By Sharon Muza, BS, CD(DONA), BDT(DONA), LCCE, FACCE, CLE
What do postpartum doulas carry in their bag?
New birth doulas are often very concerned about what to pack in their “birth bag” – the bag that they bring with them to every birth that is usually filled with all kinds of tools and useful items to use during labor for both themselves and their clients. But did you know that postpartum doulas have a postpartum bag that is equally important to their work supporting families after the baby is born. Let’s find out exactly what postpartum doulas find essential to bring for their work with new parents and their babies.
Postpartum bag items for the new parent
- Hot pack– for soothing sore shoulders and necks that may result from new positions while learning to breastfeed.
- Unscented massage lotion or oil – the postpartum doula may offer the new parent a hand or foot massage to help relax them and reduce stress,
- Books and DVDs – many postpartum doulas have a diverse resource library and often loan out relevant books and DVDs on topics of interest to new parents
- Breastfeeding pillow – most new parents have their own breastfeeding pillow, but if not, some postpartum doulas have one of their favorites to bring along to help make feeding sessions easier.
- Favorite handouts and printed resources – sometimes having a printed handout to refer to is easiest for new parents, so many doulas bring along some of their favorites, for example on baby-wearing, hand expression, or other relevant topics
- Baby carriers to loan – babywearing can be a lifesaver for new parents, but if this is their first baby, most of them may never have “worn a baby” before. Postpartum doulas often have a favorite, but own many different ones to share and loan to new parents, before they purchase their own.
- Business cards of needed referrals – new families often can benefit from and need the support of other professionals in addition to their postpartum doula. Postpartum doulas carry business cards of their favorite referrals to pass on to their clients
Postpartum bag items for the new baby
- Favorite baby carrier – bringing along their own favorite sling or wrap makes babywearing so much easier for the postpartum doula. Many postpartum doulas prefer one carrier over all others and will want to use it when wearing their client’s baby
- Swaddler– as you know, newborns often find great comfort in being swaddled. Postpartum doulas often are the master swaddler and can help families learn this skill if the family is interested.
- White noise app – having a smartphone app that creates white noise to help newborns and young infants fall and stay asleep can be helpful if the postpartum doula is there watching the baby in another room while new parents rest or sleep.
Postpartum bag items for the older sibling
Children’s books to read – sometimes, postpartum doulas find themselves providing care to an older sibling while supporting the new family. Some postpartum doulas throw a few age appropriate children’s books in their postpartum bag to share with the older children during their visit
- Change of clothes – some babies are spitters and some are not, but the postpartum doula never knows when a big spit-up or blow-out will happen. To be on the safe side, a prepared postpartum doula will have a spare change of clothes ready to use if needed.
- Blanket and neck pillow – overnight postpartum doulas may relax with the baby nearby sleeping and any other work has been completed. Having their own blanket or neck pillow can really help them to feel comfortable as they rest on the couch or chair.
- Warm socks – bringing along a favorite pair of warm socks can make any shift feel better.
- Inside shoes or slippers – many homes have a “shoes off” policy and ask visitors to remove their outside shoes at the door. Having a pair of inside shoes or slippers to slip on makes things more comfortable for the postpartum doula during their daytime or overnight shifts.
- iPad or tablet – having all your record keeping tools, favorite learning videos, and resources available to you while working a postpartum shift can be a real time-saver. Postpartum doulas who have their “mobile office” with them can feel confident and prepared to meet the needs of their clients and be caught up with the record-keeping they do for each of their clients
- Toiletry bag – Nothing beats carrying deodorant, toothbrush, a brush/comb, tampons/pads, hair ties and other personal care items along with needed medications. Especially for the overnight shifts, these things can go a long way to keeping a postpartum doula comfortable
- Gum/breath mints – Leaning in and working closely to help a new parent breastfeed requires fresh breath at all times. Don’t forget these important items so that you feel confident being up close with new parents.
- Snacks – There may not be lots of time to grab a quick snack, but when there is a postpartum doula will want something healthy and nutritious. Bring along your favorite easy to eat foods so that you feel fueled and satisfied during your postpartum shifts.
- Water bottle/travel mug – Hydration is just as important as nourishment so make staying hydrated easy with your own water bottle. Having a travel mug that keeps beverages hot makes it easy to enjoy your coffee or tea throughout your shift.
- Resource books – Many postpartum doulas like to bring along their favorite breastfeeding resource book, or additional books on other relevant topics, in case they want to access information during their postpartum visit.
- Cell phone charger – this piece of equipment is easy to forget but critical to always being reachable and having access to the internet for research you may need to do when with your postpartum clients.
- Breast pump and milk storage cooler – if you are a nursing parent, you may need to pump breastmilk during your work shift, especially if it is overnight. This will be critical to have with you if this applies to you.
- Disposable gloves – it is always nice to throw a few pairs of disposable gloves in your postpartum bag in case you find yourself cleaning up a bigger mess than you expected. Kitchen duty, pet messes, and baby clean-ups may be easier with some disposable gloves on hand.
- A sweater or sweatshirt – it is helpful to have an extra layer to throw on if the postpartum doula is feeling chilled. Bring a favorite hoodie or sweater to help keep things cozy.
Being prepared with a well-stocked postpartum bag is both professional and effective
Many people are curious what a birth doula carries in their birth bag. The reality is that postpartum doulas also bring bags that help them to meet the needs of their clients and themselves during a postpartum day or night shift. Having the right tools can make the work easier and better meet the needs of new families. If you are a postpartum doula, what tools and items do you carry in your postpartum bag? What do you use most often? Is there anything you carry that is most appreciated by your clients? What won’t you leave home without? Please share your thoughts and suggestions in our comments section so that everyone can benefit from the collective wisdom of our readers.