9 Essential “Must Haves” for Your Birth

I posted this question on Facebook:

Mama and baby waterbirth“People ask us what to bring to their birth center birth or to have at their home birth. What is the one thing at your birth that helped you the most?” The women who responded had a wide variety of answers, but there were some common themes.

1. The Right People

The most often mentioned essential item for a great birth was some sort of support person or team of support people. Having great support, the comfort of loving touch, and words of encouragement are so important for a great birth.

“Someone whose sole job is to remind me how strong I am and that my body was made for this work.”
– Chrysta N.

“To me, all that mattered was having my people around me and knowing I was in the safest, best environment possible.”
– Liz C.

“…the most important ‘thing’ was not a ‘thing’ it was the words spoken to me and around me, the touch given to me in the form of comfort and support (sometimes literally holding me up) and the countenance of those in the room…the loving smiles and the shared joy once the baby arrived…just like with a newborn baby, lots of ‘things’ aren’t necessary for birth…it is far more important to choose your ‘company’ wisely.”
– Carrie B.

Think about who you want at your birth. Support can come from many sources, but everyone present should, ideally, support your choices and help you feel safe and loved.

  • “My Husband.”

“… all I really wanted was my husband to let me pull his hair or push on him. All the rest was nice, good friends, a good meal afterwards, snacks, a favorite robe, but I didn’t really need those things. The straw and my husband’s hair were what I couldn’t have done without.”
– Kelly H.

“…most of all, my wonderful trusted birth team and the father of my children, love of my life, my strength and my inspiration!”
– Anne S.

“For me the #1 thing was having my rock of support with me (my husband). Everything else could be left at home.”
– Lindi J.

  • Other Family & Friends

“My amazing family helped me the most!”
– Meghan H.

“My daughter. Seriously. From literally the first signs of labor, her snuggles, smiles, energy and love reassured me that every contraction was worth one hundred if I got another like her.”
– Jenn A.

  • Midwives and Doulas

“My midwife, my doula, my hubs…”
– Liz C.

“Bring Mari (doula). That was all I really needed.”
– Kate D.

“My doula and her bag of tricks.”
– Jessica G.

“The number one must-have would be THE MIDWIFE!!!!!”
– Angela S.

2. Food & Drink

Hydration during birth is super important. Water is great, but in order to keep your electrolytes in balance, varying your hydration drinks is really helpful.

“…coconut water, and labourade ice cubes…”
– Beth H.

“…plenty of gatorade!”
– Anna M.

“Popsicles to suck on, either homemade or not. I was so thrilled at the prospect of being able to eat what I wanted in labor at home, unlike at a hospital, and I didn’t eat or drink anything except water and like three popsicles.”
– Meredith E.

“…some snacks, coconut water…”
– Liz C.

“LOTS of cold water. This time, I’m planning to bring at least two huge jugs so that one will always be full and I don’t have to keep refilling my too-tiny-for-labor regular water bottle.”
– Sara D.

“Coconut water. Also, pre baggied snacks so your favorites are easily accessible.”
– Meggen H.

We’ve always included bendable straws in our home birth kit. People usually ask us “what are the straws for?” Our answer — “for drinking!” As these mamas will tell you, straws seem to be quite important!

“With my first, I made sure to bring plenty of electrolyte drinks. They were in individual containers with straws, like juice boxes. Really helped keep my energy levels up and the straw was helpful.”
– Holly D.

“A water bottle or cup with a straw.”
– Kelly H.

“Favorite drink with a bendable straw and lots of ice.”
– Anne S.

“Depends and a water bottle I could use to drink from any angle.”
– Rebecca S.

As one of our students often says, you need enough calories to get you through a 50 mile hike. While you don’t need to eat huge meals during your labor, unless you want to, it is important to eat little bits here and there to keep your energy up.

“Something you will eat and drink, even when you don’t want to eat and drink.”
– Meghan H.

“Peanut M&Ms.”
– Debbie S.

And, of course, after the birth, you’ll probably be quite hungry!

“I’d recommend some light snacks for afterward, like a double cheeseburger & waffle fries, or maybe an entire pot roast.”
– Kate D.

3. Clothing

We are often asked what to wear during the birth. Hospital gowns are unlikely to be part of your home or birth center experience. What should you wear?

“Comfy, large cotton tshirts.”
– Sheryl R.

“…some jammys to change into afterwards.”
– Liz C.

“…my favorite pair of oversized, comfy, dark-colored, yoga pants.”
– Katie R.

“Socks…yoga pants…I preferred staying clothed while laboring (it was December…cold!!). I went from the shower to the bed to birth tub then back to the bed…but I hated that my favorite nightgown was soaked. I ended up with my husbands huge oversized tshirt, which was too big and got annoying! So if I could go back…I’d have 3 or 4 of the same nightgown on hand.”
– Meggen H.

“I also brought a cozy pair of pajamas to put on afterwards. It was nice to have something from home to wear.”
– Holly D.

“The thing I greatly underestimated was the amount of clothing to pack. I had an outfit for the tub, a gown and the outfit I wore to the Birth Center. I didn’t imagine I’d get in and out if the tub several times and in an out of the shower several times. No one wants to put wet clothes back on, so I ended up naked for most of my labor. Turned out I was comfortable naked, but had I not been, I would have been very uncomfortable.”
– Jenn C.

“A comfy shirt with buttons all the way up the front. Easiest for nursing in the first hours.”
– Julie D.

Some people are happiest with no clothes at all.

“Getting naked.”
– Angela S.

Of course, clothing (for mom) is optional! Dads, bring your swim trunks!

4. Music/Videos/Distractions

Some women find it helpful to listen to music or watch movies. Early in labor, a movie can be a great distraction and can help you relax.

“My favorite Pandora station playing with some of our “special” songs was just the final touch that made (my baby’s) birth feel absolutely perfect! I can still remember specific songs playing at certain points during the labor/delivery. 18 months later when I sing those same songs to her it’s like I get to relive those beautiful moments all over again!”
– Elisabeth G.

“Something that relaxes you to keep your mind off the pain, mine was comedy DVDs…”
– Anna M.

“Harry Potter DVD. It relaxes me.”
– Hannah N.

“I watched my favorite Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes. I usually put those on just before bed, and fall asleep to them. Having that on in the background really helped me relax during the hardest parts of labor, because those shows were a relaxation trigger for me.”
– Kim P. (yes, me!)

5. Preparation

Birth is likely to be the hardest work you’ll ever do. It is a marathon. You wouldn’t show up to a marathon without at least going for a jog first, right? Preparing yourself mentally and physically for birth will help you have a much better experience.

“…overall the most helpful thing was the reading I did in the long last few weeks. Breathing exercises I learned from a pregnancy yoga book and tips/stories from Ina Mays Guide to Childbirth were the most useful things I used in labor.”
– Beth H.

“Hypnobirthing tracks….after 8 babies, I used the hypnobirthing tracks with number 9, and it was my best labor/delivery yet . Totally calm through the whole thing…and I would almost go so far as to say “pain free”….amazing!”
– Angela H.

6. Chux Pads

Chux pads are disposable pads used to catch all sorts of fluids at the birth. I was surprised to see this one on the list, but as a midwife, I can honestly say, there is no such thing as too many chux!

“Chux pads for a homebirth. They leave no trace of birth…like magic.”
– Sheryl R.

“From the Midwife perspective.. Chux pads…please have chux pads. Not newspaper, not paper towels, not extra bath towels..chux pads.”
– Jennifer R.

7. Birth Tub

Water is a wonderful tool for labor and birth. It takes the edge off the contractions and helps relax you. It is often called, “the midwife’s epidural.” It is a safe, low-tech option that many women enjoy.

“For the actual labor- the birthing tub was wonderful.”
– Makendra B.

“FISHY POOL…”
Anne S.

8. Birth Ball

Birth balls (aka yoga ball, exercise ball) are a great tool for birth. They come in various diameters to accommodate women of different sizes, and can be pumped up to the level you find works best for you. Birth balls can be something to lean on when you’re on hands and knees, and can be used to help the baby descend into the pelvis. Sitting on the ball and rotating your hips can help with discomfort during the contractions, too.

“A nice, firm yoga ball.”
– Sara D.

“For three births now, it’s been a birth ball. That’s what got me through labor and helped baby descend and my pelvis open up (roll those hips!)”
– Amy D.

“…I used my exercise ball to help me through both labors.”
– Kelly B.

“It’s funny, because I only used it for a few minutes at E’s birth, but I hung on my birth ball for almost the entire birth with M. That thing was a life-saver, as that was truly a freight train birth at just under 2 hrs. It gave me great support in a number of positions while I tried my best to relax and surrender while AJ was on the road back home. So, I say birth ball.”
– Kimberly F.

“…birth ball, birth song list, candles (flameless or real), Christmas lights, nursing bra and sarong.”
– Anne S.

9. Other Comfort items

“…beloved rice sock (more than one so there is always a warm one available), lavender oil (a few drops on the rice sock or in the birth pool).”
– Anne S.

“Some essential oils”
– Hannah N.

“Ice packs (that’s right, plural) for afterwards.”
– Angela K.

“Rebozo, for someone to do the double hip squeeze for hours.”
– Amy B.

“…birth affirmations, a yoga ball, wash cloths for cooling down.”
– Jessica R.

“Chapstick. Lotion. Post birth…pads, peribottle, soft icepacks, and plenty of people to help you at home!!”
– Meggen H.

“Birth affirmations were also very helpful and essential oils you think you might like to use.”
– Jenn C.

“Gum. lip balm. super cold pregnancy tea. music playing in the background. multiple tank tops (in case the others get wet). personal fan (I was always burning up).”
– Rissa J.

“If you have a pillow you love, you need it. Bring the things that give you comfort when you’re sick – maybe your thing is a rice sock or a nice smelling blanket – bring those things.”
– Natalie E.

“Didn’t help with labor but birth photos are priceless. Camera for birth and/or the first newborn pics.”
– Beth H.

You are unique. You will likely find other things that will help you during that time, but this list can give you a head start. Have a great birth!

P.S.: After your birth, come back and let us know what helped you most!

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