Hey Momma! I’m sure you’re doing a fabulous job of remaining optimistic and calm in these final weeks of pregnancy. If you’re anything like me, you are also working diligently to create lists for each type of birth bag you might need. Mom bag. Partner bag. Baby bag. Labor bag. Bathroom bag…
You don’t really need a whole lot in your birth bag in a hospital or birth center and your midwife will give you a handy list for the things you’ll need at your home birth. As I’ve said before, buy knowledge and support. I’d say pack your support, but your doula probably won’t fit in your bag.
I recommend packing two bags. One birth bag for your labor and another bag with clothes and toiletries for postpartum. Grab the labor bag when you arrive at the hospital and leave the postpartum bag in the car. Your partner will have plenty of time to get it later. Also, because I’ve eliminated several of the common “hospital bag” items from this list, I thought you might be interested to learn why they are removed. Full disclosure at the bottom of this post.
And now, The List:
1. Your Birth Team
During your appointments and doula meetings, discuss with your team how you would like them to support you on The Big Day. As the days get closer, be sure to communicate with your team if you’re feeling a little crampy or maybe you’re seeing some bloody show (we like to save the nastiest words for the miracle of birth). If you’re inviting a birth photographer (which is a SPECTACULAR idea, I might add) you’ll want to give her a bit of a heads up also. You can expect that your doula to bring a notebook and some physical comfort tools (this could include simply her hands & massage oil, tennis balls, rice bags, etc). Every doula is different
2. Logistical Stuff
In our previous post (pregnancy stuff), I suggested you purchase a small planner to document appointments, provider recommendations, baby name ideas, etc. It might be a good idea to bring this with you to jot down thoughts from your birth experience, recommendations from your provider, things to research, and people you’d like to thank later. Toss that sucker in your birth bag.
ID & Insurance card:
If you’re planning a hospital birth, it would be a fabulous idea to pre-register online so you don’t have to hassle with it, but there’s always the chance that Alice at the front desk will be confused and force you to pull out your ID in the middle of a contraction. You don’t even need it in a bag-throw your purse at your partner on the way to the car.
It’s possible that you’ve reached out to the Google machine and whipped up a list of stuff you want to happen (or not happen) on The Big Day. It’s a good idea to have this ongoing conversation with your care provider from Day 1. In a beautiful fantasy land, she will sign it to show it’s legit and then the nurses will read it thoroughly and optimistically follow it. You might even approach it with the idea of “Care Preferences” rather than a formal plan. Make several copies. Ask that your provider scan it into the computer system before your birth. Review it with your entire birth team regardless if you’re having a hospital or home birth. As always, recognize that things change and birth (and parenting) is often about being flexible.
Don’t forget the camera! Ohhh who are we kidding, even if you forget the real camera, you have your phone. And your birth photographer. But seriously, buy an extra charger to keep packed in the labor bag so you don’t forget it and just grab your phones when you leave the house.
3. Personal Health & Comfort
It’s important to feed your body real food with iron, protein, and probiotics. Foods as close to the dirt as you can get them without the food makers adding a whole bunch of junk. If you’re birthing at home, stock the fridge and prepare some freezer meals. Your doula’s will heat them for you and your family after birth. Consider bringing some of your favorite healthy snacks in your hospital birth bag to devour after birth instead of hospital jello.
Labor is called labor because it’s a workout. I recommend purchasing a really good, one-handed water bottle with a straw. It’s perfect for labor since you’re not going to want to remove a lid and tilt it between each contraction. It’s also nice after your little cherub arrives and you’re nursing with only one free hand (your new normal).
A lot of women spend a lot of brain power concerned about what they’ll wear during labor and birth. To be completely truthful, you can arrive in some yoga pants, a t-shirt, and a loose sports bra (one that you can cut, unbutton, or remove to nurse quickly) and you’ll probably end up 90% naked by the time that baby arrives. It’s nature. You might also want to grab a change of clothes and some swim trunks or a bathing suit for your partner (so he or she can shower with you during labor, if you wish. It might get awkward for the rest of the birth team if your partner is naked…)
Splurge on duplicates and travel size products so everything is already packed and you don’t have to grab your toothbrush on the way out the door. Don’t forget glasses and contacts. and Chapstick. Keep it nearby (or with your doula), you’ll want it during labor and you won’t want to explain to your partner where to find it. Hair ties and headbands. Hair can be verrry distracting during labor. Your doula can help you brush it, braid it, and wipe it out of your face but you may just want to tie it back as your labor progresses.
-Essential Oils and Lotion: People use oils and massage in a variety of ways during labor and postpartum. I would suggest talking to your birth team about your questions related to using oils in labor. Your doula may have some and may also have special training in the use of aromatherapy. Chat with her about it beforehand. Regarding lotion, unscented lotion or coconut oil is best. Our senses change throughout labor and trust me, you don’t want to be stuck with vanilla feet during transition.
4. Home Birth Supplies
Home birth is actually quite clean and since you have so many hands on deck just for you, it’s an easy clean up too. Your midwife is probably the best person to talk to about what you should have readily available at your home, but there are a few must-haves at every home birth.
A lot of them. More than you think you need.
Bowl: Have a large glass bowl available. This is where your midwife will place the placenta until it’s finished doing its job and ready for inspection. She’ll also bring oxygen, medications, and trauma supplies and will need a place to organize all of these items.
Birth Pool: Many families choose water births at home. Some families choose to prepare the bed instead. I’d prepare both. This means waterproof bed liners, birth pool with liner, a long hose, a bucket, Chux pads, and a big ‘ol tarp. Also, you’re in luck. We have two beautiful birth pools available right here at Ovo through our buy-back program. Shoot Lisa a message to learn more about how it works.
5. Baby Stuff
babies just need to be warm, but they shouldn’t be so bundled that they’re not safe in the car seat. Bring 2 sizes just in case.
We highly recommend the Chicco (pronounced Kee-Koh) Keyfit and so do a boatload of other people. Connect with a fire station to install it before birth.
Birth Bag Items you DON’T need:
laptop: you’ll have your phone
bras: research has shown that being free as a bird is best for successful breastfeeding initiation
hard candies/lozenges: your doula will likely have hard candies or honey if you’re feeling like you need something for energy, distraction, or nausea.
prepaid calling cards: because it’s not 1990.
your pillow: you’ll use a b’gillion pillows for sleeping, nursing, & bed-sharing. Just dirty theirs so you come home to a nice, clean pillow that smells like you.
pads: the hospital will provide you with whatever you need. People joke about the mesh underwear but I’ve heard many moms say they looooove them.
bath towel: see pillows^
hair dryer: I don’t even know what to say about this. no. you don’t need a hair dryer.
breast pump: the lactation counselors can teach you how to use the pump at the hospital without seeing yours. You won’t need to pump using your own for several weeks. If you need to pump at the hospital, they have hospital grade pumps and parts for you.
nipple creams: use your own breastmilk on them instead and work with a lactation counselor to ensure your baby has a proper latch
magazines and books: you’ll be busy staring at your kid. If it’s a long induction, sleep or have your partner grab you one from the lobby.
cute outfits and onesies: you only need one pair of footie pajamas for the drive home because he’ll be doing skin to skin with you the rest of the time.
baby book: if you want footprints, simply bring a small piece of cardstock to tape into your book. You can tuck it in your planner.
blanket: The hospital or birth center will send you home with one, plus your partner will pick you up at the front door so you won’t be walking in the weather
manicure kit: your kid might be born with long nails. slide some baby socks on those paws and you’re good to go. The hospital should have some socks or onesies with sleeves/mits. Clip nails at home or use your teeth. (yeah. I said it.)
As I’ve said before, if you want to buy something, buy knowledge and support.
These are the must-have birth bag items in my book. You’ve likely heard about the abundance of stuff that exists but I like to keep it simple and prioritize what’s really important in the beginning. Sure there are other items that were handy, but certainly not critical.
Lisa Groon is a certified birth doula and lactation counselor and feels passionately about the concept of building a community to support families during the incredibly challenging and rewarding journey of parenting. Lisa loves to laugh and you’ll inevitably be greeted with a big hug and a little sass. She enjoys staying busy and spends much of her time chasing her two adorable little boys with her exhausted husband Jason.