As awareness around birth plans and birthing options grows, more and more women without risk factors are seeking to have home births. Instead of wondering what they need to pack in their hospital bags, many expectant moms are wondering what they need to have at home.
While a labor pool (also known as a birthing pool) might be nice to have when giving birth at home, most people have a shower or bathtub available for hydrotherapy. That means there are few actual necessities for your planned home birth. Babies will be born with or without all the amenities!
As a doula, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), mom of four, and experienced home birther, I wanted to share my list of must-haves for those women who are candidates for home births.
Birth Kit for Giving Birth at Home
Many Certified Nurse-Midwives will ask you to purchase a birth kit to have on hand for your birth. This kit typically contains items like gloves, cord clamps, chucks pads, peri bottles, and postpartum care items (ice packs, pads, etc).
Why do you need a birth kit? Why wouldn’t your midwife just bring all of this?
If you’re having a home birth instead of delivering at a hospital or birth center, your skilled birth attendant or Certified Nurse-Midwife is likely mobile. They already have a few bags of gear they need to bring to ensure a safe birth space, including things like clinical tools, life-saving equipment, and medications. No one wants their nurse-midwife to forget their essential labor-and-delivery equipment because they have to carry an extra bag or two of birth supplies.
Another reason it’s great to have your birth kit at home already is you may need some of the items before your midwife arrives (or if you have a quick labor). Chucks pads are especially useful if your membranes rupture early. Having your birth kit set up in your home can make things easier for everyone.
Some people consider birthing balls optional, and others might not love them, but I always put one on the must-have list. If you end up needing it and you don’t have it, you may be sorry. If you have it and don’t need it, then it's great to use postpartum for soothing a fussy baby.
Some women prefer to labor naked while others might change their clothes multiple times. When planning a hospital birth, most people know there are gowns available, but when planning an out-of-hospital birth, many moms are unsure of what to wear.
So what should you wear for a home birth?
For early labor, it can be nice to have a lightweight dress or gown so you can comfortably walk around inside and outside. While some people might like stretchy shorts or pants, a waistband can become very uncomfortable during contractions.
During active labor, your body starts to work harder. You may find yourself wanting to labor in the shower or tub. Some moms may choose to go in au naturel. Some may not want to be naked.
For people using hydrotherapy for pain relief, I recommend having 2-3 bras on hand. Some people prefer a pretty bralette, some a bathing suit top, and some a practical and comfortable nursing bra. Whichever you choose, I recommend more than one.
Why 2-3 tops?
If you decide to get out of the water, you may find yourself very uncomfortable with a wet bra on. As you move through labor, it’s common to experience alternating hot and cold spells, and wearing a wet top will make this more uncomfortable.
A super-soft robe also tends to be useful. As labor nears transition and those hot and cold spells become more noticeable, a robe is easy to put on and off to accommodate your ever-changing needs.
Contact Information for a Good Lactation Counselor or Consultant
This may be an unexpected must-have, but when you’re in the hospital, there's often a lactation consultant or trained breastfeeding specialist on staff to help you feed your baby. After your midwife leaves, you may need breastfeeding support, or you may need more support than your midwife can provide. Knowing who to call for help if you need it is extremely important.
Items for Your Baby
Diapers and baby blankets. That’s it! Ideally, your baby will immediately be placed skin-to-skin for hours, so you’ll want warm blankets to lay over you and your little one. You’ll likely want to put a diaper on your baby soon after birth to catch any meconium, but your baby won’t need much more than this until you decide to start exploring the world together!
While there are many more “nice-to-have” items to enhance your home birth experience, I hope these tips helped you narrow down your list!
Please note that before choosing to give birth at home, you should discuss the risks and benefits with your health care team and develop a contingency plan if you need to be transferred to a hospital for further medical intervention. This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Please reach out to your health care team with any questions.