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Man's Guide to Birth is member's only resource; a guide for dads and birth partners through pregnancy, birth, and the first months of parenting. This short and to the point guide for men will help you to better support a pregnant and laboring woman and understanding your needs as a birth partner and father.  The Man's Guide to Birth is easy to navigate on your phone and makes a great bathroom reader for pregnancy.

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Doula Bag Esali Birth

Labor Doula Bag Basics

When it comes to the basics, your doula bag should carry items for you (food, extra clothes, unique tools for supporting...etc.).  A labor bag that the parents pack should carry items for them (think toiletries, extra clothes, birth ball, food, money...etc.).  The best items in a doula bag or general labor bag really depend on the types of women and births you most often attend and the style of care you provide.  I'm mostly using my hands and my presence while supporting births, but it is nice to have a little bit of extras since they fit in the bag.  Likewise, it's not uncommon for me to attend births in the country 30 minutes from the nearest hospital and I'm usually the only other person present for a decent amount of time so I like to have a little extra tools available to me.  I would encourage you to know how to use the items well in your bag before adding them, particularly if you are adding herbs to your tool kit.  Ultimately, though, you'll probably add a lot more items to your bag when you're first starting out and eventually come to find a few tools to be your most common go-to items for the area you practice in the most.

What is the best Doula Bag to use?

I LOVE camera back packs.  I use these for my desk job also because I work from home and homeschool - which means I might be in the office, at home, or at a park and I want to throw everything in it.  For the doula bag, they just keep everything so organized and easy to access so they're super convenient all the way around with moveable hook and loop dividers.  I have a few different brand styles, but I prefer the style shown in the header image because it doesn't taper at the top and has a lot of extra compartments great for carrying cash/debit cards, keys, food, notepad, or smaller items I might want to grab from my purse.

Doula Bag Must Haves

Essential Doula Bag Items:

  • Extra change of clothes - shirt, pants, and maybe under garments.  You never know if you need refreshed or have water from a tub or amniotic fluid on you.  An extra pair of scrubs are nice too and then you kind of have uniform without bothering the rest of your wardrobe.
  • Herbs for tea and herbs, oils, and tinctures for emergency or extra supportive scenarios - I use a travel cosmetic case for herbal teas that I cycle through often for freshness - that's the little red case you see.  I use a travel essential oil mini case - that's the green zipper pouch you see.  I'll talk more about these in a minute.
  • Food Items - because you need a quick pick me up, or sometimes a whole pot of soup and it might not be available.

Herbs (Red Case) Whole or Tinctured (not essential oils)

  • Red Raspberry Leaf - If its early in labor, I do tend to make a cup of tea for mom or whomever else.  It's emotionally calming, it's nutritive to the whole body, and it is far from clinical.  This can also be used for immediate postpartum.  Red Raspberry Leaf is a wonderful tonic (nutritive) herb which can be light on the stomach while also providing necessary nutrients for labor.
  • Nettles - Same as above while packing a bigger punch.  Great for reducing bleeding postpartum as well.
  • Dandelion Leaf - supports the liver and good for postpartum, especially if mom needs a bit of encouragement to pee over the first week.
  • Chamomile Flower - Soothes muscle tensions, especially in the digestive area helpful for nausea and support sleeping.
  • Separately, though usually blended together (steeped prior to birth if we might be wary of postpartum hemorrhage - stressed mom, long labor, tired mom...etc.) - Equal parts Shepherd's Purse (this is an oxytocic herb that helps to contract the uterus in case of hemorrhage), Yarrow (this herb helps the blood to clot in case of a hemorrhage or vaginal tear), and SWEET/True/Ceylon Cinnamon (NOT Cassia - cassia/kitchen cinnamon thins the blood too much due to high concentrations of coumarin which are not high in true cinnamon).  Cinnamon is helpful for women that may have a very cool constitution (thin, pale, often chilled extremities).  This is a nice postpartum tea blend as well.
  • Black Tea or Instant Coffee - for a quick pick me up drink for the birth team.
  • Doula Power Energy Tincture - for  a quick pick me up and mood balancing needed for long labors and for functioning after a long labor for the birth team.

Herbs (Green Case)

This is a case that holds 8 miniature dropper vials that I mostly use for essential oils though I also have some tinctures.  I also have a roller ball of olive oil for massage and diluting essential oils and a general salve tin for tear healing or as a lip balm - which is better than a stick of lip balm because I can more easily put it on a cotton swab or whatever is available to not contaminate the jars.

  • Olive Oil - for diluting essential oils and general unscented massage (I prefer olive to coconut because it has a longer history of medicinal use and I don't have to purchase something that has been processed in order for it to remain one consistency).
  • Lavender Essential Oil - For calming and anxiety related relaxation as well as rest support.
  • Rescue Remedy (Tincture) - For calming support (though I honestly haven't seen much benefit from this myself).
  • Peppermint Essential Oil - To help ease nausea during labor.  To help if the mom has to pee, especially postpartum thus reducing risks of postpartum hemorrhage from a uterus that can't contract efficiently.
  • Lemon Essential Oil - Uplifting when the birth environment gets a little too drab and everyone needs a pick me up to keep things going. Also helps with nausea during labor.  This can also be blended (equal drops) with peppermint and lavender for allergic reactions and itching (like with medication reactions or cholestasis).  (FYI - Though some people put this in their water for flavor, it isn't a great practice because it can't properly dilute and irritates the stomach.  Likewise, you don't get vitamin C from the essential oil so it doesn't help in that regard either).
  • Chamomile Essential Oil - For muscle tension (also helpful for a newborn that has tight muscles making it hard to breastfeed) and rest support.
  • Valerian Tincture - For anxiety and rest support.
  • Shepherd's Purse Tincture - For oxytocic needed (contracting the uterus) postpartum hemorrhage (NOT for induction or during labor).
  • Yarrow Tincture - For flowing blood postpartum hemorrhage.

Sometimes I may have pre-blended tinctures for scenarios like hemorrhage and after pains relief - but all of these mentioned can be used along with other techniques so it isn't necessary.  I just like having something available if I'm the only one at the birth or out in the hills of WV.

Food Stuffs

  • Protein bars, of the healthy kind, are well worth it for their compact nutrition.  I found these wonderful sprouted - fruit only sweetness - protein bars that are wonderful from Thrive Market.  It is really nice having something good for me, no condensed whey or soy protein, and that won't make me crash like a sugar-loaded bar will do.
  • Honey sticks - because sometimes they just taste good in tea or coffee and I just don't like white sugar that's often available.  They can make nasty herbs taste better.  They can also be a great pick me up for the Mom (and baby) that might be getting low on blood sugar - or anyone else that might need this pick me up as well.  A uterus doesn't work well when it doesn't have a healthy source of glucose (common in a long labor), which may increase risks of hemorrhage so this is a simple way of keeping something in the system even if mom doesn't want to eat (typical during labor as the body needs to focus on getting baby out, not digesting food).
  • Cucumbers or coconut water for natural and healthy electrolyte balance without overloading the body with salt (which may cause water retention, but not necessarily hydration and electrolyte balance).
  • Sometimes I grab a box or jar of soup if I have it available - and it has been glorious when I have this for a long labor or where nourishing food isn't available.
  • Gum or Mints - Because you never know how coffee or protein bars might make your breath smell to a laboring mother or anyone else for that matter.
  • Lip Balm - If you use a swab this can be used by multiple people (you and mom...etc.) without unecessarily sharing germs.  A blend of St. John's Wort, Comfrey, and Calendula in olive oil and beeswax makes a nice healing skin salve for various scenarios such as perineal tears and postpartum nipple damage issues.

Doula Bag Optional Items

  • Flex Straws - Making staying hydrated much easier for mom so she doesn't have to tip a glass back.
  • Tennis Ball - for pressure and massage so the hands don't get tired.
  • Birth Ball or Peanut Ball - for sitting with a moveable pelvis, for leaning over in various positions, for sitting on behind a squatting mother, and the peanut ball for propping the legs more easily in side lying positions.  These are common tools, though most clients these days (as well as birth locations) already have these or clients prefer to walk around - so carrying one around that needs stored or blown up is just not my thing.  A ball can easily be taken to selective births as needed.
  • Infusion Glass - This is not shown, but I usually strap a water bottle and Libre Tea infusion glass to the front of my bag for hydration and making tea or fruit infusions.  I don't have to worry about finding a tea ball or making a paper tea bag - plus no leeching from plastic cups.  Grab on of these in the Esali Shop!
  • Baby Wrap - About a size 4 woven wrap - for rebozo work, comfort relief, repositioning baby, wrapping around a pelvis for hip squeezing, and postpartum babywearing if it looks like the parents need some extra support... or postpartum belly wrapping if the mom needs extra abdominal support.
  • Yoga Strap - used similarly as a baby wrap, but a little easier to maneuver.  Myself or Dad can hold this up around the back over the shoulder in the front - up on a bed or other piece of furniture - and mom can hold the bottom like a birth rope for a supported squat that's easier on our arms and better for relaxing her bottom.  These are great for stretching the lower back and hamstrings and various parts of the pelvic region during prenatal appointments or to help a funky birth position.  Depending on the birth location, there might be something this can be hooked around to be used just like a labor rope.
  • Battery tea lights - because they can feel relaxing, and why not?  Many birth locations don't allow real candles, or we don't want to worry about one being knocked over or forgotten to be blown out.  They can allow that calm and dark space oxytocin prefers while giving the birth team a little bit of light to maneuver around.
  • Note pad and pens for taking birth notes, especially if I'm going to be the only one there for a while.  I'm not focused on this because supporting mom is my priority, but there are times this is helpful not only when relaying information to the rest of the birth team, but also for processing a birth during postpartum and having a really good understanding of the order of events with the family.
  • Some print out cards of tip reminders for positioning in case I'm tired - or the rest of the birth team needs something to reference (great for dads and family members).
  • Hair ties - because my hair is crazy long and its common for my tie to break.  Also because the mom might need one herself and may have forgotten one in her bag or lost it.
  • Digital camera and phone charger - I often take birth photos when doulaing.  It isn't my main focus, but it is something I offer.  I also want to be sure my family can reach me for emergencies and keep a phone charger on hand.
  • Surgical gloves - because sometimes I check baby's tongue ties postpartum to foresee any breastfeeding issues if things aren't feeling OK to mom.  I don't like to do this too soon because I don't want to mess with baby unnecessarily, but commonly used during postpartum visits.
  • Feeding Tube - just in case someone offers the Mom a nipple shield I have backup available.  I also use this bag for breastfeeding and postpartum consultations and like to keep those on hand for a finger feeder as one of the least invasive ways of mom getting a break from nursing without damaging the latch with other artificial nipples.  When they are needed - its nice to not have to wait 2 days to get them by mail.  I also keep some Dr. Jack Newman breastfeeding guides in here as well, though not pictured.  My doula support includes breastfeeding support and postpartum care, so having these items come in handy.

Those are the basics.  Sometimes I might add a few extra items - usually a different herb or extra food item or something specific the mom may have requested.  Maybe an extra camera battery, but nothing too extreme.  The bag is mostly my personal convenience and comfort items rather than items I ever really use much.  I might throw in a book I'm reading for a time where mom is sleeping or wants some privacy.

 

What's in YOUR Doula Bag?

A lot of people have a very skewed perspective of what a professional doula is and how this differs from other birth support.  This is because doulas, like all birth professionals... and humans, are different.  Their perspective on birth is different, their practice is different, the locations that they work within are different.  This doesn't make one way right or wrong... just different.  A lot of hype has come up recently about a doula's ability to "really help" a birthing mother.
I wanted to shed some light on one perspective of this...If someone is a part of certain doula certification organizations - those organizations limit what their certified doulas can or cannot say/do. It is different for each one. It is a liability for the company if a doula starts telling moms "no, you don't need that medicine. No, there isn't anything wrong...etc...etc." It is also an issue for the women when the doula should not be providing medical care... that isn't her experience or area of expertise (as a doula).  A doula is support NOT a care provider or nurse.  An independent doula *can* say whatever she wants without risking her certification... but if she starts giving medical advice, she risks issues from the hospital or care provider regarding that... and possibly lawsuits depending on what her suggestions affect.  It will be her personal business if she offers that service or not.  (Esali Birth mentors are completely independent and accept their own personal risks for how they carry out their services.  They should, however, practice logic and understanding).
A doula can't tell a provider or hospital staff what to do... but neither can her husband. In the end, it is the MOTHER's choice to do or not do anything until she is in a position of not being able to make a decision for herself - in which case she has already signed her rights over to the care provider to make decisions on her behalf in the moment.  If a situation is not "in the moment" then a living will provides someone else rights to make decisions for her - that is, if she has a living will.  Esali Birth mentors encourage birth students/clients to make their wills when they're pregnant if they haven't already.
However, in the US, we do have laws protecting people from abuse... any abuse... and anyone can speak up about that.  We also have programs like Improving Birth that shed light on various maternity related issues which also include birth abuse.  A lot of people (doula or not) won't, however, because it can be an awful feeling to have a bully come down on you for speaking up against any form of abuse.  Right or wrong to not speak up, it is one of the reasons it doesn't happen when it could.  Additionally, not many will say when... or if... medical staff are abusive; they just go along with it believing a birthing women has to "listen to her doctor." What can a doula do in this situation?  A doula can *remind YOU* of your rights and unbiased options.  They can speak up against #birthabuse.  If they will is individual.  What your responsibility is, as with all birth responsibilities, is to interview your potential doula and ask what THEY will or will not do for you.  Every doula is different, just like every care provider is different.   An OB is not the same everywhere.  A midwife is not the same everywhere.  Hospital birth is not the same everywhere.  Home birth is not the same everywhere.
 
All this being said - the reason women hire a doula is FOR the emotional and physical support because even with a hospital that supports birth plans, there is usually not enough staff to provide continuous support to the mother - and because birth is *mostly* an emotional event (OXYTOCIN gets the baby out AND provides mom with a satisfying experience... when its natural oxytocin) - moms NEED to feel safe. For most moms, feeling EMOTIONALLY safe is often only attainable through a doula.... like a mother that *really* understands birth.... not understands birth in the past 50 years... but real, raw, birth.  Some of us have this, others don't.  This doesn't mean a doula replaces a mom or a husband...  it is just a different, often incredibly beneficial, style of care.
 
Doulas rates on increased positive outcomes (both emotionally AND physical health of the mom and baby) are because of their *continuous* emotional and physical support.... NOT because of medical or perceived medical assistance.
 
That being said. If you NEED someone telling you your provider is lying to you.... then you NEED to hire a new provider. If you NEED someone whispering that the nurses at the hospital are lying to you... then you NEED to birth somewhere else.
[heading type="h3" margintop="28px" marginbottom="28px" bordered="no" align="center"][color]Whether a doula can or cannot say things doesn't fix a choice that should have been changed because you know you're not birthing in a supportive environment. [/color][/heading]
Most doulas I know don't provide on the spot childbirth education... they either recommend/require childbirth education before taking on a client, offer classes themselves and/or won't take clients unless they've proven they're educated or taken a class from that specific doula.  This isn't just for the doula, it is also so the mom... family... can have the best birth (health and happy) possible.  It is so that the client isn't expecting the doula to be a superhero during the birth. They can certainly seem like superheros, but they want to enjoy their job, too... and they want to be able to do their job to the best of their ability. 
We wouldn't have so many issues in births as it is if providers *required* ....  offered... excellent perinatal education.  Unfortunately, again, most classes that are scantily recommended are "how to be a good patient."  Or, "you can have a great birth if you don't have an educated birth philosophy or wish to do things 'out of the norm' - just do what we say, and here is #whattoexpect."  At Esali Birth we share how to make choices and why they're important.
Knowing your options and making choices that support your birth beliefs comes *before* hiring a doula. The doula then supports you AFTER you've chosen a supportive environment. No matter what a doula can or can't say - if the mom hasn't chosen an environment (provider/location) that supports her wishes - the doula can't magically create a positive experience.  It might happen (because doula support can make that big of a difference) - but it isn't the best situation for anyone. If anyone has to fight for the mom's rights - even though that's a legal option - it makes the birth space an intense place to be for someone... often the mother or the father... and neither of them need to be doing anything other than bonding with each other and their baby!  We're trying to build oxytocin, right?  Not just because its safer for mom and baby... not just because it progresses the birth process... but also because oxytocin builds in everyone in that birth space.  This is an event from a higher power that knew that mom and baby will need a lot of love and support during the postpartum period. 
[heading type="h3" margintop="28px" marginbottom="28px" bordered="no" align="center"][color]Make birth as simple as it can be by understanding that birth is a profoundly intricate transformation.[/color][/heading]
Believe this, make the choices that support it, and birth is (in most cases) incredibly simple.
 
In an environment (location/birth team) that SUPPORTS biological birth AND a mom that has a birth partner (her husband is wonderful when they're relationship is connected and respectful, or mom, or friend...etc....... a midwife)... that truly understands biological birth and the need to be quiet and let mom instinctively do her thing... a doula might not be necessary. Or, a doula might be that birth partner that is quiet and lets mom do her thing - and giving her the confidence to do so.
 
You have to understand that [color]BIRTH IS EMOTIONAL[/color]. Almost all complications with birth these days stem from an incredible misunderstanding that humans can or should meddle with birth. If you don't believe that you can #freebirth (birth unassisted... birth alone... birth without a care provider) - then I would encourage positive continuous support... which is exactly what a doula provides.  Someone else on your birth team may already provide that, I don't know... but it isn't a black/white "a doula does this" kind of situation.  It depends on what you need, what you want, and where you're preparing to birth.
 
A montrice on the other hand is often a midwife who is providing doula services. They can do limited provider care for the mom because of their midwifery background.... but they don't intend to catch the baby as a provider nor take responsibility in that manner. Once they get into a birthing facility or hospital, their ability to act as a sort of care provider stops because of liability with the hospitals and providers in that location.  Their role moves towards that of a doula.
I hope this clears up some of the issues regarding if you should really save/spend the money on a doula.  What have your experiences been?  Can you add to this?

For a breastfeeding mom, the early weeks can seem like a long time, and having adequate support can not only mean a world of difference emotionally, but also mean the difference between a successful breastfeeding experience and one that quickly diminishes. With newborns nursing a lot (WAY more than 8-12 times a day, though that is what many professionals will tell new moms), moms can feel as though they are a walking boob. What can dads do to help mom with the breastfeeding experience?

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