Zoe’s Doula Bag Cheatsheet
There are two essential investments you need to make when you become a doula. The first is quality training, the second is your birth bag! In one of my recent articles I mentioned I would be sharing what I like to have in mine – I really went down the rabbit hole curating my own list before I began attending births, and I’ve spent a lot of time adding and changing my contents. If you’re a new doula, I hope this comprehensive list saves you time, money, and space.
I always bring a sleeve with two copies of my client’s birth plan (which we draft together and I then design for them), two copies of their preferred comfort measures, and a list of their chosen birth affirmations – including some from the birth partner. If you’re counting the birth experience towards certification, you will need to bring any required documentation for that too. You can bring a notebook and pen for taking notes during the birth, but personally I just end up using my phone for this when needed.
This is perhaps what I get the most comments on (some OBs remember me at subsequent births purely from the “cool lights and room vibe”.) Every single one of my clients has wanted a serene environment, and this is a game changer for creating a birth space that feels safe. The bulkiest item in my bag: 3x Casper Glow Lights. These are just aesthetically gorgeous, dimmable, and portable. I bring two chargers, as they only take 15 minutes to charge for 7 hours of warm glow. Many doulas bring twinkle lights or fake candles, but I find the Casper so much more practical, while achieving the chic spa feel I’m trying to create.
Whether you buy Pashminas or Rebozos, having a birth scarf of some description is really useful for positional support. If you buy a Rebozo, make sure it’s from an authentic Mexican artisan – I have bought 3 so far from Antama Textiles and adore them. They also make great gifts and can be used with rings for baby-wearing down the track! I pack an additional soft, large shawl that I have found to be very comforting for my clients when their temp is up and down but they want to stay mobile, as the hospital blankets are often bulky and impractical for labouring out of bed.
Lotions & potions
This one comes down to personal preference, but my staples are: Rose Hydrating Euphoric Mist by Saje, The Hand Cream by Necessaire, and Soothing Baby Massage Body Oil by Evereden. I keep these in a Sephora waterproof bag just incase anything were to leak, and and I always have a pack of Philosophy Purity facewipes – because that sh** feels nice after your client has spewed. And almost everyone spews! Which leads me to the next item…
Hospital staff will lie to you, and maybe even smirk when you pull out your own sick bags. I promise the time will come when you have the last laugh. When nurses are busy in other birthing suites and not responding to the buzzer, when the previous occupant has used up the stash and the cupboard is empty, and when you’re given the choice between a shallow, cardboard (!) “kidney bowl” or the premium grade plastic spew bags you brought with you that will actually catch ALL the spew – your clients will be ever grateful you came to their rescue. I bought a pack of 50 blue sick bags (search under emesis bags) online with the round top that can hold a litre, and I always keep 5 or 6 in the outer pocket of my doula bag for a cowboy-style quick draw.
My Sonos Roam speaker is one of my favourite items. Compact, sleek, and great sound quality for anyone to connect to via bluetooth. I bring the charger with it. I also pack a portable electronic handheld fan that I charge before leaving, as well as a phone charger with an extra long cable that I use purely for births. Lastly, I bring my Kodak Polaroid Now Plus camera to gift new parents their first family photo!
I purchased the Mama Tens and I rent this to clients. I also invested in a stack of gorgeous First Nations lanyards from different artists around Australia that are soft on the neck and wide for comfort, which my clients keep as a souvenir. I always pre-sanitise my TENS unit and pack extra electrodes and batteries, too.
Paper fans, massage roller tools, birth combs (I like the wooden combs from The Body Shop and gift one to each client), hairbrush and ties – I often brush and braid my clients hair when they start to feel a bit “bleh”. Spare gum, toothbrush, and toothpaste incase they lay forgotten on the bathroom sink at home, scissors for random but surprisingly common usage, a mirror (helps to raise spirits for pushing when baby’s hair comes into view!), individual honey sticks and ginger candies for clients who are restricted from food after an IV or epidural. I used to bring facecloths (perfect in hot or iced water, wrung out and spritzed with the rose face mist), but nowadays I just use the ones provided by the hospital. Plastic bags, ziplocks, napkins and plastic cutlery are also nice to have when you need them.
Remind your clients to bring…
Real food, and plenty of it (not just granola bars), multiple sets of earplugs, sleep eye-masks, a water bottle preferably with an inbuilt straw, and importantly, their own wheat/heat pack. For sanitary reasons, I can’t share any of the above between clients, so I ask them to provide their own. I also don’t use my own essential oils as this can be considered out of scope for doulas, so I tell parents to pack a diffuser with oils if they wish to use and I simply set up their products for them. Use sparingly as smell can be quite sensitive during birth.
Bring for yourself…
Food – seriously, you need to eat and you need to eat well. Contrary to what many people think, it’s normal and healthy for birth to take time – even days! Don’t forget your wallet and phone, a spare change of clothes, toiletries, a warm sweater, and a few masks for pandemic times.
The final investment I’ll be making in future is a bag with wheels such as the Patagonia duffel – I currently use a Nike duffel that is lightweight and fits everything neatly, but it’s a pain to lug it around – especially when I have a mom holding onto me for dear life en route to triage. Some births you will use 3 things, some births you will leave no stone unturned. Supporting birth means making your clients feel cared for, so if it fits the brief, pack it!
Zoe Elkington is a doula and perinatal photographer, and divides her time between downtown Toronto & her hometown of Sydney, Australia.