Packing your doula bag
How you choose to show up in your role as a doula is completely up to you, which makes the support we provide as birth workers wonderfully diverse. The fact that there are so many amazing and different doulas is great for families looking for support; no matter their styles or preferences, there is a doula who can bring what they need to the table.
Some doulas show up to births with nothing in tow but years of experience, their hands and their voices. Others carry a backpack or rolling suitcase of items they’ve found helpful to have along. You don’t need tons of gizmos or gadgets to help someone have an empowered birth, but some tools are very useful and you might be happy you have them with you if and when you need them.
Many items on this list may be best provided by your client. Demo your different tools at your prenatal meetings. This sometimes helps families to get excited about their upcoming births and helps them to further prepare.
Let’s take a closer look at some helpful items that you may want to include in your doula bag:
Your client’s birth plan
Life can be very busy and if you are ever working with more than one client at a time you may need a refresher as to the specifics of their birth preferences, before you head to join them as they labor. If your client has provided you with a copy of their preferences, you may want to include your copy in your bag as a reference. If they forget their copy, it may come in handy if anyone in their birth team needs to take a look.
Birth or peanut ball
Many families have their own or are planning to use one provided to them in their birthing location. Even so it can come in handy to have one in your bag to show clients different techniques ahead of time. Birth balls can be used to squat, bounce and other helpful positions including ones to use in bed. They can also be useful for doulas or partners to sit close to the bed, if your client is bed bound. Peanut and birth balls are great for opening up the pelvis which helps labor to progress.
Hot and cold therapy
People respond differently during labor to hot or cold items so it’s a good idea to have both ready to try. Pack heat packs for lower back pain. They can easily be warmed up in a microwave or with hot water (easy hack, put rice in a sock and tie a knot at the top for a DIY microwavable hot pack). Cold packs, instant ice packs or ziplocks to hold ice, and small manual or automatic fans are great for cold therapy.
Tennis balls work wonders to counter pressure of lower back pain or for leg cramps. If clients have a massage tool they use and love, encourage them to bring it to the birth.
Pack a handheld mirror in your doula bag in case your client decides that seeing their baby crown during active labor is something that they want to do.
If you encourage your clients to create a playlist of music, carrying a small portable speaker (and charger) in your bag can help them create a beautiful birthing ambiance.
There are some times during labor when the best thing to do is anything to pass the time (for example births started with inductions). Talk to your client about things they can pack to keep them distracted. I always keep adult Coloring books and color pencils.
Oils and flameless candles
Oils (coconut, almond, jojoba or other food-based massage-quality oils) can be used for massage or, if scented, aromatherapy. Carry your favorites in your bag and let your clients have a sniff test at your prenatal meeting to see if they like any. Encourage them to pack their own oils if they already have a favorite. Be sure to learn which scents are off limits to your clients. Hospitals allow the use of oil diffusers or flameless candles, a lovely way to set the ambiance of the laboring space.
We all know that hydration is important during labor and the added use of a straw can make staying hydrated much easier. Keep individually wrapped straws on hand in case your client needs one.
It’s a good idea to pack some personal items to keep you going and in case the labor turns out to be long. Snacks, water, hand sanitizer, period items, toothbrush and toothpaste, phone, phone charger, shirt or sweater in case the birth place is over-airconditioned.
Whether you have a suitcase ready to go, or decide to forgo any tools at all, use this helpful list to determine what is most important for you and your clients so you can help them have an empowered and well supported birth!
Interested in becoming a doula? Learn more about our DONA birth doula training here.
Laura Max is a birth and postpartum doula, having served clients in both New York and in mid-Michigan. She is a wife and the mother of two. When Laura is not supporting new families, you can find her out in nature with her own. Laura is available on the boober platform for matches.