natural birth childbirth

When you find out you are pregnant, there are so many things to learn and think about, fromchoosing a baby name to how you can have the best birth experience possible. You arm yourself with knowledge and figure out the best plan for you ... then you realize that plan may deviate, so you fill your brain with more info and surround yourself with the right people. That's where the experts come in.

To have a natural birth, sometimes you need a little help. I spoke with London King, doula and founder of Baby Caravan, and Samantha Huggins, doula and director at Carriage House Birth (both based in NYC), for their insight and tips on what should be a part of your natural birth kit. I also consulted with mother of three and natural birth advocate Nathalie Arruda, who recently home birthed baby number three. Here is their valued advice.

natural birth checklist

Pillows

It may seem simple enough but there is nothing like your own pillow. Sam reminds moms-to-be to bring a pillow or pillows to the hospital if that is where you are birthing. She suggests using a dark pillow case to differentiate yours from the hospital pillows. Hospitals are always in pillow crisis, she shared, so bring your own so you can use the ones from the hospital for your legs and your own for your head.

Coconut water

Drink lots of water and coconut water and have plenty of flexible straws especially during labor, says Samantha. "Hydration is KEY and will help keep an IV out of your arm if that is important to you."

Red raspberry leaf tea

London loves when moms-to-be drink red raspberry leaf tea -- hot or iced. It's not only delicious, it's an amazing uterine toner. Nathalie, who recently home birthed baby number three, shares that she drank red raspberry iced tea with honey and sea salt, "It's a great electrolyte drink and is fantastic during labor." 

Your birth plan

Instead of a birth plan, London prefers to call it a "birth wish list." "Labor should really be taken minute by minute," she explains, "and 'plan' sounds too confining to me." Mamas-to-be do not need a strict list to stress them out. Instead, write down your wishes to help you have a well-thought list of things you hope to follow to have the best birth. Know that things may change and know that you will be able to choose the best course.

Birthing ball

Many women love birthing balls. "They can be brought to most hospitals," Sam says, "but check with your care provider to be sure so you don't bring it along for nothing." Birthing balls can be used in many ways during labor and provide a great alternative for lying in bed. Being active sometimes helps labor along.

Music

Music is like medicine for me, and I used it to meditate when having contractions. London loves this idea and she adds, "Don't just put chill music on your playlist; include your all-time favorite songs that get you pumped up too! Sometimes you need that extra energy that only your best fist pumping anthem can conjure up." Nathalie (pictured) agrees. She used headphones during labor to really get herself in the zone.

Essential oils

Some women will love lavender oil to bring a little calm during pregnancy, and some like peppermint oil during labor for a boost of energy. London's favorite oil in labor is clary sage. "I rub it on the bottoms of moms' feet to bless their birthing path. It moves mountains ... or at least seems to help instigate stronger contractions and bring baby down." She reminds us to be sure there are no allergies to essential oils first.

Washcloths for cool and warm compresses

Sam recommends using washcloths for cool and warm compresses. She also says to add a few drops of your favorite essential oil for a pick-me-up (peppermint) or to soothe (lavender).

Small battery-operated fan

Labor is exactly that -- labor. Sam suggests using a small battery-operated fan or a little paper hand fan. "A fan is key for while you are pushing," she says. "It's a lot of work!" A little cool air might be exactly what you need to keep going.

Lip balm

It's important to stay hydrated during labor and that includes keeping your lips hydrated. "There is so much breath work involved in laboring and pushing," Sam says. "Be sure to have your lip balm handy."

Books and movies to inspire you

Nathalie recommends The Business of Being Born. Watch it when you first find out you're pregnant and again in third trimester. "It's a fantastic documentary with great information," she says. "There is too much fear about childbirth in our country. It's not a disaster waiting to happen. Most of the time birth is perfectly normal and safe, but when we manage it like a medical emergency, in a way, we set ourselves up for emergencies to happen. The Business of Being Born explores the way we tend to manage normal birth like an emergency and why it's not the best practice."

London's favorite is Orgasmic Birth -- she believes it is even more important to see. "It reinforces what is truly possible when you can let go," she says, adding, "you know, sexy in ... and sexy coming out."

An open mind

"An open mind is crucial," London says. "I always say, 'You can't think a baby out.' Step outside yourself and really let go and just be soft. Ride the wave of labor and find the joy and peacefulness along the way."

A fantastic doula

A doula is a birth partner, your advocate. My doula (London) taught me so much. I couldn't imagine birth without her support and knowledge and her magical ability to help me stay calm. Sam (pictured) adds, "A doula can really help normalize the birth process. She is also a great second pair of hands for your birth partner." Having a doula decreases your chances of having any unnecessary medical interventions.