During prenatals, I often discuss with my families some of the things they may want to have in their bags when it comes close to baby-time. As we talk, those lists become very personal and occasionally rather lengthy. In addition, there are so many lists online, as well as the homebirth kit supply lists that midwives have….it can easily get overwhelming. However, as I help more and more families, I have seen that it really boils down to a few absolute essentials. Nurses and birth attendants (and of course, doulas!) can take care of anything else, honestly, as long as you make sure you have:
Food and Drink
If you’ve packed those essentials, you can do this. I’ll explain why:
I love the usefulness in one simple phone these days…my clients stream music, keep soon-to-be grandparents happily updated, track their contractions, zone out to a card game or scrolling through Facebook, order non-cafeteria food through UberEats, and photo-journal their precious memories. Those devices can make labor easier, more pleasant, and more connected, and KNOWING that you have a spare charging cord already packed lowers stress significantly.
While birth is a highly physical activity, it is also one that thrives in the greatest level of comfort possible. And no one is comfortable with their bum hanging out in the wind from a flappy, scratchy hospital gown. When talking with mothers about what they might want to wear while laboring, I recommend looking for things that are:
- as close to their everyday jammies as possible.
- made of soft fabrics.
- are non-binding.
- come on and off easily—you will be using the bathroom a good bit, and when the baby is born, you will want easy access for breastfeeding.
- something you don’t mind your father-in-law seeing you in. (Not that he WILL, necessarily, but birthing rooms at hospitals don’t exactly have the highest levels of privacy, with nurses, midwives, doctors, anesthesiologists, cafeteria workers, or cleaning staff making their entries.)
- easily washable. Birth gets messy, so find things that you don’t mind using bleach on.
- Layers. It is normal to be alternatively hot and cold as labor progresses, so being able to add or throw off layers is really nice.
Food and Drink
Birth is a marathon event, requiring physical strength and endurance. You absolutely need to stay nourished (as long as your stomach is willing to work with you) in order to keep going. I’ve written before about how I’ve watched the bit of sugar from honey help labors, but I use that as a last resort. Keeping some protein handy will help your muscles continue to work well and with strength. In addition, a few new flavors through the time of labor can also be a wonderful distraction. There are even some studies starting to suggest that eating and drinking as desired has been a factor in shortening length of labor.
But I’ll be honest, one of the reasons why I ask families to pack plenty of easy-to-grab, high-protein snacks, is also for whoever else is supporting Mom through labor. I’ll never forget the wonderful first-time dad who nearly passed out while helping his wife, because his own blood sugar was too low and he’d been pretty active while taking care of her. When he went white as a sheet, I dove into their hospital bag, looking for food, and could only find a few bananas. It helped get him back quickly, but the simple carbs weren’t going to hold him for long, and he ended up needing some of my trail mix.
Keeping a favorite water bottle, and any drink mixes that you prefer, can also be an important key in a healthy birth. Besides the typical benefits of staying energized, and continuing to replace amniotic fluid, staying very well hydrated can drastically impact your labor pattern. I was at a birth where Mom was dealing with contractions right on top of each other–every two minutes or so–and she wasn’t able to really catch her breath in between. She had been sipping a bit at her water, but the nurses were watching her try to relax before working with the next contraction, and asked if they could please run a bag of simple IV fluids. She agreed, and after getting a liter of saline into her, those contractions spaced out to an even five minutes, and she got some rest in between. It was a dramatic difference, and ever since, I have been more careful than ever to make sure that water bottle is just the way the Mother likes it, close by, and offered to her frequently.
There are about three hundred other items that can make labor and birth easier or more comfortable, but if you have these basics, you are going to be pretty well covered. Be at peace–you can do this.