As I learned from my somewhat unexpected birth experience (which you can read all about here), the key to a more pleasant and confident birth experience is to be prepared for what may come. We were planning on a birth center birth, and were adamantly against the hospital. As it turned out, we had a bit of both.. What both experiences had in common was our desire for a natural birth, and in retrospect, I am so grateful that we thought to pack the tools necessary for the birth we wanted, both at a birth center, and at the hospital. I did plenty of research to make sure everything I brough with me was as natural, healthy, and safe as possible, both for myself and for my new baby! Here are your must-have’s for your natural birth, wherever it may be*:
- Birthing Ball: I mentioned this as a 3rd trimester must-have for it’s amazingness in birth preparation, but during birth is when this puppy really shines (for most people). You can sit or lean on it during contractions to help relieve discomfort, as well as bounce on it in between contractions to help bring baby down. I spent a good chunk of the hardest part of my labor, on the bed, leaning flopped over my birthing ball. I would literally fall asleep on it between contractions. It was great to be in a supported all-fours position while my doula or hubby pressed on my lower back.
- Essential oil diffuser: During labor, comfort is key, so it is wonderful to diffuse some of your favorite calming essential oils in the room. Lavender and roman chamomile are especially nice in the early stages of labor, but feel free to use a favorite blend if you have one. Peppermint essential oil is great for relieving nausea which can come on in the later stages of labor. If you don’t want to schlep your big diffuser to the hospital or birth center, this one is nice and compact. You can also use essential oils externally to help with different stages of labor and specific symptoms. I’m no expert, so I defer to those who know best. This article has tons of information..
- EOS Organic Lip balm: With all the heavy breathing that goes on during labor, plus the seemingly inevitable dehydration, lips get chapped. So it’s great to have an organic lip balm around to keep you comfy and keep lips hydrated.
- Portable speaker with labor playlist: We brought our Jawbone Jambox to the birth center to play a labor playlist on Spotify that I had been curating for weeks. It was such a huge part of my labor experience to have those songs I chose playing in the background, and it went a long way towards keeping me calm and centered. When the shit hit the fan in the later stages of labor, music was the last thing on my mind, but for a good 12 hours, this playlist was on repeat.
- Pretty Pushers Labor Gown: Nothing makes you feel less at home and more scared than putting on a hospital gown. Birth is not a sickness, ladies! And there is no reason to start off this amazing experience in an article of clothing that is associated with illness and a sense of medical emergency. I loved my Pretty Pushers Labor Gown. It has laces with easy access for monitors, a low back for easy access if you need an epidural, and a tie front that makes breastfeeding and skin-to-skin super easy and comfortable. Having done it both ways, I can tell you that nursing with a hospital gown on is no picnic. Plus, you actually feel like yourself in the pretty halter design. A total must-have.
- Earth Mama Angel Baby Nipple Balm and Bottom Spray: I am a BIG fan of the whole Earth Mama Angel Baby line of products — you’ll see me talk about them in my newborn essentials post as well — and the love affair started right after birth. Both the nipple balm and bottom spray are all-natural, have organic ingredients that are safe enough to eat (my golden standard for body and skin products), and are super effective. The nipple balm helps to soothe and heal nipples before they get sore, which is a must for all breastfeeding mamas. The bottom spray is wonderfully astringent and healing and is amazing for post-birth swollen perineums, episiotomies, and other uncomfortable realities of birth. Use a spritz or two after your peri bottle and enjoy the soothing and cooling love.
- Healthy hydration and snacks: Gone are the days of ice chips and disgusting hospital food. Health care professionals now recognize the need for mama to stay hydrated and energized to have the strength for a labor! We packed a 6 pack of organic coconut water that I drank through all of labor, we made ahead some green smoothie packs that were ready to blend at the birth center (though you can of course get store bought if that’s easier), and brought along honey sticks and organic applesauce for snacks. Admittedly, the smoothies were more for the hubs than for me (I couldn’t down more than an applesauce and some honey), but since he didn’t leave my side for all 27 hours, he needed the nourishment!
- Bamboobies Washable Nursing Pads: These eco-friendly bamboo nursing pads are soft and gentle on sore nips, are totally leak proof, don’t show under clothes, and are completely reusable. I still pop mine in from time to time when I know I have to go longer than normal without nursing. This combo pack has larger pads for overnight (especially important for when your little one starts sleeping longer stretches at night) and heart-shaped smaller pads for during the day. Just make sure to wash every day or after any major leakage to prevent getting thrush, which thrives in dark, wet places (like a soaked nursing pad).
- NatraCare Maternity Pads: These organic cotton, chlorine-free maternity pads are super soft and WAYYY more comfortable (not to mention safer and more eco-friendly) than the ones they give you at the hospital.
- HATCH-to-Hospital Box: If you end up at the hospital like we did, or are planning a hospital birth from the start, you naturally want some lovely creature comforts to get you through the 2-3 day stay. I love this HATCH box of essentials like cashmere socks, super soft and comfy panties, and the coziest cotton nightgown and robe. Perfect for helping you stay comfy and happy after your beautiful birth!
- Anita Organic Cotton Nursing Bra: You’re going to live in these things for a while, so you want to make sure your nursing bra is made of high quality organic cotton, both for you and for baby! These bras by Anita are super soft and comfortable. Just remember to size up, cuz mama, those boobies are gonna GROW.
*If you’re planning a home birth, you’ll need more tools and items not covered here, but your midwife will likely provide you with a list!
Other no-brainer items to bring (which you might totally forget):
- Natural shampoo, conditioner, and body wash — this Hugo Naturals Travel Set has small sizes of everything you need!
- Face wash, moisturizer, and eye cream — I love this travel size Hollybeth Organics Rose Geranium Skincare Set, which has everything you need for your skin!
- Toothbrush + toothpaste
- Slippers — trust me, you don’t want to pad around in those gross hospital socks
- iPad + charger
- Camera + charger
- Phone + charger
- Your own bath towel (in a dark color)
- Nursing pillow — I love the My Brest Friend and I’m giving one away this week, stay tuned!
- For dad: a few changes of clothes, sweats or pjs, and all of the above, where applicable
- For baby: Going home outfit with hat, mittens, booties, swaddle or receiving blanket