I am often asked what to pack in your birth bag. There are a few different scenarios to consider… Birth Center, Hospital, or Hospital Induction.

If you have a birth center birth, you are only there for the time of your labor plus approximately 3 hours. You need to talk to birth center and see if they provide anything. Hospitals provide diapers (and send extras home), wipes, nose bulb, thermometer, hat (unless you want a cute one), pads and disposable undies for birthing parents (usually), a peri bottle, and often tucks pads or something such as that.

Things I recommend you pack:

For Baby-
Going home outfit– a onesie, plus a cotton romper in the summer. A onesie plus a fleece romper in the winter.

A cute hat if you want one

A couple of blankets for in the car (the hospital will provide them in the hospital)

And of course, your car seat. Make sure the base is properly installed and all straps are set to the lowest settings for ease in homecoming.

This is truly all that you need for baby.

For Your Birthing Partner-
I recommend snacks for quick access, or when the cafeteria is closed. Nuts, jerky, fruit, crackers, these are good things to have.

A blanket and pillow. You will definitely need some sleep, and having a little comfort can go a long ways.

Clothing– Loose fitting comfy changes of clothes. Make sure a sweatshirt or coat and shorts are included as sometimes Birthing Parents have a funky sense of temperature. Also a bathing suit in case you want to massage shoulders or help with showers or baths.

Toiletries– you can usually take a shower and it’s nice to feel fresh and clean.

A book, movie, headphones- something to entertain yourself. Sometimes it can take awhile. Make sure you have chargers. (Check with your hospital, sometimes you can plug in Roku).

Sleep Mask and Ear Plugs– There are a lot of beeps and doors opening. These can really help you have better sleep.

For the Birthing Parent-

I do not get any money or anything for the products I am about to suggest 🙂

Often the blanket,pillow, sleep mask, ear plugs, and entertainement can be very helpful for you as well!

I personally recommend a birthing gown similar to this one. It provides modest coverage, it’s soft, it can be used with epidural and monitoring, it has easy nursing access. Everyone who has ordered one has been glad. I even recommend two (one for before and one for after).

Fuzzy comfy socks are always a good thing to have.

As a doula, I personally have essential oil towelettes that are wonderful when feeling sick (peppermint), needing to feel calm (lavender) or needing a little energy (orange). Having your favorite scent can calm you and reduce pain.

A music play list can also distract from the pain or boredom. I personally recommend some good “get up and move” music as well as a quiet, peaceful, meditating playlist. You can bring a Bluetooth speaker or just play it from your phone (that you remember the charger for ).

Other tools in my bag that you can add to yours include:

Combs (they can be great to squeeze during contractions)
Massagers (there are a variety, try a few)
TENS Unit (Look into ones for use during pregnancy)
Honey sticks (for a bit of energy)
Heating pad (some people really like warmth during labor)
Gummy Bears (some hospitals consider it clear liquids)
Dum Dums (great for a little sweetness)

And then we come on after labor… most hospitals provide things suchas disposable underwear, large pads, ice packs, tucks pads and peri bottles. Check with yours and make sure all of this is included. They usually give enough to get you home.

You need a comfy going home outfit. Your belly wont be a lot smaller, so yoga or pajama pants are great. Tank Tops can help with nursing, or loose fitting shirts.

Some nursing parents like their boppy pillow for in the hospital to help with nursing. You don’t need your pump as most hospitals have them. You might want some breast pads for coming home, though often milk doesn’t come in quite that fast.

Snacks- again, your favorite snacks can be really beneficial during and after labor when the cafeterias are closed. (but you can usually ubereats some food to the hospital.

And lastly, DO NOT FORGET YOUR CAMERA and charger for it. Although so many just use their phones now adays and that works too!

Please leave a comment on your favorite items you used in the hospital, must haves. I will be updating this list and appreciate the feedback.

Suzanne is a doula and birth photographer serving the Pacific Northwest. She loves helping in home births, birth centers, and the local hospitals. She serves Kent, Tacoma, Renton, Seattle, Bellevue, Issaquah and more. Valley Medical, UW, Multicare, Puget Sound Birth Center, The Birthing Cottage and more!

Covid has definitely brought Home Births back into light. Having a baby at home is not for everyone. There are risk factors that have to be considered (my babies needed to be born in the hospital). However, when those risk factors aren’t present, home birth can be an amazing option.

Parents who desire a hands off, listen to your body, I can do this approach should definitely consider a home birth. Often when in our home, our bodies relax more, we feel safer, and we are able to maintain a quiet control.

Midwives are trained to monitor the situation, and transfer to hospitals when needed. But they are also trained to recognize that our bodies are pretty amazing and know how to do this thing called birth.

People try to scare you when you mention home birth, but I would ask you to sit and discuss it with a midwife (or two or three) and feel out if the situation might be perfect for you. Bonding, loving, quiet, calm, and control are all things you can have in your birth.

The photos pictured here were with Shannon of https://www.exhalebirthservices.com/ . She’s a very hands off, respectful midwife (as are all of the midwives I have worked with.). She listens to what you’re wanting and keeps you safe in the process. Have a conversation and see if it feels right for you during these crazy Covid times. You might be surprised.

This is one story of a birth. It is not the same story twice.

The moment comes that you find out you’re pregnant. Your excitement grows. You plan everything -how your pregnancy is going to go, how the nursery is going to look, and how you want your delivery to be. You’re asked questions like delayed cord clamping? Breast feeding? Skin to skin immediately? What immunizations are you ok with? You go to your twenty week ultrasound so nervous, wanting everything to be ok. Thankfully it is. It’s smooth flying.

You get to 36 weeks and all has been well. Or maybe it hasn’t. It all depends on your pregnancy. Some have scares, some have none. Yet both still plan on how the birth is going to be. Do I want an epidural? Do I not? You go in for your check and your blood pressure is slightly elevated. Or the doctor sees something a bit concerning and wants you monitored and mentions the word induction. But you’ve heard inductions are unnecessary.

There are options. You can discuss them with your doctor. Questions to ask at this moment… What are the Benefits of inducing? What are the Risks of waiting? What if we wait two days? (Etc) What Alternatives are there? What other Interventions may happen or could be used? And what if we do Nothing? And then you talk with your partner and discuss. You decide that you trust your medical team and you’ve got this. You’re keeping baby safe. You’re keeping you safe. And you feel strong.

You labor for hours and hours. But the doctors start mentioning a cesarean. Wait. That wasn’t the plan. The plan was helping your baby come out gently. Your plan was to have your baby “naturally”. The doctors go through all of the above and make a strong case that it’s time. Here is the point of this story…. this wasn’t the birth you planned. What I want you to hear is this is the birth that happened and in no way does it take away from your story. You birthed your baby through your belly with the same warrior attitude as someone that birthed their baby through their cervix. You did everything you felt right in the moment and it has led you to this moment, this moment when you finally get to meet your little one. So hold your head high.

You succeeded. This doesn’t determine the path for future births. This was what this child determined as his or her path. You handled it just like a new parent… with power, with tears, with love. You handled it perfectly. Congrats on making the best decision in the moments. It wasn’t always easy. As your doula and photographer, I am so glad I got to support you through all of the decisions you made, without judgement, with support and love. Your belly birth was amazing.

Suzanne Ledbetter is a birth doula and birth photographer serving the greater Puget sound and Seattle areas including Tacoma, Renton, Seattle and all areas in between. She serves all local hospitals, including Valley Medical, Swedish, UW, and Multicare , all birth centers and home births.

I was recently discussing an uncomfortable birthing situation with a doula with longer experience than myself. We were talking about the different feelings in a birth room with the staff present. And while I was frustrated with staff responses, she brought a different perspective to my thinking.

You’re in MY house.

I don’t walk into your house and tell you how to raise your children, what to clean with, or use rooms you ask me not to use.

Yet, we walk into a hospital with that attitude. And while it’s our bodies, and in some ways we are taking our house into someone else’s house, we also have to find a way as birth workers to still be respectful of the “owners” of the home we are walking into. These workers have trained and day in and day out have a way of doing things. If we walk in and demand they do it different, we are essentially telling them they are doing it wrong, automatically bringing chaos into a birthing environment.

And so….. how do we walk in, respect their “home” yet push the envelope that our client desires? How do we do this with respect to what they do every day, but help our clients advocate for “their house”. My job is to support my client in their wishes, without bias, yet as a birth worker who will return, I also want to respect the home I am visiting.

It brings an interesting conversation to the table of doulas and clients, as well as doulas and other birth workers.