A Portland Oregon Doula holding a Birth Bag

Let a Doula Pack Your Birth Bag: 10 Things it Must Have!

Like Mary Poppins, you can always find a doula with her birth bag!

We fill our birth bag with tools to provide more comfort to a mom in labour, and help the birth process along.

The more relaxed and calm a laboring mother is, the more swiftly the body can do the work of birthing a baby. It means reducing pain and shortening labour – what every mama wants! The tools we use on a daily basis at birth are things that every mama in labor could use. We are excited to share our favourite things in our doula birth bag!

Portland birth doulas show their labor bags and what they put in their birth bagsHot Pack

Labour contractions feel a lot like intense period cramps. When women are on their periods, putting heat on the uterus and lower abdomen can help this achy feeling and it can bring comfort in labour too. Heat packs can feel great on the lower back or bring some relief from consistent back labour. Putting a heat pack on the neck and shoulders can just help a mom relax more which can allow labour to progress easier. Sometimes, mothers will complain of cramps in their thighs and legs, and heat can help distract and relax those muscles.

Electronic heat packs aren’t recommended in labour, but rice packs that can be heated in a microwave or a hot water bottle are great. One of my personal favourites to throw in my birth bag is the Fomentek Hot Water Bag. So simple to use, just fill hot water from the tap and it molds to the body. No microwave or stove needed, which is perfect for a hospital birth!

heat pack on a mothers neck helping her relax for a natural birth and using the Portland Oregon doula

Ice Pack

Labor is an athletic event and it often makes moms very sweaty and hot. Using an ice pack can help cool her down, giving her energy to keep going. Moms often get overheated in waterbirth tub. When that happens, we put this on the back of their neck, chest, or back to help cool them down. This allows them to stay in the bath longer. If she is experiencing back labour, alternating between heat and ice every 30 minutes can help bring some relief as well. Great for the pushing stage when she is hot and sweaty too.

My all time favourite ice pack to put in my birth bag is the old fashioned ICE BAG! You just add ice to it, so no need to have it refreeze in between uses. It’s cloth material so it doesn’t sting like some ice packs. Moms love it! Oh, and after the birth it can feel great on your swollen lady parts 😉

2 ice packs ice bags from Amazon that can be put in a doula birth bagNourishment

Mothers labour better when eating and drinking. And the birth team supports better when well nourished and hydrated. It’s been proven that it’s safer for a mother to eat in labour than to fast. Bring snacks that are easy to eat like apple sauce pouches, oatmeal, fruit and honey sticks. Electrolyte replacements are wonderful to help aid the body in the hard work it’s doing. Coconut water is one of our favourites, being the most similar to the bodies electrolytes.

coconut water with straws for hydration in for a doula birth bag


Cracked, dry lips are the worst! Moms do a lot of breathing in labour and chapstick can feel SOOOOOO soothing! It’s the little things that can help bring comfort to birth.


One thing our Baby Nest doulas wouldn’t want to go to a birth without is aromatherapy oil blends! There are lots of different oils that can help and just depends on personal preference. Lavender, Frankincense and Geranium can be wonderful for relaxation. Clary Sage can help contractions get more regular. And Orange or Grapefruit can uplift the mood. Peppermint and Rosemary are great for energy, clarity of mind, and for stamina. It’s often used during the pushing stage.

They can be used topically on the neck or feet, or just inhaled. We don’t recommend putting them all over the body or in the bath in case the mother suddenly is adverse to the smell. Some Portland, Oregon hospitals have restrictions on diffusing essential oils, so be sure to ask at your birth place tour.

birth aromatherapy bottles in our doula birth bag


Another all time favourite of ours, so simple but so effective! A Portland, Oregon nurse once told me that after seeing how much the fan helped the laboring mother, she wished the hospital would put a fan in every birth room. When a mother is getting hot, fanning her can cool her down. Especially during the pushing stage, which can be exhausting.

When a mom is in the transition stage, things can feel overwhelming. What she needs to do during this stage is stay calm and just keep breathing. And a fan can really help with this. A rush of fresh air can be just the thing that keeps her breathing!

fan on a green table in our doula birth bag

Gum and Mints

Gotta cover up the pizza and granola bar breath! Moms in labour have a crazy sensitive sense of smell, so the birth team needs to have gum and/or mints to help freshen the breath to keep coaching her closely. Being up all hours of the night can bring on some serious morning breath, so the birth team is in good shape if they have some minty fresh breath instead. If the mother throws up, it can help take away that icky taste too!

Candles & Relaxation

We pack some tricks to help make the birth place more homey, especially if it’s a hospital birth. The key to a more comfortable labour is to stay relaxed. Sometimes the hospital setting can cause stress so as soon as we get into the room we try to create a more relaxing environment. This helps keep the stress hormones at bay.

LED candles that flicker, calming or favourite happy music to set the mood, affirmation cards, the moms own pillows or blanket. These can all help create a more relaxed birth atmosphere for the couple.

Doula sets up relaxing candles in a hospital to help with a natural birth


Sometimes the doula bag is never opened and the only tool used is the voice of encouragement. The voice of belief goes deep into a labouring woman and is often what keeps her focused and believing in herself, doing the hard work of birth. When she doubts, we remind. She wants to quit? We reassure. When she is vulnerable, we are safe spaces. And when she cries, we understand.

Another way to use voice as a comfort tool is to vocalize in labour. I cannot describe the relief and rhythm it gives when a mother starts to groan, moan or sing during the strong waves of contractions. Sometimes people think it’s them not dealing well with the pain. However, it’s them finding a comfort tool and coping well with the strong sensations. So use those primal animal sounds!


Even if a doula had no birth bag, she always has her doula hands. From relaxation massage, to counterpressure on the back, hip squeezes to bring relief, hugs to bring comfort, the body work and connection of touch in birth can be profound. It can ground and soothe the mother. Touch can help her relax more deeply. Touch reminds her she is not alone. And touch can provide pain relief with acupressure points and specific techniques for birth that doulas are trained with.

Portland birth doula comforting a mother in laboring in the waterbirth tub


Part of each Baby Nest doulas support is to bring all these comfort tools for each client. All so our clients can feel prepared, worry free and save their energy for the other demands of pregnancy instead of gathering all these tools.

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