What's In Your Birth Bag?
If you're traveling to a place where you will give birth (hospital, birth center), you'll want to pack some bags with important items you will need.
If you're not traveling because you are planning to birth at home, you will still want to organize some items so that they are easy to find when you need them. Rather than a bag, consider using laundry baskets to keep things together.
First, pack at least two bags: one for birth, and one for postpartum. When you arrive at your place of birth, leave the postpartum bag locked safely in your vehicle. Take in only what you need for labor. Once baby is born, your partner can pack up your labor bag and trade it out with the postpartum bag.
Why? To avoid clutter in the birth space. Opened bags and other items take up more space than you think. Your birth space should be open and free of clutter.
Your partner or support person may also consider packing bags for themselves. They too will need to keep their things organized and easy to find.
Simplify your items. Pack only items you need for your own comfort. Most facilities will provide you with necessities (although, take a tour and ask those questions just to be sure), so you need to think about "what do I need to feel comfortable?"
Some potential birth bag items:
Comfortable Clothing - Consider wearing your own clothes over a hospital gown. Choose comfortable clothing that you would not be upset if it got a messy. Partners and support people - think sweatpants, t-shirts, etc for yourself. Don't forget PJs!
Layered Clothing - You may be hot or cold, and sometimes you are hot AND cold. Layered clothing makes it easier to adjust to your prefered temperature. Partners and support people - have several options for yourself.
Wet & Dry Clothing - If you plan to use hydrotherapy as comfort (and we recommend you do!), your partner or support person will likely also get wet while helping you. They should consider either packing clothes such as a bathing suit OR packing multiple changes of clothing in order to have dry clothes. Same goes for footwear.
Bathing Suit or Birthday Suit? You Choose! - If you are a modest person and you think that being naked in front of your support team will keep you from using hydrotherapy, consider packing a bathing suit or even several sports bras. You can easily put these on when you get in the shower or tub. However, know that your support team does not care what you wear. It's all about letting you feel as private as possible, so you do you.
Footwear - People in labor generally like to have their feet on the ground. Think about what you might need. Flip flops? Slippers? Bare feet? Socks if your feet get cold?
Snacks & Drinks - You're going to want your favorite, nutritious snacks during labor and especially after birth. Keep in mind, your uterus is a muscle and muscles need calories to burn for energy. Choose snacks that pack a punch and provide your uterus good fuel. Some ideas might be: oatmeal, yogurt, cheese, crackers, PBJ, fresh fruit or veggies, hummus, hard boiled eggs. You'll want to be drinking plenty of water, but every once in a while, throw something with sugar in there - fruit juice, coconut water, other hydration drinks as you choose, or even make yourself some LaborAid. Partners - if you need your caffeine fix, make sure you pack accordingly!
Your Own Items - Your own pillows & blanket will feel much more comfortable and bring you that sense of familiarity you need during labor and birth. Choose colorful pillow cases so they don't get mixed up with the hospital supply, and be sure you are OK if they get a little messy. If you're not, skip this part.
Toiletries & Eye Care - If you wear contact lenses or glasses, don't forget your case and supplies! Partners - don't forget your toothbrush and toothpaste. Throw in some mouthwash (and breath mints) too because, well.... you'll be told about your breath at least 100 times.
Comfort Measures - Find out what your facility provides, then pack what you will want/need for your own comfort tools. Aromatherapy supplies? Heating pad? Rebozo? Massage tools? Unscented lotion (yes, unscented - trust us on this one).
Other - Cell phones and chargers, play lists, things to help you pass the time (crafts, games, a book, etc), your wallet with essential information you might need, cash and a credit or debit card, camera if not using phone camera.
Car Seat - Have your car seat properly installed BEFORE arriving at your place of birth. Check your area for car seat safety inspection sites and schedule yours before baby is born.
Clothes For You & Baby To Go Home - If you are having any photos done, consider what outfits or props you might want to bring. Otherwise, comfy, easy clothes for your trip home.
Virtual vs In-Person Childbirth Classes
When the world shut down due to the pandemic, childbirth educators had to quickly shift from teaching in-person to teaching online. Virtual teaching tools (as well as the technology skills of the educator) were available, but limited.
The biggest challenge however, was believing that virtual childbirth classes would be effective, since all we have ever known was an in-person group setting with lots of interaction and hands-on practice. How could a virtual childbirth class possibly recreate that environment, that experience?
But childbirth education is critical for pregnant people and their babies. So, like it or not, virtual classes needed to happen. Many educators and pregnant people reluctantly agreed to give virtual classes a try.
Something wonderful happened.
Some of the barriers that kept people from attending childbirth classes were removed allowing more people the opportunity to attend a class. Participants could attend from anywhere, so it was easier on schedules. No travel was involved. Sometimes, no work was missed. People could even enjoy their dinners together while participating in class!
Many programs were able to lower their costs, and in some cases, were able to offer free classes, making classes more affordable. One hospital in particular quickly moved their classes to a virtual platform and for a limited time, eliminated the fee for the class hoping to make virtual learning more appealing. In a matter of days, more than 1,000 pregnant people had signed up for virtual childbirth classes. A program that was struggling to get 10 people into a classroom was now overwhelmed with registrations. Almost three years later, the fees are back, but those classes continue to overflow with students.
But, one of the most unexpected bonuses of a virtual childbirth class is being able to learn how to manage early labor where most early labor occurs - your own home. Instead of learning comfort measures and labor positions in an unfamiliar classroom where students do not own any of the equipment they are utilizing, pregnant people and support people now learn these skills in their own, familiar, comfortable environment - right where they will be using them. Your own space to move. Your own furniture to lean on. Your own bathroom to shower or sit on the magical dilation station (toilet). Your own bed to rest on. Your own neighborhood to talk walks through. Your own kitchen to prepare some postpartum meals. Your own living room to set up a nursing station. Your own dining room table where you can work on a labor project. All of the things you will use during early labor.
Class participants also connect in a new, but deeper way. Often times, extended family members join into the virtual class, something that could not happen in in-person classes. While there's a little vulnerability to invite people to see the inside of your home through a Zoom meeting, there is also a welcoming of new friends and neighbors to your home - the creation of a virtual village of people who are in the same season of life as you. Many times it is discovered, these new friends actually live close by and now, through virtual classes, connections and support have been created in a space no one ever expected.
Childbirth education has become even more valuable though virtual classes. What was initially seen as a negative actually is a very big positive. Virtual classes have brought more people together in an unexpected, surprising way. The thing we worried most about, is actually one of the biggest bonuses!
This isn't to say that in-person classes have gone away, or that some people still prefer the face-to-face opportunity. Classes can and should be available in a variety of formats to meet the needs of all families.
But, childbirth education is one of our most valuable tools to significantly improve the health outcomes for pregnant adults and babies. It is too valuable to ignore simply because it is not in the format we would prefer. You might be pleasantly surprised to find out you receive way more than expected.
Lancaster Lamaze classes build a childbirth community - both virtually and in-person. Join us in 2023 for our next Lamaze series.
Wendy is an internationally recognized childbirth educator and advocate for better maternal health.