There are certainly basics when it comes to packing a hospital bag like clothes to bring baby home in & chargers for your phones & devices. This list is not quite that. As an experienced doula, these are the tools that I recommend you bring to make your hospital room comfy & cozy and to help make your labor easier & help with pain relief. I have also included items that will be helpful for immediate postpartum.
If you have hired a doula, you may not need to bring many of these items as they may supply them. But it can never hurt to ask. And if you do not have a doula than you will definitely want to check out this list!
And doulas, I have included a special part of the list for you too! All of these items, besides the gown, socks & perineum spray & balm, are found in my own doula bag. But there are a few items, listed at the end that would be really helpful for just doulas to carry in their bag.
AND this list is not just for hospital births. It is handy to have these items for a home birth or birth center birth as well!
All of these items are tried & true by either me, my clients, or both! In my seven years of doing this work, there have been many things that I have cut from my bag but these items have stood the test of time.
I have included links for you to purchase these items. If you buy from the link provided for the items listed on Amazon, you help financially support me, so it is always appreciated!
For Families & Doulas:
1. A heating pad. I cannot emphasize this item enough. It is probably the most used item from my doula bag. It can be used on your back or under your belly to help with the intensity of contractions. I have had clients use it in the car (if they have appropriate outlets) while in transit to the hospital, use it in triage while we waited to be admitted, and of course used it while laboring in the hospital rooms. And it is a great tool postpartum as well. It is helpful with that postpartum cramping as well as an achy back from the horrible beds. Just know that a hospital will not let you use an extension cord with one. And you cannot use it if you have an epidural. This is the one I use and love!: Sunbeam Heating Pad
2. A rebozo. This is a traditional Mexican garment. Around the world, a rebozo is used in the birth space for many things. It is a handy item to have on hand to help with belly sifting, "shake the apples", and supported squatting. I usually recommend a 78 inch rebozo if you will just use it for birth, as I find it less bulky and easier to work with. But if you order a bigger size, it can be made into a ring sling by ordering the rings from my recommended vendor & following this link for a no-sew ring sling tutorial. I order my rebozos from this site, as they sell authentic rebozos: Lola My Love.
3. Knee pads. Labor involves lots of movement and many times when women are given no instruction, they instinctively lean, which means there will probably be lots of hands and knees. This is not super comfortable for your knees after a while. I recommend these certain knee pads as they are separate, no one long unit. Meaning you have a lot more options when it comes to using them! You can find them here, yoga knee pads.
4. A fan. Labor is hard work. And hormones can make you feel extra hot. Plus, if you plan on laboring in a tub or shower, you will absolutely get hot. A fan comes in handy. I recommend a stroller fan for the simple fact that it is bendy and can go anywhere! You can prop it up on the side of the tub. Wrap it around the bed rail. Hang it from an IV pole. And it is battery operated, so no need to worry about outlets. Bonus, it can be used on your stroller once baby arrives! You can purchase it by following this link: stroller fan.
5. TENS unit. This may not be for everyone but for some it is a great pain relief option. When applied to your back, the TENS uses electrical stimulation to help you deal with the intensity of labor. In my experience, this is very helpful with back labor (but know that you should be trying position work to get baby into better position and rid yourself of the back labor, this just helps in the meantime). And it can be a great option for laboring in the car if you are not able to have anyone do hands on techniques during your drive to the hospital. This is a link to the TENS unit I have & love.
6. A bluetooth speaker. To make the space calm, many women love to listen to music or relaxing tracks. A bluetooth speaker is an amazing tool in helping to ensure music can be heard throughout the room and over running water, if you are using the shower. This also keeps you from having to constantly drag your phone around. And there are many water proof options, making it safe to use in the steamy bathrooms if you labor in the shower. Bonus, get one with a strap and hang it from an IV pole! This is a link to purchase: wireless speaker
7. LED tea lights. Creating a calm space starts with great lighting. These little LED candles are perfect. They are safe to use in the hospital and easy to move around. I love to use them in the bathroom, to create a cave-like experience while laboring on the toilet or if the tub or shower are being used. This is the link where you can purchase the ones I use and love: LED tea lights
8. Essential oil diffuser. Another great idea for creating a calm space is to diffuse essential oils. This is not something for everyone as some people are very sensitive to smells. And you want to use safe oils, like lavender, that will be ok once baby arrives. I try to keep a diffuser contained to the bathroom or far away from where baby will be once they arrive. I also suggest smelling the oils in the bottle for a while before putting them into the diffuser, as you may not like them while in labor. Diffusing oils makes it very hard to remove them from the room, so you want to ensure you can tolerate them before diffusing them. Even if you do not like diffusing oils, the changing lights from my tried and true diffuser can be calming all on their own! To purchase, follow this link: essential oil diffuser.
9. Delivery gown. Many women do not prefer to wear hospital gowns. They are large, unflattering, and they make some feel like a sick patient. If you want to bring your own gown, Frida Mom makes a super comfy one. I strongly recommend this over another popular plain gown sold on Amazon, as these snaps at the shoulder come all the way undone on the Frida Mom gown. The other gown does not, which makes it impossible to come off if you have an IV. The color is dark enough to cover up stains but cute enough to not feel like you are a hospital patient. Heck, maybe grab a few! They make great nursing gowns too. To purchase, follow this link: Frida Mom Delivery Gown
10. Non-skid socks. The hospital will provide socks. They are quite large, not the most flattering. There is a huge array of ones available online now that are cute. The plus side, you can wear them postpartum at the hospital in place of slippers (which may actually be pretty slippery on hospital floors) and when you get home (so much easier than taking slippers or flip flops on and off before getting into bed or laying down to nurse). My clients have loved both of these brands: Merino Wool Grip Socks & Kindred Bravely Non-Slip Socks
11. Water bottle with a straw. I know, the hospital also provides these as well. But some do not like plastic. And some prefer water bottles that will fit into a cup holder. If you want to bring your own, that will keep your drinks cold & can keep your straw tucked away when not using, this is one I absolutely love! Follow the link to purchase: Klean Kanteen 16 oz Tumbler
12. Massage tools. Labor is hard work. I know I already stated this but it is important enough to repeat! Muscles get strained and tired. And many women love to have their backs massaged during contractions. This is one tool my clients have loved, follow this link to purchase: Roller Ball Massage Tool
13. Combs. Holding a comb in your hand, with the bristles pressing into the bottom of your fingers can help with pain relief in labor. You will want a sturdy comb & it is smart to buy two, one for each hand! My favorite combs are listed here, click the link to purchase: Wooden Combs
14. Tincture for after-birth pains. Cramping after baby is born is completely normal. It is actually healthy! It means your uterus is clamping back down to original size and in turn that helps control postpartum bleeding. The more babies you have, the more cramping you can expect. These herbal tinctures are helpful, especially when used with a heating pad on your belly. The one that I carry is from Forest & Meadow, you purchase it here: Postpartum Relief Tincture . My clients have also really liked this Wish Garden tincture, this is the link to purchase: AfterEase Tincture. (As a doula it is never my place to recommend herbal supplements. It is my place to let you know they exist as an option. Please do your own research to see what you are comfortable with & discuss with your care provider.)
15. Perineum care items. The hospital does provide Tucks pads. But if you would like to go one step further, I recommend bringing an herbal spray and balm. The herbs contained in these products will help promote healing & keep you as comfortable as possible. If you would like to support a small, local business, Forest & Meadow carries a wonderful product, found here: Perineal Salve & Perineal Spray . If you would prefer to order through Amazon, Earth Mama has a great option and you can buy it in a set, follow this link to purchase: Earth Mama Postpartum Recovery Kit
Doula Bag Items:
These are certainly items that families may find helpful to add to their arsenal, so do not think they are limited to only doulas. It is just my thought that these items may be more cost effective if used by a doula at multiple births.
1. Labor Progress Handbook. This book is brought out of my bag consistently. It is chock full of useful information. To purchase, follow this link: Labor Progress Handbook by Penny Simkin
2. Spinning Babies Quick Reference Guide. This is the most important resource I carry on me. It gets pulled out at every birth in which I believe there to be a dystocia of some kind. My copy is so worn! Click this link to purchase: Quick Reference Guide
3. Honey sticks. I feel like this is an essential for any doula bag. As someone who literally just saw juice save a birth, these can be invaluable. And a great price for 100 organic sticks! Plus, if you bring your own tea bags to births, these can be used to sweeten your tea. Follow this link to purchase: Organic Honey Sticks
4. Long, bendy straws. I LOVE these straws! I carry a few at a time in my bag. They are perfect for clients who have a cup without a straw or are drinking coconut water or juice in a container without a straw. They are long enough to reach to the bottom of big water bottles. But also work well to reach women who are situated in a way that is hard to reach or sitting all the way in the back of a corner tub. And they can be cut down if they are obnoxiously long. Follow this link to purchase: Extra Long Straws