Welcome back to the Birthing Bestie blog, where we talk about real topics pertaining to pregnancy, birth, parenthood, partnerships, and just real life. Here on the blog, we don’t shy away from talking about the hardships of parenthood. Instead, we encourage, validate, listen, and welcome you with open arms.
Today is for the doulas. I am recently coming off of a long birth and I thought it would be a really good time to share with you what I pack in my doula bag. Now, I know that there are tons of resources out there for doulas who are wondering what they should bring with them when they go to a birth, and of course, it varies from person to person and location to location. If you are attending a birth in a birthing center versus home versus a hospital, you might bring different things with you.
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Here’s the video for you, Mama!
And to be super transparent with you guys, my birth bag, as you can see, is a hefty one, and I’ve not cleaned it out in a long time… I always tell myself “After this next birth I’m going to reorganize this and I’m going to get it in better shape than it is”. But you know what? I figured this was a great time to show up authentically as a doula and show what kind of chaos I bring with me inside my birth bag.
For me personally, as most of you probably know, I primarily attend births in the hospital, and with that, I rely on the fact that the hospital has just about any and everything that I feel like I need to be able to support a client there. So I don’t bring a whole lot of things specifically for supporting my clients.
I know that hospitals have birthing balls, they have peanut balls, they have ice, they have gloves, they have showers, and things for hydrotherapy, baths, and heating pads… they really have any and everything that I feel like I need. And if they don’t have something I feel like I need, it’s always fun to get a little creative.
I do have a rebozo that I will show you, but even if I don’t have it with me, or if it just feels like I need something quick in the moment, I use the hospital sheets. Truly, I think that hospitals have any and everything that I personally have ever needed to help support clients through birth.
So a lot of what you’re going to see in my mess of a doula bag are things that are for me. These are things that I want or might need for myself through the labor process.
Not pictured here: snacks and drinks. These are probably the most important things that I bring with me.
I always bring My giant water bottle, and I always bring coffee. I also usually have a little lunchbox packed with snacks. For me, when I think about packing food and water for the hospital, I also will pack some sort of electrolytes.
When I am packing snacks, some things I consider are that it needs to be something I can get to easily so that I can pop some food in my mouth and then be right back with the client. So I’m usually packing something like crackers, trail mix, granola bars, and maybe a banana.
But something else that I’m really considering when I’m packing snacks for a birth is the scent of the snack. I want it to be something that is not going to give off a lot of aroma, whether the laboring person is feeling nauseous or maybe hungry but not feeling like they want to eat, I don’t want to have something that is going to draw attention to the fact that I am eating in front of them.
Of course, we need to sustain ourselves, and with every birth, it’s different for how long you’re there and what type of support/hands-on support it requires. For me, usually, I’m packing snacks that I can quickly toss in my mouth, and chew while I’m supporting, and I don’t really pack a full-on meal.
But I always recommend if it’s a long birth and you’re able to pop out for a bit, get out to the cafeteria or the lobby and actually try to sit down and eat some sort of meal. If I’m able to get out for a meal, I order something to the hospital, or I go down to the cafeteria and try to sit and have food there.
Okay, so into the bag. It’s massive because I, personally, like to have something that can hold anything and everything. I’m a chronic over-packer, and I tell clients this all the time when we’re talking about them packing for the hospital: I would rather have something and not need it or use it than want it and not have it. So that is kind of the model that I go by when I’m packing.
By the way, I got this canvas bag from Ikea (I don’t believe they have it anymore, but here’s a similar one at Walmart) and I mainly got it because of this really cool feature at the bottom, which holds my rebozo. So my rebozo is just rolled up and stuffed in there. You could also put a yoga mat in there if that’s something you want to take to have for your clients. If they wanted to be on the floor at the hospital doing hands and knees or something along those lines.
Typically what I put in these little front pockets are like my phone and my keys, so that when I am leaving my car they’re right here for me to lock my car. I might put my wallet in here, in case the hospital that I’m going to requires ID. Anything that is my own stuff for my personal travel, I pop in here.
Now on the inside of the bag itself, it’s really just an open bag with one pocket.
One thing I always take with me is proof of certification. In a folder, I have my certification, which personally I’ve not had to show, but I always have it just in case. I keep my actual certification here, but also I have copies of it behind here. I also have copies of my proof of insurance, which is really not all that necessary, and not asked about at hospitals, I just have it in case. These are all things that they may or may not request at the hospital.
In this folder, I also have a notebook and a pen, to take notes or jot something down. I’ve had clients request that I note or remember timeframes and specific details about the birth so that at our postpartum visit when we are debriefing the birth, we can get a better idea of what happened when.
I also keep a phone charger because you never know how long you’re going to be at birth. I have a very long charger for overnight births I can charge my phone and actively be on it, potentially, if I’m staying up while everybody’s getting rest.
I also love to take pictures of first moments for clients when they’re first meeting their baby, and I want to make sure that I have the charge on my phone to last for that. So I always have a phone charger (or two).
I have some essential oils. I currently have two lavender, a peppermint, which can help with nausea, and clary sage, which can help when labor kind of stalls out.
I also have tampons. I have been at births before where I needed a tampon or did not pack enough tampons, and believe it or not, the hospital was not able to help me there. So, I feel like if I’m never sure, I’m throwing tons of tampons in my bag in case I need them.
Okay, so other things that I have in my bag that are specifically for me, are a toothbrush, mouthwash, and toothpaste. So if I’m snacking or if I get to pop out for a meal, I try to be very conscious of scents that may or may not bother my clients. When you’re pregnant, usually your sense of smell is heightened, and during labor and delivery, we’re taking a lot of deep breaths together, so I am just conscious of when/if I eat something, I don’t want that scent to stay on me.
And again, if it’s a long birth, especially, it’s nice to run to the bathroom and freshen up a little bit. So I have always have a toothbrush, toothpaste, and mouthwash there with me.
Along the same lines, I have, I don’t know why, but three, different deodorants at my disposal. For the same reason– freshening up.
Being a doula and being at births that are unmedicated and require a lot of physical support, things can get heated, so freshening up always feels good. And at those heavily physically supported births, I sweat a lot because I’m working hard to support the mom who is working so hard. It just gets warm in the room, and body heat transfers.
So when I’m hands-on with mom, we’re just working hard together, and so for the sake of trying to not smell bad and being so close to a pregnant person, being able to freshen up is so nice. Three deodorants are probably overkill, but like I said, we’ve not cleaned this out in a while.
Poopouri, again, extra protection to have on the go, being able to have something with me if I need to use the restroom- I’m covered there. I also have makeup remover wipes. So again, this goes back to just freshening up and trying to feel good.
Lotion. Hospitals are so, so, so, so dry. So lotion, and chapstick are huge ones. I usually have five or six different chapsticks floating around somewhere because again, hospitals are so dry.
Business cards. I really enjoy working with the hospital staff, and I have made really great connections… sometimes with the front desk staff who knows someone who might want to become a doula or who wants a doula for their own birth. I always have some business cards on hand just in case someone inquires I have something I can give them.
I have this little gift that I got from a client one time that’s just a little heart keepsake. It says “blessed”. It’s a good keepsake to keep in my doula bag just to remind myself that I’m being watched over, my clients are being watched over, and I am truly blessed to do this work.
And this is how I pack my doula bag. Just about everything in here is for me. I don’t have a whole lot that I intentionally bring for clients. I’m really packing to make sure that I have everything I need because when I leave for a birth, I don’t know when I’ll be home again.
In my opinion, the most important things are for freshening up, keeping my phone charged, and staying on top of hydration and nutrition. Those are the main things that I bring with me to births. Hospitals truly have anything and everything else that you might want or need to benefit your clients as they labor.
I’d love for you to share with me what you have in your doula bag. What am I missing? Slide into my DMs on Instagram @ebbirthing or reach out to me via email at email@example.com. Let me know what I’m missing. What can I pack to even be better set myself up for a birth?
All right, until next time, doulas, wishing you happy, easy, butter birthing.