Birth Doulas Share Their Top Tips For Packing A Hospital Labour Bag

Here's what you'll need.
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If there’s one thing that’s certain about birth, it’s that it’s unpredictable.

Until contractions begin, it’s impossible to know what they’re going to feel like or how you’re going to react.

You might normally be a massage enthusiast but find that at some point in labour you’d rather not have anyone touch you. Or perhaps you carefully curate an inspiring playlist but discover that what you need in the moment is silence.

If you hire a birth doula, they will be prepared with a host of skills and a bag of tricks to help you manage your labour.

A birth doula is someone who provides non-medical support to a person in labour.

Unlike a doctor, midwife or nurse, a doula will remain by your side throughout your entire labour and may suggest different positions to labour in or provide counter-pressure on your back to relieve the pain of contractions, for example.

If you are planning a hospital or birth centre delivery, a doula will usually meet you at home and accompany you to the hospital or birth centre.

“I always bring calm, positivity and encouragement to the atmosphere,” Kali King, owner of Divine Peace Doulas in Virginia, told HuffPost.

JC Coley, of New U Holistic Therapies and Doula Services in Atlanta, told HuffPost that most hospitals in the US now provide a number of helpful items, from peanut balls to plain washcloths that can be used as a cold compress on the forehead.

While knowing how to use these tools is useful, when it comes to doula work, “the majority of the time it’s my hands,” she said. Labour support might mean firm counter-pressure, gentle massage or simply a reassuring touch.

In addition to their skilled hands, here are some things King and Coley bring with them when they attend a birth:

  • A mini air pump, to give maximum buoyancy to hospital exercise balls without having to rely on the hospital to find a pump.
  • Cleaning wipes.
  • Essential oils. At home, a diffuser can be used with oils. Coley mentioned using lavender for meditation, peppermint for clarity, tea tree as a natural antiseptic and orange “to uplift the mood.”
  • Eye and eye gel masks.
  • Hot and cold packs.
  • A pool noodle cut in half, to roll on the labouring person’s back during contractions.
  • Handheld fan.
  • Hand lotion.
  • Comb.
  • Bandage scissors, for cutting off bracelets or cutting tape. Coley said she sometimes uses tape to cover up an IV port if the sight of it is bothering someone.
  • A copy of the client’s birth plan.
  • A marker, to jot down a “quick note, a phone number or just words of encouragement,” Coley said.
  • A blood pressure cuff and thermometer, for use at home.

And here are some of the things that they suggest their clients pack in their hospital bag:

  • A copy of your birth plan.
  • Insurance cards or other important documents.
  • Clothes that will be comfortable to labour in, if you’d prefer them to a hospital gown. Coley recommended bringing a robe for “that little bit of comfort.” King suggested pyjamas as well as socks or slippers for roaming the halls.
  • Healthy snacks for you and your partner.
  • Toiletries.
  • Prescription medications, in their original containers. (Coley recommended not bringing any over-the-counter medications that you take regularly, such as aspirin, as the hospital will be carefully keeping track of all the medications you receive there.)
  • Playlist of music to listen to, poetry or anything else that will help you relax, King suggested.
  • A photo or other meaningful object “to use as a focal point,” Coley suggested. It might be a photo of a child, another relative or someone who has died that you can use “to help you focus and bring that centre to you.”
  • Hair elastics or a clip to hold your hair back.
  • Flip flops or shower shoes.
  • Comfortable clothes for you to wear home.
  • A nursing tank or dress that allows you to feed the baby easily and comfortably.
  • Pads for your nursing bra or camisole tank.
  • A going home outfit for the baby, if you like.
  • Chargers for phones or other electronics. “I have witnessed many clients forget about that in a rush,” King said.

If you’re headed to the hospital or birth centre, here are some things you can leave at home:

  • Jewellery, which you might have to remove in case of certain medical procedures.
  • A bra. A regular bra will be useless if you’re nursing.

Finally, Coley recommended that you install the carseat and keep your hospital bag in the car in the weeks leading up to your due date.

Though no one can tell you exactly what your labour and delivery will be like, you can feel confident and prepared by asking questions of your provider and your doula, if you have one.

Coley suggested that you also use this opportunity to talk with your mother or other relatives about what their labours were like.

Your own labour could be similar, and the conversation can be “a bonding moment.” You will likely find that people are eager to share their birth stories and are excited that soon you will have one of your own.