When I started working as a doula nearly 6 years ago, I spent much time researching what other doulas had in their bags.
I loved looking at blogs and getting ideas from other more experienced doulas.
I discovered and bought much stuff, from honey straws to massage tools.
Interestingly, many more experienced doulas told me that my bag would get smaller as I got more experienced. I didn’t question that, they had been doulaing for longer than I had, so they must have been right.
I started with a smallish tote type bag (pictured above).
But this soon became too small, and the tote bag is now my antenatal appointment and postnatal doula bag.
I also had a period of having a spare sports type bag in the car with change of clothes, and heavy stuff I could only use at homebirths, like microwaveable rice bags.
I moved on to using a rucksack.
The problem with the rucksack is that, whilst it was roomy, getting stuff from the bottom meant emptying the whole bag. This annoyed me.
When my friend Maddie raved about her skip hop twin duo bag, I got myself one off eBay too and tried that for size.
But I still needed something bigger, because I couldn’t close the skip hop bag once I had put all my stuff in it.
Also, I like things to be organised in different compartments and being easily accessible and organised.
So last year, when I bought myself a new gym back called a Workplay bag (aptly named “the goddess” bag!), I realised it would work very well as a doula bag. Workplay bags are expensive but I got mine second hand on eBay for about £20.
It’s great, there is plenty of room and it’s very organised and easy to find stuff. The only problem is that the bag is very heavy when full, and I cannot carry it on my back and still have my hands free for my client mid contraction when we walk from the car part to the hospital. I’m now toying with the idea of buying something on wheels, I’ve been ogling a midwife friend’s new Zuca bag…
Interestingly because my bag has so much kit, I’ve shied away from sharing it online over the last couple of years, because so many doulas say they take almost nothing with them at a birth, that I felt that I was somewhat a lesser doula for having so much kit, that there was something wrong with me.
So I’m super grateful for doula Staci Silvan to having stated that she likes to bring a lot of kit in her bag, and to Zara de Candole, for saying that she should embrace all the kinds of doulas, the ones who just bring themselves, and the ones who bring everything but the kitchen sink.
It’s interesting how most of us can’t help but judge and compare ourselves to others, instead of seeing the beauty in the amazing variety of uniqueness each one of us brings.
So I’ve decided to embrace the fact that I am a “hoarder” kind of doula, and not be ashamed of my enormous doula bag.
I’m coming out as a big doula bag doula 😉
The thing is, I am also a fully paid up member of the “doulaing is about being not doing ” school.
I know that the most important thing I bring to the table is me, and how I hold the space for the woman during her labour and birth (which is also why a large chunk of the contents of my bag are actually designed to keep me going rather than for my client)
Most of the time I don’t take much stuff out of my bag at all. But I’m the kind of person who would hate not having something available if I knew it could help.
I really want to emphasise the fact that, (especially as I’m a doula mentor and the last thing I want is my mentees to think that they need to have everything that in my bag-it’s not about me), I am not writing this post to encourage you to do it like me, or to say that my doula bag contains the perfect kit.
But I often see posts from new doulas asking what people have in their bags, and I know how useful it was for me when I started, so I want to pay it forward, because I think it’s really helpful to have it in a link that’s easy to find rather than trawl through stuff on facebook.
Just remember: This is my kit. It fits me. This isn’t necessarily the kit that is right for you.
I would like to encourage you to look at my very large amount of kit, and and thing to yourself: do I need this shit? Do I want all this stuff in my bag?
You may want to experiment and try it for size, and when you realise that you like something, then by all means keep it, but also feel free to dump it when you realise it’s not working for you.
Heck less than a week ago I went to a birth with only my handbag-it was for an elective cesarean and I knew it was likely to be short and that I wouldn’t need my labour comfort bits and bobs.
Let’s embrace variety and celebrate all doulas, the ones who go to births with just their handbag, and the ones who go to birth with a ginormous bag, and everybody else in between!
The right doula bag is the one that is right for you!
Here is my current birth bag. I know it’s big but I love it!
Here are some other doulas who favour big bags
Staci Sylvan who is another member of the big bag club, sporting her doula bag, which a Stanley tool bag
Zara de Candole another fan of big doula bags
And for balance, here are some examples of doulas who prefer small bags!
Eva Bay and her basket (Cards, rebozo, notebook, diary, birth beads and water)
Mars Lord and her tote bag
Amber Strong and her handbag style doula bag (contains snacks, lip balm, essential oils and homeopathic kit, straws and honey. For me – clean underwear, deodorant, mints, charger and purse)
And if you’d like to know what inside my huge bag here are some pics
My antenatal/postnatal bag (pictured at the top of this blog) contains a small pelvis and baby, a beaded birth line and client notebook (for antenatals), a small knitted boob, baby and syringe, to explain hand expressing/positioning, some slippers (I hate getting cold feet), and most importantly, some good quality, dark chocolate (I once got caught up without chocolate at a postnatal job, mum was taking a nap, baby was asleep in the sling (I usually chuck a stretchy wrap in my bag too), I’d done what I needed to do and was having a cup of tea and there was NO chocolate-never again).
The snack section. It’s all for me, so I can keep going when I am at a long birth and can’t get away. Hospitals are a very dehydrating environment so I have a Hydaway collapsible silicone water bottle. I’ve tried plastic water bottles in the water and didn’t like the taste they gave to water. It’s much more convenient than the horrible polystyrene cups from the hospital, and also helps in not creating more waste. I usually add some squash or some sports tablets in the water too, to encourage more drinking (has to be balanced against not needing to pee every 5 min though) I also have a Pokito silicone collapsible coffee cup, for pretty much the same reasons I highlighted re water. Good coffee is important to me (hospitals usually only have the most vile cheap brown powder instant coffee) and I love the coffee “teabags” from Taylors of Harrogate. I have some cereal bars, some nuts, and sweets and other high calorie, nutrient dense stuff.
The “therapy” section of my bag. Helios homeopathy childbirth kit, rescue remedy pastilles, essential oils in a tiny little keyring pouch (I take lavender, clary sage, peppermint, frankincense, and Katseye blend 10 and 1) , sports tablets, earplugs and eye mask, washcloths, honey straws, various smelly sprays and roller balls and crystals and amulets (mostly for me), and a homemade poo-pourri (a small, essential oil based product to spray onto the toilet because you do a poo-so if your client goes in straight after you it doesn’t stink), and some disposable gloves just in case. The little pouch on the top left had toiletries for me, toothbrush and toothpaste etc.
The birth pool kit: plastic mirror, thermometer, collapsible jug to pour warm water on the mother’s back, torch, and a wet bag.
The comfort measures section: wheat bag, birth ball pump, portable air conditioning unit, fairy lights, massage balls (got mine really cheap in Tiger), small hot water bottle, portable essential oil diffuser.
The spare clothes section: tshirt, knickers, socks, leggings, swimsuit (in case I need to go in the pool with mum)
The comfort/rebozo section: 2 rebozos (you can buy some here), one blanket and one poncho (for when both me and mum or dad feels chilly in the middle of the night, I once lent both my poncho and blanket to cold midwives at a homebirth, and wrapped myself with my rebozo), one cooling towel for when mum feels too hot, a couple of inflatable neck travel pillows (handy for a labour nap for me or the partner, especially in hospital)
A shewee. Sometimes the labouring mother loves to labour on the toilet. If you’re in a flat this might be a problem for the doula, hence this handy piece of kit (I have not had to use it yet)
The book section-speaks for itself
And I also always take two more things with me at a birth: when I go on call, I bake and then freeze a groaning cake for my client, and I also freeze myself a sandwich made with something that won’t perish quickly at room temperature (like cured ham and cheese). I take these with me when I get the call (the sandwich is for me). Once the baby has been born I share the cake between the parents and the midwives.
Update November 2018: I finally got a bag on wheels as my big gym bag was getting too heavy to carry comfortably. It’s a Santoro wheelable craft tote.