You've taken your childbirth and parenting classes, prepped your nursery and been showered with gifts from loved ones. One of the last things on your to-do list before baby arrives is to pack that hospital bag! There are lots of great packing lists out there, including our own expert recommendations, but I have a few additions that in my experience as a doula are crucial to a more peaceful and enjoyable labor and birth.
1. Snacks & Drinks
Most hospitals in Orange County have a policy that limits you to clear fluids during labor. As you can imagine when you're essentially running a marathon your body needs lots of calories and nutrients. This hospital policy is in place for various reasons, which Evidence Based Birth does a great job of breaking down. Ultimately it is up to you to decide if you'd like to eat and drink normally during labor.
In my experience you probably won't want to eat a huge meal, but having light snacks such as yogurt, miso soup, or fruit can give you the energy and sustenance you need to keep going. Visit our blog post dedicated to eating in labor and download our free printable of recommended nourishing snacks & drinks!
2. Labor Playlist
Listening to music in labor is nothing new but it's often overlooked as an effective coping technique. When mixed with other comfort measures like breathing, massage and position changes, music has the ability to boost endorphins and combat pain. It can reduce anxiety and create feelings of normalcy and calm. You can use music to block out unwanted or distracting sounds or to motivate you to be mobile in labor.
I recommend clients make a few different playlists for the various stages of labor. Early labor you'll probably benefit from more upbeat songs while active labor and transition may require softer, more relaxing tunes with limited lyrics. If you're a fan of music, aim for 8-12 hours of continuous music so you don't get bored. And don't forget your bluetooth speakers and a pair of headphones!
3. Christmas Lights
I remember the first time I heard about someone bringing Christmas lights to a birth. It made so much sense! I mean, who doesn't love Christmas lights?! Not only do they have the ability to emit positive emotions through memory, they create soft, peaceful lighting in the birth room.
You can plug them in while you're in the shower or tub or you can drop them around your labor & delivery room or on the window ledge. We recommend white LED lights but if you're a fan of the multi-color lights, those are great too! Worried about there not being enough plugs? Generally that's not an issue in most hospitals, but you can opt for battery-operated LED lights too!
4. A Comfy Robe
If you're anything like me, comfy clothes are imperative for relaxation. I assume you've packed some yoga clothes or soft pajamas (if not, put that on your list!), but the addition of a warm and plush robe will take your comfort to the next level, especially after your baby has arrived. Hospital rooms can get frigid and the towels are tiny. Your robe will keep you warm and help you feel more at home at the hospital.
5. Essential Oils
Essential Oils are all the rage right now and research shows they can have a positive impact on your labor & birth. Whether you're using lavendar for relaxation, peppermint for nausea, or clary sage to support the emotional transition in labor, essential oils are a great addition to your birth bag.
Keep in mind that your senses in labor are heightened so diffusing strong scents may not be appropriate for you. I find it helpful to bring cotton balls and use those to diffuse the scent. They can easily be flushed down the toilet if you become overwhelmed or turned off by the scent. For topical application of essential oils, make sure you properly dilute your oils with massage oil.
I recommend consulting with a certified aromatherapist to create a custom labor blend and discover the best essential oils for your desired labor & delivery experience.
Ultimately, you'll be able to give birth without any of these things, however, I find that it can be incredibly helpful to create familiarity in the birth room and promote feelings of euphoria and comfort in labor. Combining various techniques and tools along with the support of your partner and doula ups your chances of having a positive birth experience.
What extra comforts were of the most help to you in labor?