Prepping for Your Home Birth Without Fear {The Ultimate List}

by Mama Bice on January 28, 2014

One of the most common questions about homebirth from those considering it is, “What do you need?” While the list of supplies varies from midwife to midwife, there are some basic things that almost everyone is going to need to gather in preparation for the birth. There will also be things you will (probably) want to do for your comfort and peace of mind before “go time”. This is meant to be an Ultimate (I hope I thought of everything) List, but please don’t stress yourself to cover all the little extras. Birth really is pretty basic. This list is long and detailed so that you have a chance to consider everything you might want to do, not everything you have to do.

Early Prep

While not everyone plans a homebirth from the start, many women do. If you can get a head start on a few things it makes the final months much more peaceful. After you have lined up your midwife, get a head start on your prep.

One of the first things you can do is to create a peaceful space. (Right about now mothers of small children are laughing). If you know which room/area you plan to use then work in the early months to slowly declutter and create your space. Your nesting urge will come in handy with this as well.

If you have older children, you will want to decide if you want them at the birth or not. If you do there are things you can do to prep your child for the birth. Some things will depend on their age – for instance a one year old won’t need the same prep as a 5 year old. Older children may be interested in the mechanics of birth and understand more. You know your children best. Birth can be a beautiful family event if you decide to have your children there. And if you don’t think you want them there – no guilt! Everyone labors differently.

For younger children helpful prep includes books, videos, and role playing. There are a few children’s books out there that discuss homebirth, one of my favorites is called Hello Baby by Jenni Overend. It is beautifully illustrated and is great for little ones. Birth videos are also great for prepping kids. I previewed many, many homebirth videos on youtube and created a little playlist of those I thought my son could see. I included water births, “land” births, quiet moms, loud moms, and especially videos that included the whole family.

Speaking of “loud” moms – this is where the role playing comes in. While I was a very quiet laborer with my first born, I wasn’t sure if I would be again. We never know how labor will go (and I wasn’t quiet the second time, by the way). So we discussed as we watched the videos that mommy may “Roar”. I talked about roaring like a dinosaur or a lion. We had a lot of fun roaring at each other and I explained that if mommy roars it is okay – I am not hurting and it just means the baby is coming soon. Apparently this worked really well since my two year old was not phased at all by my roaring at the birth – and I was loud!

Another opportunity for prep and role play with little ones can include your midwife visits. Many homebirth midwives do home visits for prenatals or have offices that are child friendly. I made my son a little midwife kit of his own, including a little plush placenta I whipped up with some felt. During my appointments in our home he “helped” my midwife and we talked about the baby. All of this helps children feel included in this life changing event.

plush placenta

Now whether you decide to have your children at the birth or not, I highly suggest lining up a support person for them. If they are going to be taken somewhere else for the birth be sure they are comfortable at the location and with the support person. Also try to pick someone with a flexible schedule who can be “on call” for the birth.

If they are going to be staying with you for the birth then you need to pick a special person. You need to pick a person who is there just for the child/children. This means that if they need to leave the house or room and miss the birth, they will be 100% okay with that. I would suggest clearing this specifically with them, since in some cases support people at home births might be signing up in the hopes of being a spectator. This isn’t the point of a support person for the older child. Be sure to acclimate them to your routines and places they can go with your kids. Discuss car seats if they need to drive the children anywhere. While this may seem over-kill it will give peace of mind in the last weeks and while in labor. It also clears up your support team to work just for you during the birth and not have to split their attention.

You will also want to consider if you want a doula for your home birth. Be sure to set up an interview and get someone who you feel is comfortable in your home and is preferably experienced or knowledgeable about home birth. Another part of your team to consider is a birth photographer. Again, interview them and be sure they make you feel comfortable. It also helps if they understand home birth or have shot one before, since they have different highlights and flow than a hospital birth.

Almost to the Finish Line!

Once you hit about 32 weeks, order your birth kit. This may seem a bit early, but some companies take a few weeks to ship. Or, if you are lucky like me, it will get lost in the mail because apparently your house is invisible to UPS. This also gives time to clear up any issues if the order is wrong or missing something. You don’t want to be stressed at the last minute!

There are many places to order birth kits and your midwife may have a custom kit set up with a particular company. You can also order kits of your own making or a basic kit from places such a In His Hands or Baby, Birth and Beyond. *

Basic Supplies Include:

  • Various sizes of chux pads (absorbent pads with a water proof bottom)
  • Cord Clamp
  • Gloves, sterile (your midwife may carry her own)
  • Hibiclens
  • Bulb syringe
  • Lube Jelly
  • Peri bottle
  • Povidone
  • Pads for postpartum
  • Gauze pads

Now that is just a starter list, and as I mentioned above some midwives will want more or less or different items. Some additional items might be an herbal after bath, different herbal items (for cord care or afterpains), depends type underwear, and a “birth certificate” and foot printing kit. You can also take off items from a premade kit on most sites, and substitute in your own items. For instance you may get your own postpartum pads and “depends” (hey, those are handy the first day or so!). The one thing I suggest not skimping on is the chux pads. Most births require a good amount of them, and they are handy after birth too. I tend to use them for a couple months under my sheets to protect the mattress from breastmilk leaks in the night.

Once you have ordered your birth kit it gets exciting! You have all these cool things ready to go, so what do you do with them until the big day? Enter the plastic tote.

boxes

I love “totes”. Really – my house is full of these lovely plastic boxes. It makes everything look organized, even if you really just threw stuff in there eight years ago when company was coming over. But I digress. Plastic totes are perfect for organizing your birth supplies. The above picture is actually my birth supplies from my second birth. The top tote has all the little stuff. Here was my personal list:

  • Everything from the basic list above, plus a few additional items from my midwife’s list
  • Several hair ties (in a small plastic baggie, taped to the inside of the box)
  • Chapstick (in the small plastic baggie as well)
  • A roll of paper towels
  • My heating pads, both the plug-in version and my rice heat pack
  • A bath robe

The bottom tote has all the linens I would need. For the bed I had a fitted sheet and flat sheet, a plastic bed protector (I actually scored that at the dollar store), and a really old holey fitted sheet. I gathered four or five old towels I didn’t mind getting dirty or stained (none of them ended up stained) as well as several wash cloths. I also threw in a few pairs of underwear and a pair of socks. This box wasn’t so much about needing things set aside for me, it was more about having it set aside for my birth team. This way I could just say “check the tote” instead of explaining where my sock drawer was.

A note about the bed, and more experienced homebirth moms will know this already – prepare the bed whether you want to birth there or not. Labor is a funny thing and may not go the way you planned (as I found out myself!). The most convenient way to prepare the bed in my opinion is to make what I think of as a bed sandwich. When you go into labor, have your partner strip the bed. Then put on a fitted sheet and flat sheet that are clean and nice. Over this, put the plastic mattress protector (or large plastic shower curtain liner). Then over this put the crappy/holey/old fitted sheet you don’t mind messing up.

If you birth on the bed or get anything on it, you simply strip off the old sheet and protector and VOILA you have a clean and ready made bed underneath! It may sound odd but this was one of the best things after the birth was over. I ran to shower off and when I came back the bed was totally ready with minimal effort for my birth team.

Another great place to store your birth supplies for easy access is the pack-n-play or crib:

tamara birth supplies

Okay – so that is your supplies covered! That was easy.

The Last Weeks

Now there are just a few additional things you may want to do. One is a list. This list will be for your main birth partner. On this list include the steps you want them to take once labor starts. For me and my husband the list looked went something like this:

  • Call midwife (include number)
  • Call photographer (include number)
  • Call child care to give a “heads up” (include number)
  • Make bed
  • Empty washing machine
  • Hook up hose attachment for filling the birth tub, start to fill tub if in established labor

This list meant that I could concentrate on labor and not have to direct anything. I could get in “the zone”. I included the numbers on the paper just in case he couldn’t find them in my phone or his or if someone else was there doing the list instead. I didn’t include “call family” since we agreed we would not call family until the midwife had arrived and I gave the go-ahead. This was a lesson learned in our first birth that sometimes alerting family at the start of labor isn’t always the most peaceful thing to do if labor is long.

If you have a support person for your child, create a little cheat list for them of your child’s routine and favorite foods if they are not familiar with all of that. While the lists might seem over-kill, trust me that the less questions directed at you in labor the happier you will be. It also helps you avoid the little mini-panic that tends to happen in the last weeks when you realize that life is about change in a big way and you want to scream “I have no control” – yes, most pregnant mamas have been right there with you!

The next thing you will most likely want to do is a trial run on your birth tub, if you are using one. My friend and I both were very glad we did a dry run. For myself, we found out the tub had a slow leak and we created a plan for dealing with it. For my friend, she found this:

tamara tub hole

Yes – that is a giant hole. Apparently the plastic of the tub got brittle from the cold of the trunk it was stored in and it cracked. Since she looked at the tub around 36 weeks she had time to get a new tub from her midwife and do a dry run with that tub. Imagine if she had not inspected the tub until she was in labor! Doing a dry run also lets you see where you want to set it up and make space. Keep in mind you want room around the tub for your team to work and have access to you. Also figure out how you are going to fill the tub and think about how much hot water you will need. Some sinks may need an attachment to put a hose on it or may not have good water pressure. You can also fill your tub from the hot water heater or shower. If you are using your own built-in tub in your home, put some nesting skills to use and give it a good scrub down or have your partner do it (I vote for the partner).

tamara tub test

Another thing you may like to work on is affirmation cards. This would be a good activity for a quiet evening before baby comes or even as part of a baby shower or mother blessing. You can hang the cards around your birth space and even put some around the house where you will see them in the coming days (like on your bathroom mirror).

One of the final things you might want to do is be sure a space is clear for your midwife. Most midwives like to lay out their supplies if they have time before the birth is imminent. This can simply be a good patch of clean counter top or space on a bed in the birth area. If your kitchen looks like mine, a clear bit of counter space may mean moving your stand mixer under the cabinet or storing the blender or clearing the kitchen table (mine always ends up as a catch all). If you don’t have time to do this (or birth catches you by surprise) don’t worry, your midwife will find a good spot. Again, remember this is the Ultimate List – not the “stress about everything” list!

krystal midwife prep

You can also take a moment to set up all your postpartum supplies in the bathroom and by your bed. Myself and another friend I know created a breastfeeding station – nursing pads, nipple butter/lanolin, a good book, children’s books and small goodies (for the older child), and a nice water bottle. Some postpartum supplies you might like are a peri-bottle, pads in easy reach, herbal preparations (like those sold by Earth Mama Angel Baby), and over the counter pain medications for after pains (or herbal preparations). Always discuss medications or herbal options with your care provider.

krystal postpartum supplies

A small note about the cleaning that needs to be done. One midwife described it to me this way: “Clean like your Mother-in-Law is coming for a visit.” Basically, clean like you are having an overnight guest and then just take some extra care in a couple key places – your birth space and the tub/shower you may want to use. There is no need to over sanitize and totally tear apart your home in preparation for a home birth, just keep clean and neat. A great investment if you have it in the budget (or have an amazing friend) is to have someone come in and do a nice deep clean around 36 or 37 weeks.

Now you have all the preparation done. You have a peaceful birth space; you have your tub ready to blow up and know how you are going to fill it. You have your support team ready and affirmation cards made. Now you can relax and focus on that moment. That sweet, sweet moment when you hold your baby for the first time. Birth Blessings mamas! Did you do anything else to prep for your home birth? Let us know in the comments!

krystal home birth

*Please note Birth Without Fear does not have an affiliation with any birth supply companies and these are only suggestions.

**Last three photos credited to Aperture Grrl Photography.

Did you do anything else to prep for your home birth? Let us know in the comments!

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Atasha January 28, 2014 at 12:52 pm

Also I would suggest a water thermometer if you plan to be in the water. At my water birth, the water was too hot but my midwives thought that it couldn’t get too hot ( they underestimated our water heater!) after being in the pool for an hour or so, I asked a friend if we could add some cold water as I was super hot, she said they wouldn’t allow her to add it at her birth ( which I attended mine hours before my own birth) so I took her word for it . Needless to say baby passed a lot of meconium inside and we both had fevers from the water temp when she came out. I also had a hermitage that almost sent me to the hospital.. The midwifed said in hindsight that it was probably the water temperature..

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Mandy January 28, 2014 at 7:05 pm

I wish I would have had this list about a month a go. I still had an amazing home birth but I missed preparing some things and you covered them all here. I would add to make sure that these things are taken care of by 37 weeks. I put off a number of things (thinking I would go overdue like I did with my previous births) well I went into labour early and somethings I wanted were not done. I missed having my affirmations ready and a few other things. So even if it seems early make sure you have everything ready, as your body will never do what you expect :)

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Suzi January 28, 2014 at 10:59 pm

This is really great! I am not sure yet whether I will birth at home or my birth centre so I am preparing for both… I will put everything into the tub as you said but also include a list of things that will need to be packed into a bag if we do decide to birth at the birth centre. I am also going to pack all the things I plan to use which include laminated affirmations (so it doesn’t matter if they get wet) and some aromatherapy candles. Like you said then everything is in the same location! I am also going to pack some snacks in my box so that I know there is something to eat if I need it and so the boys of my household don’t eat them all! I have prepared a support person for my four year old but your post made me realise that it would be a good idea to make arrangements with his childcare as I know they have strict policies on who can pick up the children (plus I will need to get a key cut which I didn’t think of). Thanks for all the great advice! I am due in five weeks so this was perfect timing for me!!!

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Kristen January 28, 2014 at 11:00 pm

Thank you so much for posting this! If/ when I’m lucky enough to have a second child, I’m hoping for a home birth and I’m saving this list! :)

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Malia January 29, 2014 at 6:21 pm

I would have to add a hand fan of some sort, birth/labor snacks/meals/beverages for you and your midwife/assistants/attendants. I would also recommend packing a bag for the hospital just in case. My home birth turned hospital birth and I did not have a hospital bag and brought nothing with me, Total bummer. I would also recommend know how to install your car seat as we did not expect to go to the hospital and struggled big time the next day (for hours) in the parking lot trying to install the darn thing. I know next time around I will do so “just in case” Otherwise what a great list and advice for prepping for your homebirth.

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Casey Valverde February 1, 2014 at 10:51 am

GREAT article! I’m preparing for my first UC (but baby #5) this summer and I’m very thankful for the ideas of what to prep waaay before labor is imminent. Thank you!

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Grace February 1, 2014 at 11:52 am

This is a very good article, wonderful in fact. I gave birth to my daughter at home and will do so with this pregnancy as well.

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Stacy March 20, 2014 at 11:14 pm

This list speaks to the inner type A planner inside me! The totes are perfect! I hope to be having a home birth within the next 8 weeks!

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jessiev1022 March 21, 2014 at 1:21 pm

I’m prepping for a HBAC at the end of June, thank you for this list. I had no clue that I needed to ask my midwife if I needed to provide any supplies. I might order a set just in case even if she says she brings her own.
I’m going to print this out so I can highlight what I want and what cool little ideas I have now.

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Mrs. BWF March 21, 2014 at 8:21 pm

Definitely discuss this (and everything) with your midwife! Open communication and a competent care provider are important.

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stephanie March 21, 2014 at 1:36 pm

We found it most useful to stalk yardsales for old towels,.bedding, etc. my midwives eyes lit up whenninsaid, just throw it away! same with some baby blankets designated for the birth. they loved it and so did i. they did less time.cleaning up and we spent more time together chatting and recovering!

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Amber March 21, 2014 at 1:39 pm

I concur with Malia. My midwife had a suggested list of foods for myself and herself. The one thing she asked for specifically was green tea. For myself, juice, honey, fresh fruit, Gatorade, etc. And lots of ice. Other than that, just some food for everyone (midwife, husband, doula, etc.) to eat quickly since you never know how long labor will take. And also, a meal for right after. I made lasagna and put it in the freezer so I could have a good, hearty meal following birth. I labored for over 24 hours at my house and we definitely made use of the food. And even though I ended up having to transfer, we were still able to eat the lasagna when we got home. =)

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Milla April 20, 2014 at 6:32 am

Plus “Laborade” (natural Gatorade), zap some dates and purified water in the blender, then strain through a sieve. Contains natural sugars and mineral salts to keep your muscles going during labor :)

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Sarah April 21, 2014 at 1:37 pm

Thank you so much for this list and all they other feedback! I will definitely be printing it and sharing it with everyone. This is our second child, but our first home birth. I will keep checking back too.

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