Home Birth Supplies
by Rosemary Romberg
When you are planning to give birth at home it is important that you thoroughly discuss the subject of supplies with your birth attendant. Most home birth attendants provide a number of supplies for the birth. Find out exactly what you will need to provide. Additionally, he or she may have other ideas which they may wish to add to this list.
Necessary Supplies: The following items are very important for giving birth at home:
1. Clean, well-lit room. At least one bright light should be available (especially if birth occurs at night.) If a non-traumatic, Leboyer birth is desired, other lights that are dim, candles, etc., or sunlight if in daytime can be supplied.
2. Firm bed, couch, mat on the floor, or bean bag chair, as suitable place for delivery. (A water bed, or soft squishy bed is not suitable. You need a firm, stable surface on which to give birth.)
Alternative – if you wish to have a water birth – a large, clean bathtub or hot tub.
4. Car in good working order, with full tank of gas, ready to go to the hospital in case of emergency. The back seat or other area should be cleared for mother to lie down if necessary. If the birth will take place in winter in a cold part of the country, the car should have chains or snow tires.
5. Home no more than 30 minutes from the nearest hospital.
6. Bathroom with toilet, shower, running water.
7. Ready source of hot water, either hot tap water, or water heated on a stove. Boiling water may be necessary for sterilizing equipment. Very warm water may be needed for warm compresses on perineum, if birth attendant uses this technique.
8. Emergency back-up plan—sheet of paper posted with written directions and map to hospital(s). (In some communities home birth parents may have plans for a choice of more than one hospital should difficulties arise. Hospital A may be very accommodating and be the preferred choices but is an hour away. Parents may wish to go there if a difficulty arises but time is not an important element. Hospital B may be less accommodating, but closer to home, and should be used in case of a time pinch emergency.)
9. Pre admit form for hospital(s), filled out and ready to take if necessary. (It is a good idea to ask for a tour or attend the maternity tea of your back-up hospital in advance, to ask questions, get pre-admit forms, etc.)
10. List of phone numbers by the phone: Birth attendant, all people being invited to birth, back up physician, pediatrician, hospital(s), ambulance services and people who are to be called after baby is born.
11. Do Not Disturb sign posted on front door (invited people should be informed that this does not apply to them.) You may wish to leave this up for the first few days after birth.
12. Package of 24 Obstetrical Sanitary pads. These are larger and thicker than conventional sanitary napkins and are commonly used in hospital maternity departments. Also at least one sanitary belt designed to hold them in place. Many drugstores carry this variety.
13. 2 boxes of 40 each super size sanitary napkins. As an alternative to commercial sanitary pads, Jeannine Parvati, in Hygieia; A Woman’s Herbal, p. 13-16, gives instructions for making one’s own.
14. 2 large boxes of mini pads or panti-shields for later after heavy bleeding has subsided.
15. One package of 20 disposable underpads. These are made of cotton and paper, similar to disposable diapers, with a plastic lining, and are to be placed under mother during labor (especially if membranes have ruptured) and afterwards. Drug stores commonly carry these. (Leftover underpads come in handy as a protective surface on which to change the baby’s diaper.)
16. Large, unbreakable bowl for placenta.
17. As stated previously, thick cotton mattress pad for bed or birth area. (Even if you are planning a water-birth, it is still advisable to have a bed nearby, made up and ready just in case. You will need it after the baby is born, in any event.)
18. Plastic sheet for bed or birth area. (A plastic paint drop cloth or an inexpensive new shower curtain are frequently used.)
19. Two sets of clean, freshly laundered sheets (if birth is to take place in a bed); 2 bottom and 2 top sheets for bed. The bed should be made up as follows when labor begins: mattress pad, bottom sheet, top sheet, plastic sheet, bottom sheet, top sheet. After birth, the first set of sheets and plastic sheet can be removed and the bed is once again set up.
20. At least 2 substantial bed pillows.
21. 2 clean, freshly laundered cases for each pillow.
22. Wastebasket or trash bag.
23. Ice water or ice chips, raspberry leaf tea, natural fruit juice, or fruit juice popsicles for mother during labor and afterwards.
25. Nourishing food for after delivery.
26. Clock or watch, for timing contractions, and recording birth time.
27. Flashlight or trouble light, for examining perineum afterwards.
28. One bottle of rubbing alcohol. (For birth attendant to sterilize supplies; and for treating umbilical stump.)
29. Plastic squeeze bottle (for rinsing perineum with warm water after giving birth, in the event of a tear or episiotomy.)
30. Several clean washcloths (for perineal support, sponging mother’s brow, etc.)
31. For baby: At least 1 box of newborn size disposable diapers (a good idea until meconium [the baby’s first stool] is passed, even if you prefer cloth diapers), 1 or 2 nightgowns, 3 or 4 receiving blankets (preferably old ones, if new, wash 2 or 3 times to get rid of lint and manufacturing chemicals.)
32. Several clean towels. (Especially helpful if membranes rupture early. Also needed after mother showers during labor and/or after birth, if baby is given a bath, or if the birth takes place in water.)
33. Two clean lightweight, cotton nightgowns for mother, with front opening for breastfeeding.
34. Supplies for breastfeeding: At least two nursing bras, lanolin or vitamin E oil for nipple preparation, nursing pads.
Optional Supplies: The following items you may or may not wish to have on hand, depending on your own personal preferences, or the preferences and provisions of your birth attendant:
1. Anti-bacterial soap or hand-sanitizing agent. It is generally agreed that reasonable, ordinary personal cleanliness is sufficient for home birth. The strict, anti-septic standards commonly maintained in hospitals are both impossible and unnecessary to achieve when giving birth at home. However, washing with an anti-bacterial soap or sanitizing agent when beginning labor, and requesting all people in attendance to do the same, may contribute to keeping germs away.)
2. One roll of paper towels (unopened).
3. Ice pack. (Helpful when applied to perineum for episiotomy or tear. An ice pack about 5″ wide and 12″ long, sold as a sore throat pack is especially appropriate. It can be wrapped with paper towels and placed against perineum.)
4. Stethoscope. (Almost all birth attendants have a stethoscope, and some use electric monitors, but some parents enjoy listening for their own baby’s heart tones during pregnancy or early labor.)
5. Sterile examining gloves. (Most birth attendants should have these, but you may wish to have a few of your own if you wish to examine yourself during early labor, in case your birth attendant does not arrive for the birth, or needs extra.) These gloves are made of clear, thin plastic and are disposable. They are available through surgical supply houses and some mail order addresses for home birth supplies. (The common household, thin plastic gloves that can be purchased in bulk for messy chores are not sterile and are not intended for use during birth or for medical procedures.)
6. Cord clamp, unopened package of shoelaces, or dental floss, for clamping or tying cord. (Most birth attendants provide some means to clamp or tie the cord.)
7. 1 bottle of Zephiran solution (available in a drugstore). Like the use of anti-bacterial soap, the effectiveness or necessity of special, sterile precautions for home birth is highly questionable. However, some mothers planning home births choose to take all launderable items – towels, sheets, baby clothes, etc. and wash them in the hot cycle of the washing machine with Zephiran, shortly before their due date, and package them in a plastic trash bag until labor begins.
8. Mirror, so mother can watch crowning and birth.
9. One package of 10 4″x4″ sterile gauze pads. (For perineal support. Most home birth attendants supply these.)
10. Metal kitchen tongs (for fishing items out of alcohol or boiling water.)
11. Camera or other motion and/or sound recording equipment.
12. Books on home birth, pregnancy and birth in general, breastfeeding, baby care, etc. Some books and material on home birth provide detailed instruction for emergency childbirth, evaluation of newborn, handling of complications, etc.
13. Lysol (or similar antiseptic) spray.
14. Baby bathtub and bath thermometer for Leboyer bath.
15. Topical anesthetic spray for use on tear or episiotomy.
16. Baby scale. (Usually birth attendant supplies one. Some parents like to have their own.)
17. Enema equipment. (Usually an enema during labor is not necessary unless mother is constipated. The birth attendant may supply this.)
18. Bulb aspirator, or infant enema syringe – boiled in advance (Usually suctioning of the newborn is not necessary. Most birth attendants will supply this in case it is needed.)
19. Bassinet, basket, or baby carriage for baby.
c. 1982 (Revised – 2012)