This article was contributed by our fan favorite, Elaine Dalton.
Home births are on the rise and with good reason. If the pregnancy is normal and low-risk, the option for giving birth in a familiar and comfortable environment surrounded by loved ones is very viable. It also falls in line with many mothers’ desire for pain-free and intervention-free births. Some women even have unassisted births. In general, though, there is usually a trusted midwife present and the husband acts as moral support and the birthing coach.
Sometimes, other relatives will be there in various positions of support, or a photographer might be engaged or the midwife might have an assistant with her. But in general, a home birth consists of a limited audience with all the comforts of home at our fingertips. But what exactly do we really need for a home birth? In no particular order, we have the following recommendations.
Birthing Pools, Baby
The midwife may or may not supply this. If a water birth is something you want then a tub with handles is a must. They range from cheaper versions—like the blow-up pool some moms go for—to the uber expensive, like the Aqua Doula, which can regulate temperature.
Old Blankets And Towels
If you are opting for a water birth, you will want to put an old quilt or a couple of comforters down on the floor before putting the tub down and filling it. This will give the birthing tub a nice comfortable floor for us to labor on.
If we aren’t opting for a water birth, the old blankets can be put on the bed directly and then washed or thrown away. The towels will be a necessity for drying off with a water birth. They can also be used to wipe down after the birth or wipe off the baby or clean up any puddles of fluid. Towels, in general, are very handy to have on hand for almost any event.
Mattress In Mind
A plastic mattress cover, a plastic shower curtain or painter’s tarp is quite necessary. This goes on the bed on top of the current bedding followed by the old sheets and blankets so that after the baby is born, your partner can strip off the soiled sheets and you can climb into the clean set underneath with the baby and go to sleep.
Mixing Up The Tree Of Life
You’ll need a big mixing bowl. This is for the placenta. Bowls made of glass or steel are best. While you’re at it, what are you going to do with the placenta after birth? Eat, encapsulate it, bury it in the backyard or freeze it and decide later? And yes, you can totally wash the bowl and reuse it later—if you can get around it mentally.
All The Foodies
You already know that you will need a supply of food in the freeze for the postpartum recovery period but you also need some food for the big day itself. Depending on the length of the labor you will want something to pop in the oven for the birth team and for you to keep up your strength.
Snacks like granola bars, fruit and anything else handy with little to no prep time is highly recommended. You also don’t want anything that will upset your tummy too badly as nausea during labor is a real thing.
Goldenseal Capsules, In You Please
And a box of cotton swabs. That is, if you’re absolutely bent on treating the umbilical cord with something. Keep in mind you do not have to do anything to it and it will dry up and fall off on it’s own. Still, goldenseal can be used for baby’s umbilical cord.
You pack it around the cord stump and it dries it out much more efficiently than rubbing alcohol and the goldenseal reduces the risk of infection. The cotton swabs are for ease of application. Newborn cord stumps are surprisingly tiny.
Water And Electrolytes
You will need plenty of water to stay hydrated during the long process of giving birth. Electrolytes (either in a separate drink such as Gatorade or Recharge or as a powder added to your water) will help you to keep up your strength during labor. Plus, your partner can sneak some sips when he starts feeling faint.
Hydrogen peroxide is great at removing blood stains from clothes, bedding and the carpet. Ammonia is another option. You don’t need to ruin your favorite sheets. You can keep that nightie you deliver in, and so forth. Laundry. Magical stuff!
You will want medical grade disposable gloves on hand in case the midwife needs to check your cervix or a general need for gloves arises. It is always better to have them and not need them than to need them and not have them.
More On Those Painter’s Tarps
Or another large sheet of plastic. This goes on the floor over the old quilts and under the birthing tub to help keep everything clean and dry. You can also use it on the bed if a mattress protector or shower curtain isn’t available.
Ye Old-Fashioned Snot Sucker
The midwife might include this in her kit she brings herself bit if not, you will need to get one ahead of time. They come in handy for helping to clear baby’s nasal passages immediately after birth and for any infant colds or stuffiness that may follow.
These aren’t regular scissors. You will want medical grade stainless steel scissors with a blunted tip for cutting the umbilical cord. Ask in advance though, as many midwives have these.
Ice Those Lady Bits
And regular menstrual pads. Padsicles are a new mom’s best friend. About a week or two before baby is due, take a package of heavy duty menstrual pads (cloth if you’re super crunchy) and open them up, add some aloe vera and witch hazel to the pad (a few drops of lavender oil is operational), close them back up and freeze.
After baby comes, take a frozen pad and use as a menstrual pad. The frozen condition will help relieve pain and swelling while the aloe vera and witch hazel help with healing and lowering the risk of infection. After the first day, you will probably want warmth instead of cold down there and then you switch to non-frozen heavy duty pads or adult diapers.
While the numbing effects are pleasant in the beginning, icing actually delays healing. Intermittent heat can help speed it up!
Chux To Chuck
Chux pads are similar to puppy training pads but bigger and more absorbent. The midwife might bring some but you will want extra on hand for when the amniotic sacs break.
You will need half a dozen to a dozen soft clean cotton receiving blankets on hand for the baby. These comfy blankets will have multiple uses throughout parenthood so be sure to invest in a set you really like but get some from a thrift store or in a second-choice pattern in case blood gets on them and you decide they aren’t worth the extra laundry to save.
Once the baby is born, these blankets will be needed to clean him off and wrap him up. Later on, they will be essential for swaddling.
Love Your Tatas
Nipple butter comes in a handy little container and will be a life saver in the following weeks after giving birth if you plan to breastfeed. Nipple butters are readily available so pick your favorite.
Earth Mama Angel Baby makes an especially lovely one which doesn’t require wiping off before each feeding—which is one less step for an exhausted mama to worry about when baby is eating 10-12 times a day.
Preferably the big, black kind. This is for all the laundry accumulated during the labor process and for the food cleanup. There are probably more uses for big black trash bags but thankfully, the birth coach and midwife will be worrying about that while you cuddle in bed with your newborn.
This is for a water birth. When you give birth in the water, things tend to float and those handy little aquarium nets they sell at pet stores will be very handy for fishing out those floaters. ‘Nuff said!
This is usually one of those items that you pull out and stick in the birthing kit box in the living room and then end up not using but if you need it, you don’t have one or can’t articulate where to find it for your husband. Besides, one of the badges of parenthood is owning and using at least one thermometer so might as well get one now while you are thinking about it.
This is the best part about prepping for the big day. You might not need a going home outfit for you and baby but you still need something cute and cozy to put her in after she’s born. A nice soft hat with tiny cozy socks and a shirt that opens at the side for easy removal and has covers for the little hands is best.
The umbilical cord stump will be there for a few days and you will want easy access to it to monitor and apply goldenseal. After it falls off, the baby can have a bath and start wearing more complicated outfits like footed onesies.
Heating Pad Helper
Or a hot water bottle. This is to provide heat and pain relief during the early stage of labor if you need it. A water birth is usually a big tub of hot water so a heating pad won’t be necessary.
Womb Meets Wimbledon
Keep these on hand for your partner to use when you want counter-pressure applied at the lower back. This helps to relieve some of the pain associated with back labor.
This is an obvious one, but the pregnant brain can forget so many things at this stage. A variety of sizes and brands is recommended as some will fit better than others and baby will grow faster than anticipated.
Running out of diapers is never fun. The choice is yours whether you opt for ‘sposies right from the start or want to crunch things up with cloth diapers.
Keep A Hand Mirror Handy
Pull it out of the bathroom where it lives and keep it on hand if you want to watch baby crown. After all, it is a little tricky to see that far down on a good day. On labor day, you will likely be in a position that doesn’t encourage visibility.
This is for a water birth scenario. Make sure your birth partner hooks the hose up to the sink and has all the right attachments to fill the tub in a trial run before the big day because he will not have time to run to the hardware store at 1am to get one little part to attach everything and fill the tub in time.
These are fun and whimsical as well as helpful when we are exhausted and need to rehydrate but lifting a whole cup of water is just beyond our abilities right now. Straws are the best thing to have for labor hydration and bendy ones are even better.
Champs For The Champ
This is because you just had a baby! You carried that little person snuggly inside your body for nine months as they grew and then you labored for hours—enduring all that horrible but purposeful pain and discomfort that you likely can barely remember now—all just to meet this amazing little brand new person who has your eyes and your husband’s nose.
You did it and you deserve to celebrate; so, sip some bubbly and snuggle with your adorable baby. You did good, mama.
Painkillers—Just In Case
After the initial wave of shock and oxytocin wear off, you will notice that things ache all over. The icy pads will help with the brunt of the swelling down below but won’t do much for the cramping and after-pains. If you had really horrible back labor, your back may hurt afterward as well.
Many mommies get by without any painkillers, but it’s not something you want to be running empty on if you are six hours postpartum and needing relief. The options range from uber natural choices like Arnica 200 and Afterease to more mainstream drugs like ibuprofen or naproxen.