What do you REALLY need to pack in your birth bag?
Are you wondering what to pack in your birth bag for your hospital or birth center birth?
In this blog post, I’m going to share with you my top ten must-haves for your birth bag.
One of the most common questions I get from parents is about what to pack in their birth bag. This is for families who are planning a hospital birth and for those planning a birth center birth. Although some of the details might be a little different depending on your birth place, read on for some mindful ideas and insights about what you really need to be prepared for birth.
Nourishment is a key ingredient to any successful journey. Birth is a journey of a lifetime, no matter how you choose to birth! The average length of labor for a first time parent is somewhere between 18-24 hours. Can you imagine keeping your body strong, full of energy and resilience, for that length of time without some kind of nourishment?
Eating and drinking is incredibly important in labor. I have a podcast episode all about eating and drinking in labor, so I won’t get overly deep into the details here because you can go find that episode on your own and listen. It’s mostly common sense. I hear ALL THE TIME from parents that as soon as they enter the hospital they are told that they can’t eat anything but they can have water or liquids. There is a VAST body of evidence and research that shows that the nothing-by-mouth policy is outdated and dangerous for birthing people and babies. Even the professional association of anesthesiologists has come out and said that “most people would benefit from light snacking during labor.”
Be sure to pack snacks in your birth bag!
Most people don’t want to each much towards the end of labor, or during most of active labor in general. Typically, I see parents eat small snacks of easily digestible proteins and carbohydrates. This includes foods like fruit, Greek yogurt, crackers, broth, oatmeal, protein bars or bites, electrolyte drinks, and others. When we say “eating during labor,” it’s really mostly these small snacks that can actually go a long way towards providing the blood sugar and energy boost needed to keep muscles working well. Your uterus is a muscle, so let’s treat it like one.
One of the most common things I see happen is that parents will start early labor with some light contractions that are very manageable. Of course, they’re really excited that their labor is starting. They’re going to meet their baby! It’s the highly anticipated moment, and it can be filled with excitement and yet anxiety of the unknown. How is it going to feel? How intense is it going to get? Can I do it? How long is it going to take? Those are all common feelings.
It probably sounds overly simplistic to say this, but it’s important to pack energy in your birth bag!
Oftentimes parents start early labor and feel like they need to do ALL THE THINGS. They’re walking and walking to try to get labor started. They try every exercise possible to bring their baby down. They’re hitting up every appointment and getting all their errands done. Parents may also want to start or finish projects.
There’s definitely something to be said for ignoring early labor and not overly focusing on it. But what I see a lot is that parents exhaust themselves in early labor by trying to make things happen. Sometimes they’ve lost an entire night of sleep before active labor even starts. It’s really rough, I’ve been there! So, I’m speaking to you and also myself!
This is why I feel that energy is so important to pack in your birth bag. When early labor starts, try to get as much rest as you can in a way that feels good to you. Don’t overly focus on it. Ignore it and enjoy yourself until you can’t ignore it any longer. There are a few special scenarios where it may be prudent to try to make things happen, but in the vast majority of labors it is best to rest. Pack lots of energy into that birth bag!
8. Ideas not Ideologies
One of the foundational exercises I do with families is called the dreams and desires spiral. We work together so that you can become the center of the spiral in pregnancy and birth. I work with parents to come up with their big ideas, or principles, for their birth as an inner guidance system to support their decision-making process. When you come up with your big ideas for birth, you can use these ideas to guide your decisions no matter where your birth journey leads you.
Ideologies, on the other hand, are divisive and can actually be harmful. They limit our view of what is possible, and lead us into making fear-based decisions. Focus on creating what you WANT to have happen, instead of planning your birth from a place of what you DON’T want. What do you really want but are afraid to ask for? How do you want to feel? Start there.
We talk a lot about the physical and physiological process of birth. In our culture, it’s becoming more and more popular to attend to the physical body in pregnancy and birth. More people are seeing chiropractors, getting body work, using exercises and techniques and other physical support ideas to help them have a healthy birth. I think that’s all good and absolutely amazing. Your body is your temple and should be treated as such. You can’t be too prepared, honestly.
However, I think we’re losing the idea that birth is a very intensely spiritual experience. When I say spirituality, it’s really an all encompassing term. For some people, it’s a god or goddess. For others, it’s energy or vibrations. Sometimes spirituality involves religion, culture, mindfulness, or some other type of connection with a divine spirit or being.
As birth moved into the hospital environment, it became recognized as a fully medical event. Each step of the process is treated as a machine, being measured, analyzed, tracked, and monitored. Everyone focuses on the machines, monitors, and numbers, rather than attending to the lived holistic experience of the person. When I walk into a birth in a hospital, I make it my goal to not look at the “machines” in the room.
I encourage you to consider packing some kind of spirituality in your birth bag.
This could mean a million different things. You might think about calling on some of your family traditions or rituals, your personal faith, mindfulness, or your own personal sense of connection and grounding. See if you can bring elements of that into your birth experience.
This might sound like an odd thing to add to the list. Hormones, especially oxytocin, are the drivers of the birth process. When you pack your birth bag, you want to consider packing anything you might need that can help boost your oxytocin in your birth space.
Oxytocin is the hormone of love. It provides those good vibrations, feelings of love and connection, and feelings of joy and cosmic consciousness. Along with other hormones, it helps drive the uterine contractions in labor. It also helps your uterus contract after birth to prevent excess bleeding. Boosting your natural oxytocin levels can be incredibly important in supporting a healthy and low-risk birth.
Consider what you can bring in your birth bag as you plan your experience.
Comforting touch, cuddling, massage, music, loving words, a calm and dimly lit environment, and many many other strategies can help boost your oxytocin for birth.
5. Childbirth Education
Let’s face it, you really can’t be too prepared to bring another human into this world. I think that information overload is real, but it’s important to carefully consider the quality and the biases within the information we receive.
There are a wide variety of childbirth courses available. As an educator, I’ve offered a few different types of courses to meet different needs. Many people sign up for the hospital based childbirth courses, simply because it’s free information (they’re usually free, in my experience).
However, I want to put some caution to this. Hospital based courses are generally taught from the perspective of preparing you to know what to expect as a patient. They want you to understand their policies, procedures, and protocols. They kind of want to teach you how to prepare to be a good patient so they can follow their standard of care.
Be sure to pack neutral childbirth education in your birth bag!
I can’t speak for all hospital based courses. I can only speak for what I have seen. What I have seen is that these courses don’t offer you any information on how to make choices that are right for you, how to advocate for informed consent and advocate for your birth plan, and how to feel HEARD in the birth process. They’re also VERY light on preparing you for what to truly expect in birth, and they teach very little at all about physiologic birth. You need REAL childbirth education that is free from the bias of the hospital provider.
4. A Doula
This is basically a personal plug, but I will continue to show up and preach this. Be sure to pack a doula in your birth bag! The reality is that the majority of parents could walk off into the woods and birth their baby without any problem. You’re not a damsel in distress, and I’m not here to rescue you from birth. I can’t do it for you, but I can support your sacred space as you move boldly through the gates of birth.
However, when you’re entering a system that is not set up to help you succeed, you need a sage to ride with you through that experience. As your doula, I’m 100% invested in you. I am in total solidarity with you, and I serve your family as an advocate. I go where you go, and I follow your lead. As a doula, I am your witness as you move through the transformational journey of birth.
3. A Trusted Caregiver
One of the most important things you can be prepared with is a trusted caregiver. This means a doctor or midwife who you 100% trust to support you in pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. Your caregiver should be totally on board with your birth plan. It’s important to be in solidarity with whomever you are entrusting with your care. You have to have a bond of trust. In birth, you open up to your most vulnerable and yet most powerful place in your life. Your energy field is fully open in cosmic consciousness. How can you open up at that level if you don’t trust the person caring for you?
The bond of trust unfolds in many ways, and that’s for you to determine as you feel called to do so. Our primal makeup calls us to birth in a safe and trusting place to support the natural unfolding of the process. It affects how your hormones flow in labor, and can affect the progress of labor and your satisfaction with your experience. Never birth with someone who isn’t 100% invested in you that you truly trust with your family’s care.
2. Circle of Support
In our culture, so many families lack a solid circle of support. We have all been isolated from each other and deprived of the village we need to thrive. I love the idea of having a village, but I don’t necessarily want the village idiot in my circle (do you get what I mean? You don’t need to accept everyone’s help if it’s not your cup of tea.).
In pregnancy, birth, and postpartum, it’s incredibly important to develop a circle of support who can help support you as the center of the spiral. In your birth bag, be sure to pack your circle of support. Your circle of support are the people who are 100% invested in you, who support you fully, who are there fully and show up for you, and they want to see you succeed and be well.
Be sure to pack your circle of support in your hospital or birth center birth bag!
Your support circle might include a network of friends, relatives, or professionals. It could be members of your immediate family. It could be a support group. Perhaps it could be a group of local parents. It might be support professionals such as mental health support, holistic wellness support, or a postpartum doula.
Decide who is in your circle. Determine who you need to show up for you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and stand up for what you need.
Intuition is your sense of inner knowing. It’s your inner guidance system. It’s the feeling you get in your gut when you’re making a decision or taking action. Intuition is your inner voice. It’s communication with the divine consciousness, accepting a message from yourself.
Intuition is one of the most important things you can pack in your birth bag.
In a previous podcast episode, I took a deep dive into the science of intuition. It is an evidence-based tool that you can use to guide your decision-making process. It’s the synergy of art and science.
However, intuition is like a muscle. The truth is, most of us live really disconnected lives and have little experience trusting our intuition. If you don’t make that connection and practice tapping into your intuition and using it during pregnancy, it’s going to be really hard to use it in birth. Pregnancy is the perfect time of openness and spiritual awakening to practice getting in touch with your intuition.
When you’re faced with a decision or need to make a choice in birth, you can always ask yourself, “What is my intuition telling me? How do I really feel about this? What is my inner guidance telling me?”
Connect with me!
It’s my joy to share this insight with you from my perspective as a holistic doula, childbirth educator, and parent. Now that you know what you need to be prepared for birth, let’s fill that birth bag with an arsenal of skills, tools, and mindsets you need for a confident, peaceful, and powerful birth.
Check out my self-paced online childbirth education course called the Ultimate Holistic Birth Course: How to Have a Confident, Peaceful, and Powerful Natural Birth. Enroll today and you’ll receive instant, unlimited, and lifetime access to holistic childbirth education. This course teaches you everything you need to know to birth with peaceful strength and confidence, knowing what to expect each step of the way for a comfortable, joyful, and gentle birth experience. Sign up today and use code FOLLOWYOUROWNCOMPASS for 50% off the course in June! Check it out at www.holistic-childbirth-education.thinkific.com!