The doula bag: it holds a seemingly endless amount of comfort-measure goodies for labor and birth. What I keep in my doula bag has evolved over time. Through experience in births and conversations with my doula sisters, I’ve incorporated only pieces that I find useful in labor. A peek into a doula’s bag is a peek into what kind of doula they are — that’s why I’m giving you a glimpse into what I keep in my doula bag.
Doula Bag Tools
The most useful tools a doula can bring are herself and her hands. I know many doulas who shuck the bag and take a very simplistic approach to birth support. In order to be prepared for anything, I choose to bring a few useful tools with me. However, I find that every birth is so unique, I’m always using a unique variation of the tools I bring along. I’ll highlight the tools I use at practically every birth.
What do I Bring to Prenatal Visits?
At my first prenatal visit, I allow parents to choose a birth affirmation card. I love the Renegade Mama cards for pregnancy and labor affirmations. One of my past clients gifted me this deck because of their helpfulness to her. I love sharing that with new parents and it’s my hope it helps them get into the right frame of mind.
Set the Mood for Birth
The first thing I do when I enter a birth space is to create a cozy, happy space as much like home as possible. I do this by diffusing essential oils, turning down the lights, and adding twinkle lights and flameless candles.
Massage oil is used for hand and foot massage in early labor (or after an epidural) to encourage relaxation.
Doula Bag Items for Active Labor
Once active labor rolls around, it’s all hands on deck to find a rhythm that promotes labor progression and aids in pain relief. Cue the music, movement, and hip squeezes!
Most couples choose to listen to music, whether to jam out to or for background noise. A small bluetooth speaker always comes in handy. I typically have the partner sync his or her phone to the speaker so they control the music.
I bring knee pads for either the birthing person, or for support people. Hospital and birthing center floors are hard and take a toll on knees.
A birth scarf (inspired by the rebozo from indigenous Latin America) and a wooden spoon are used to create a series of holds and ties that aid in pain relief and fetal positioning.
Combs (yes, regular hair combs) and reflexology balls are used as special pain coping tools by utilizing the Gate Theory of Pain.
A massage mitt with ball bearings can be a helpful tool in between contractions in active labor… plus the ball bearings stay cool and feel amazing against bare skin!
Tools for Temperature & Hygiene in Labor
Transition hits and all of a sudden so can hot flashes, nausea, and an increased sense of smell! To keep the laboring person comfortable, a hand held fan is key. I always keep a barf bag at the ready when transition is near in order to make as little interruption as possible when sickness hits. Also helpful for nausea and hot flashes? A pony tail holder. For me and partners, mouthwash and tooth brushes in order to keep any odd personal odors under control.
Food in Labor
Thankfully, most of the time eating and drinking is encouraged during labor… at least in much of the US. Finally the medical community realized how important it is to keep laboring mothers hydrated and energized… who knew?
I encourage parents to bring their own snacks — something they can eat with one hand: apple slices, nuts, energy bars, peanut butter squeeze packs, and so on. However, I always bring plenty of honey sticks with me. They’re the perfect way to get some quick energy and they can be enjoyed on the occasions where the laborer is on a clear liquid diet.
What is Helpful in Labor
What’s helpful in one labor is so unique to the next. Knowing how to use the tools I’ve mentioned takes experience, training, and a lot of experimentation. That’s why, although it’s good to be prepared, the right tools do not make the doula. Your mom or your sister will not perform as well as a doula simply because they bring with them a bag of tricks. The right tools in the right hands can make a big difference. The right tools in the professional, trained hands of a doula know no bounds.