If you’re having a homebirth with a midwife, she’s probably provided you with a list of supplies–or a pre-made birth kit–that you should have on hand. However, if you’re birthing at home without assistance, you may wonder what supplies and items would be worth having on hand to maximize your comfort and peace-of-mind as your labor time nears. Of course, birth can and does happen without any special equipment at all, and things work just fine.
Nothing on this list is essential, really–and it’s good to keep that in mind. You shouldn’t be stressing out in week 39 because you’ve run out of honey and can’t find a local source for red raspberry leaf tea! Sometimes less is more.
However, if you’re a planner like me, you might like to research all your options beforehand, just to make sure that you’ve got the best shot at being deliciously comfy throughout your entire birthing and postpartum process!
- Spare vinyl shower curtain or painter’s drop cloth–this can be spread on your bed weeks in advance, in between the mattress pad and fitted sheet, to protect your lovely mattress from getting soaked in the event of your water breaking unexpectedly–or if you’re planning on laboring in bed.
- Birth ball—Make sure you get one that’s the right size for your height. You can sit on it, lean over it, bounce and do hip circles on it. You can also cover it with a blanket if you don’t want to feel cold vinyl against your skin. Laboring with the aid of a birth ball is so much more comfortable! It also helps baby descend and get into optimal position before labor even starts.
- A stethoscope or doppler–You and your partner can both learn to listen for baby’s heartbeat with either of these devices, and you can time baby’s heartbeat as well. This may prove to be an excellent skill during labor.
- Red raspberry leaf and nettle tea–both are excellent for the female systems and rejuvenate you during and after labor. You can make up huge, iced pitchers of this tea and sip it like a sports drink.
- Old sheets for your bed/birthing area–they are soft and comfy because they’re so worn-in, and if they get hopelessly stained (maybe you ran out of peroxide?), you won’t cry if they get thrown out.
- Birth affirmations–you can write your own or find some that resonate with you on the internet. Here’s some of mine. You can print them out and have your partner read them to you while you’re laboring, or pick one or two to memorize and chant as mantras during contractions. You can even record yourself speaking them aloud and play back the recording during labor.
- Candles and a lighter or matches–A beautiful, naturally scented or beeswax candle can be a great focal point during contractions, and adds calming ambiance to your birthing space. I’d avoid mass-produced candles or synthetic scents, because who wants to bring a brand new baby into a chemical soup for his first air-breathing experience?? I avoid incense for that same reason–although an oil burner can be used to naturally and gently scent the air without being overwhelming.
- Alcohol–for disinfecting scissors if you plan on cutting the umbilical cord. (You don’t have to cut the cord at all if you choose not to—read on to learn about Lotus birthing!)
- Chux pads–or puppy “training” pads–or just a bunch of old towels. Birth is a messy business, and sometimes there just aren’t enough clean towels available! Plan on at least a box full of these–more if you want to avoid lots of laundry!
- Blow-up tub pillow–if you want to relax in the tub while in labor, it’ll be so much more comfortable to have a soft place to rest your head! A folded-up towel would work, but it would get wet and mushy, and slide into the water, etc.
- Arnica–You can get a cream, a homeopathic remedy, or a cooling gel–any of which can be helpful. Arnica is typically used for bruising and muscle fatigue. Some women swear by arnica cream or gel for cooling the “ring of fire” during crowning and pushing the baby out. Other women say that taking the homeopathic remedy throughout their labor takes the edge off of contractions. As for me, I made an oil infusion with dried arnica, and used the oil as a belly rub during bouts of prodromal labor, or whenever I was exhausted.
- Bach Flower Remedies Rescue Cream–this stuff is a homeopathic calming remedy, and in the cream form, it’s excellent for getting back rubs from your partner, or rubbing it into your temples to soothe a headache. Some women also swear by Rescue Cream as the perfect aid for dealing with the “ring of fire”!
- Bach Essences Rescue Remedy–you can get the pastilles or the drops, but either one is a great way to help you “chill out” as you’re approaching transition–AKA the “I can’t do it anymore!” stage of labor. Nice to have something tangible to combat those feelings with. If you’re especially concerned, the specific Bach essences of Hornbeam and Oak are also very helpful in relieving feelings of despair and exhaustion, or a feeling that you can’t go on.
- Neroli oil–This scent is very calming and relaxing; however, pure essential oil of Neroli is rather obscenely expensive, so this is one instance where I recommend buying a synthetic version. You won’t be putting this on your body, just using it for aromatherapy. You can fill a misting pump-bottle with plain water, and add a few drops of Neroli oil. Then you can mist your pillows or the air in front of you. This is also a nice, portable remedy if you find yourself in a stressful situation while away from home. My daughters claimed my bottle of Neroli spritz after the birth, dubbing it Sweet Dream Spray.
- Clary sage essential oil–This oil can be used in an infuser for aromatherapy or added to a carrier oil for massage into the belly during labor. Clary sage is said to help induce labor, or else speed a slow-progressing labor. I used this both aromatherapeutically and as a massage oil–I simply added a few drops to my arnica infusion. Don’t use this one before you’re full-term!
- A hand mirror–It might be just the encouragement you need to see your baby’s head when she starts to crown–and besides, how often do you get the chance to see something like this?? The very first glimpse of your baby is unforgettable.
- A crock pot, metal mixing bowl that fits inside of it, and clean, soft rags (or those birdseye prefolds!)–to make hot-oil compresses. This is my favored method for dealing with the “ring of fire” and baby crowning. Set up the crock pot ahead of time in your birthing space–with water in it, and the metal bowl inside, sort of floating on/in the water. When you’re in labor, have your partner turn it on WARM (not high, no matter how slowly you think the oil will heat up!!), place the rags inside the metal bowl, and pour the oil over them, saturating them. You can use plain olive oil or create an herbal infusion ahead of time (store it in the fridge for freshness). I used fresh ginger root to good effect. The ginger and the heat bring blood to the surface of your tissues, helping it to expand with ease.
- Ginger root, calendula, comfrey, or other herbs (if you’re making an infusion)–Use cheesecloth to make a sort of “teabag” for your herbs, and allow it to steep in the oil at room temperature for 12 hours or so, or in the fridge for a day or two. To use the compresses, your partner will take two warm, oiled cloths out of the crockpot and hold them against your perineum as you’re crowning–or you can do this yourself if you’re able to. Makes the “ring of fire” much less intense, and helps you avoid tears or skid marks.
- Warm blankets–Set aside a pile of things that you think you’ll like to wrap the baby and/or yourself in right after the birth, and let your partner know that once you’re in active labor, toss them into the dryer. That way you’ll have deliciously warm receiving blankets and a bathrobe to slip into as soon as your new addition is here. I think it’s a nice way to give baby a gentle transition from his world into ours–skin-to-skin with mama, and a warm blanket over both of you.
- Camera–Even if you think you wouldn’t want photos of yourself in labor or giving birth in a million years, I highly recommend having your partner or a friend take some. How many times in your life will you experience these moments? Capture them. You can always erase the memory card later if you REALLY want to. Just don’t forget the batteries!!
- Something to cope with the possibility of postpartum hemorrhage—a hemostatic herbal blend will work, or you can just arm yourself with the knowledge that consuming a piece of placenta has dramatic and near-immediate effect on stemming hemorrhage bloodflow. Even a small piece of placenta held in the cheek or under the tongue, like a homeopathic pellet, will transfer powerful hormones to the brain and body via your capillary system, telling your uterus to clamp down and stop bleeding.
- Peri bottles—I liked to have two of them–one for warm water and one for a soothing herbal blend. Both are used to help you urinate more comfortably right after birthing. You can also reuse any squeezable plastic bottle, such as a witch hazel bottle.
- Peroxide–I like to have a full bottle on hand, because this stuff is excellent at getting out blood stains. Just pour it on and watch the magic happen. You never know when you might need to rush to the bathroom–and drip on the carpet on the way there.
- Witch hazel–this stuff is divine! It’s basically the only ingredient in Tucks pads for hemorrhoids, and even if you don’t have those now, you might have some for a day or a week after pushing out baby! Witch hazel is also safe to use on your girly bits, and it’s incredibly soothing, cooling, and great for reducing swelling in those first few days and hours. It’s also cleansing, which is always a plus. How to use it, you ask?
- Cotton rounds–Squirt witch hazel on these and use instead of toilet paper or wet wipes.
- Cloth menstrual pads–soak one in witch hazel and lay it on top of a dry one–then place in underwear and sigh in comfort.
- Gerber birdseye prefold diapers–Use these in place of cloth pads the first few days when bleeding is heavy–or soak them in witch hazel!
- Nori seaweed–Believe it or not, seaweed is excellent at healing tears. This kind is what you would buy to roll sushi in–it comes in dry sheets in a bag or jar. Just get a piece wet, and use it almost like tape to “paste” a tear together. This is what midwives often use in lieu of stitches. I wish I’d known about it for the one birth I needed stitches for–getting stitches down there is awful!
- Honey–If you’ve just got “skid marks” or minor tearing, honey is excellent to use. It’s antimicrobial and promotes fast tissue regeneration. Civil war nurses actually used it for soldiers on the battlefield!
- Dark colored, comfy, fuller-cut undies. No fun trying to “balance” a postpartum-sized pad in flowery white tanga panties.
- Sitz bath–Warm water to sit in might be just the thing to soothe a sore bottom. Try to have your partner set it up for you–otherwise, by the time you get around to setting it up yourself, you won’t really need it anymore. 🙂
- Herbal blend for the sitz bath–If you want to splurge, you can get some lovely pre-mixed herbal blends from companies like Earth Mama Angel Baby. These herbs are brewed like a strong tea, but then placed in the sitz bath, bathtub (great for your skin and perineum while you relax with baby!), or even a peri bottle. Again, ask your partner to set this up for you, because you’ll probably be so busy nursing and cuddling that you’ll forget to do these little nice things for yourself.
- After-Ease (by WishGarden Herbs)–This is an herbal blend for soothing afterpains, those contractions you get after birth that signal the clamping down of the uterus as it shrinks back to pre-baby size. These often get worse after every baby. Mine were awful even after my firstborn, and so I don’t recommend messing around with these. They tend to get worse when baby nurses, and they can make you miserable if you don’t have something to deal with them. If herbals aren’t enough to provide relief.…
- IBUPROFEN. Up to 800Mg, every four hours. This is one of the few times in my life that I happily embrace allopathic medicine. Take it or leave it!
- Peppermint essential oil–this oil can be used aromatherapeutically to help your bladder release, if you have trouble urinating after childbirth. Very helpful!
- A large bowl—to catch the placenta, so that it can be looked over to make sure it’s intact.
- Large freezer bags–if you don’t have a plan for your placenta yet, you can freeze it for weeks or months while you decide. Once thawed, it will still be useful for just about anything except encapsulation. There are lots of options for what to do with your placenta, even if you’re not lotus birthing or encapsulating it.
- Watercolor paper–this thick, fibrous paper can be found at art and hobby shops, and it’s excellent for making placenta prints. You can use paint, or the blood of the placenta itself. Either one makes a lovely print, although if you’re planning to encapsulate, you will, of course, want to avoid paint! Have this on hand before the birth, and make sure to have your partner remind you that you want to make placenta prints! It’s easy to forget in the bliss of the moment, and there’s only a small window of time during which you can make them 😉
- Supplies for placenta encapsulation, if you’re doing it yourself. Read all about that at PlacentaBenefits.info.
- Supplies for care of the placenta during a Lotus birth, if you’re planning on that. More on Lotus birthing here. And here.
- Alfalfa tablets, and/or liquid chlorophyll—Perhaps you’ve been taking liquid chlorophyll throughout pregnancy, which is helpful with your iron levels. Alfalfa has a very high content of Vitamin K—the clotting agent in human blood. Increasing your intake of Vitamin K in the weeks before and after baby is born will assure a healthy amount of Vitamin K is being transferred to your baby via breastmilk. Also, a Lotus or partial Lotus birth will ensure baby gets all the cord and placental blood she’s supposed to, lessening any concerns about Vitamin K or lack thereof in your newborn baby. More on the Vitamin K issue here.
- Fresh, yummy juice–No, I don’t mean the shelf-stable, over-sugared kind! Get a friend to bring over fresh fruit and greens and whip you up a super-nutrient smoothie. This will energize you right after the hard work of birth. Juicing helps to make nutrients more available by breaking down the tough cell walls of plant foods–especially greens–and it’s a quick, easy way of downing some healthy calories. You can even add a piece of placenta to the smoothie for dramatic reversal of heavy bleeding!
- Lots of frozen, nutritious meals–or an arsenal of good friends and family on call to prepare your family dinner for the first few days or weeks after the birth. You need to take care of your body, and hopefully you can ask for and receive help. Having access to healthy meals that you don’t have to prepare is worth so much right after a birth–it’s the best new-baby gift you can receive!
- Birth-day cake—and perhaps some wine to share with friends!
- Suction bulb or NoseFrieda–During a natural birth, the compression of baby’s chest after the head is birthed is often sufficient to clear the airway of any mucous and liquid, but again, on the chance that baby needs some extra help clearing out, it’s great to have this on hand. For what it’s worth, I highly recommend the NoseFrieda over a bulb syringe, because it’s much more gentle and comfy for baby.
- Inkpad and acid-free paper–to capture those precious first footprints. I’d recommend having several sheets of paper to make multiple copies. Baby feet don’t tend to hold still for perfect footprints! And, that page in the baby book? Maybe after you’ve made a bunch of footprints, pick out the best ones and cut/paste them into the baby book. Otherwise, your baby book might just get smeared with ink on that page.
- Small bottles of olive oil–you can buy a big bottle and then separate a few out into empty sample-size lotion bottles or whatever you have on hand. Olive oil is great for the skin in general, and putting olive oil on baby’s bottom in the first few days helps tremendously with cleaning those uber-sticky meconium poos off his tender skin. Otherwise, you’ll have to rub rather hard to clean him up (yes, even with warm cloth wipes), and neither of you will enjoy that!
- Thermometer–good to have on hand just in case, especially in the early days. A low-grade fever might be nothing, but it might also be the first indication that something’s not right with you or baby.
- Fish scale–Use this with a ring sling, and you’ve got an accurate baby scale! We picked ours up at a big-box store for about $12 (ridiculously cheaper than an “infant scale” or even a postal scale–although if you’ve already got either of those, rock on). Just don’t forget to weigh the sling separately and then subtract its weight!
- Powdered goldenseal root–This herb can be bought in capsule-form, but don’t bother taking them. Goldenseal is a natural cell proliferant and is also anti-microbial. This makes it perfect for packing into deep wounds–or healing baby’s cord stump! Goldenseal dries out the cord and helps it to fall off quickly (2-4 days on average), while alcohol (the doctor’s recommendation for cord care) actually preserves the cord stump, making it take longer to heal.
I’m quite sure I’ve left out a few things, but as I mentioned already–birth can be as simple or as complicated as you choose to make it! I hope you find this list useful–even if you end up using none of it!