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What to pack in your birth bag

The birth bag. A hot topic and one that people worry about a lot. And a question we get asked about all the time during our antenatal classes in both Dundee and Edinburgh. There are lots of birth bag lists online and most likely one in your maternity notes. If you attend our Dundee or Edinburgh classes we will go over this with you and you even get a lovely list of important items to remember! Packing a birth bag shouldn’t be overly stressful. Toiletries. Change of clothes. If you forget something then your partner can always bring it from home and the midwives are always happy to help should you need. So here are some less obvious items that we reckon are just as essential as the lip balm and snacks.

1. A supportive, calm birth partner

The bag might be organised. You’ve washed and ironed the babygrows. You are ready for action. However, your birth partner may not be feeling so confident. It’s good to check in with your birth partner in the run up to having your baby. Is your birth partner feeling calm or are they worried and stressed about it all? Most likely you’ll pick up on your partner’s anxiety during labour and it might make you feel less calm and confident. Your birth partner is an essential part of your labour and birth and should never feel like a ‘spare part'. They should feel calm, relaxed and ready to help get the oxytocin flowing. Hailey and I always recommend watching some birth videos with your birth partner. Not anything too dramatic or over the top but a simple birth where you can both understand the noises and movements you might make. It’s important to make sure you both feel confident with managing labour at home too. You might not be planning a homebirth but most labours start at home before you head into hospital. How will you manage this together? Where do you imagine you will be most comfortable? What can your partner do to help during this time? It’s good to think about all these things before your labour starts!

2. A copy of your birth preferences

Another top tip for your birth partner - make sure you have both discussed your birth preferences. We don’t write birth plans in our antenatal classes but we do encourage you to think about your preferences. Where you might like to have your baby, what kind of pain relief you might want to use, whether you are keen to breastfeed your baby or not. None of these things should be taking your birth partner by surprise! If you are keen to use the birth centre, think about why that is and what you might want to use in the birth centre to make things more comfortable for you. Most couples who attend our active birth classes say they are really keen for a physiological birth and that’s great, but what might make it easier to achieve this? If you are really keen for an epidural, that’s a grand plan too but remember you most likely won’t be able to get an epidural until you are in established labour so think about other options you might like to use prior to this. Most importantly, bring your birth preferences up to the hospital with you. It’s really useful for the midwives to know some of this without having to ask you all the time. Put a copy of your birth preferences right at the front of your notes.

3. Confidence to ask questions

It’s ok to ask questions. I totally understand that people don’t want to come across as rude or assertive but I would probably say that the birth of your baby is a day where you can afford to be just a teensy weensy bit assertive, no? After all, you will remember this day forever. Chances are those looking after you may not. And what frustrates me a great deal is when I visit families at home and they describe their birth as overwhelming or scary and that they don’t fully understand why their birth took the path it did. Sometimes what makes sense to me when I am looking after someone, may not make sense to the woman or family and I would so rather be asked than for people to go home confused or upset. Whether it's during labour or after baby has arrived, if you aren't sure about why something is happening or why a certain thing is being recommended please just ask!

4. Freedom to move and breathe

Make the noises you need to make. Move in whatever way your body tells you too. If you’re needing some guidance with finding a more comfortable spot then ask your midwife. Or why not come along to one of our active birth classes prior to the big day so you can practice some positions and learn about how important movement is in labour! Remember to have a think about your space at home prior to going into labour. You will likely start off your birth at home so have a think about where you might like to be. Most likely some where calm, dark and quiet.

5. A plan for the postnatal period

We always focus on labour and birth and forget that once baby is here, that’s when the real fun begins! Writing birth preferences is a little like wedding planning - good to prep but the wedding breakfast sometimes takes longer to appear than you’d like, ya know? And in my humble opinion, we often forget what comes after the big day. Who can help at home? When would you like visitors? Which visitors? How can you ensure that you can eat well, rest and recover? The fourth trimester often gets forgotten about and we can end up thinking we need to keep our pace of life the same as it was before baby arrived. Slow down. This time is all about learning and growing as new parents and I would encourage you to think about this part of the process in as much detail as you would a birth bag. Check out our post all about the fourth trimester here

Packing your birth bag is exciting and I get why people are anxious to get it right. Ultimately, babies will be born with or without a perfectly packed bag. And don’t get me wrong, I am all about the snacks but if I could bet on it, I reckon you won’t eat many of them during labour. Get your birth partner to pack your bag, after all you don’t want them frantically turning the bag upside down in their hunt for the lip balm. Alongside the nappies and your eye mask, remember some of the other things that matter too; freedom to move, confidence to ask questions, a copy of your birth preference, a calm birth partner and a plan for the postnatal period. These things can easily be forgotten about but they are so, so important and with any luck, could make your labour, birth and the first few weeks with baby that much easier.

If you are keen to learn more then why not join us for one of our antenatal classes running in central Edinburgh, Portobello and Dundee. We would love to have you! We have regular active birth classes focusing on movement and breathing for labour as well as infant first aid workshops and breastfeeding support at home. If you would like to learn more then get in touch!

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