, here are some tips to consider:
- Normally moms-to-be who are scheduled for a planned C-section are not permitted to eat for at least 8 hours leading to the surgery. But again, things have changed a lot so discuss everything in detail with your doctor, and see if you’d be allowed to have nourishing liquids.
- It’s more likely that you’ll feel nausous several hours after C-section so your best bets would be everything from the “liquids” section above. You’ll have a very slow progression from liquid to solid foods.
- Make sure you follow the hospital’s policies regarding food before and after C-section in order to avoid delays and cancelations.
Best Hospital Snacks After C-Section
There’s nothing quite like a good snack to keep you fulfilled while you heal after surgery!
The hospital will provide you with fiber-rich foods to ease constipation and lots of liquids, but again at nighttime – especially if you plan to breastfeed – you’d want to have your postpartum snacks available too.
All of the above snacks are good for after a C-section too.
You’d especially want to pack nourishing liquids like bone broth and smoothie pouches. Plus, add some comforting options like banana bread or your favorite muffins.
Hospital Snacks For Dad
Honestly, I wouldn’t worry much about packing extra snacks for your husband, doula or other support person.
If you choose snacks from different categories for yourself, those would work just as fine for your husband too.
That being said, if your husband has special preferences or diet restricitons, it’s best to pack some of his favorite snacks too. You’ll want him to be happy and around at the most important moments so that he can show you the support you need.
Here are some ideas of the best hospital bag snacks for dad to keep your husband’s energy up and tantrums down in the labor room:
- Energy bars
- His favorite cookies
- Fruit leathers
And of course, don’t forget to pack a hospital bag for dad too!
One Last Thing
Packing snacks for labor and delivery is one of the best ways to be prepared in case of a long hospital stay.
Look at the list above and choose snacks to give you a pick-me-up between contractions.
And don’t forget snacks for afterward, when all the hard work is done and there’s finally time to rest – consider your favorite snack ever to savor every bite of relief. You’ll deserve it!
Finally, when you’re back from the hospital with your bundle of joy, the last thing you’d want to worry about is cooking. Have some premade meals ready in the freezer. Also, check Hello Fresh reviews for the times you’d want to have meals delivered.
Thinking of a perfect snack for labor that’s not on this list? Share with us in the comments for other expecting moms to consider!