Labour and birth are very unpredictable, and there will always be unknowns during the experience. Despite this, there are some elements of your birth experience that you can plan for!  I have put together a list of my Top 10 tips for things you CAN plan for, or learn about, to prepare for labour.

#1 – Plan for the long haul:

Labour is not like it is in the movies, and is rarely the hectic race to the hospital that you usually see.  A lot of expecting parents don’t realize how long labour can be, and that much of it can be frankly, uneventful.

First time labour lasts an average of 12 – 24 hours, and early labour is the longest part of the process, but it’s also the easiest!  Contractions can be 10-20 minutes apart at first, irregular and not hard to deal with at all (and for some no more than the feeling of menstrual cramps). So, try to sleep if you can (you won’t miss it when things get more intense) because you need rest and energy to get through it!  Some of our clients don’t even tell anyone they’re in labour, because if you call family and friends as soon as labour starts, it can add an extra stress that you’re keeping others waiting, and impatient (although well meaning) texts and calls can be an extra stress for some parents.

#2 – Plan for packing:

Pack two bags: The first one is for you, during the birth. It will have snacks, drinks, a camera, a phone charger, comfy socks, etc. Essentially, anything your will need at for your own comfort during the birth.

The second bag is for after the baby is born. Things that the baby will need, like diapers and clothes, and things that you will need, like fresh clothes and other postpartum stuff like pads and giant underwear! Remember other great options like a breastfeeding pillow, and a pillow for sleeping (with a bright colour pillowcase so it doesn’t get left behind) are great to have! 

#3 – Plan for some pain: No matter what your plan is (epidural, bath, massage, moving or a cesarean), – learn about breathing, moving, massage, walking etc.  Things can move faster than you expect sometimes, and it’s important to know what to do in the meantime to manage contractions, even while you’re waiting for an epidural.  Check out our Private Labour & Birth Prep sessions if you feel unprepared! 

#4 – Plan for the unexpected: It’s a great idea to create a list of things that are important to you for your birth.  Many clients want help creating a Birth Plan, but we encourage people to make a Birth Wishes list (plans are made to be broken!) 

It’s important to remember that every birth is different, and we can do everything possible to be ready, and we still can’t control everything.  It’s helpful to go through all the options available when creating a list, because you can learn what is and isn’t something you care about.  Remember though, that the unexpected is possible, so learning about all possibilities can help everything feel less scary if or when it happens!

#5 – Plan for a Doula : No matter what kind of birth you’re hoping for, having a support person that is ONLY there to help you and your partner, who will patiently answer your questions, explain things that are confusing or new, and who will not change shift right when you need them most, can make a big difference for expecting parents.  Reducing  anxiety around pregnancy and birth, allowing you to relax and feel safe, heard and in control (as much as is possible) is a beautiful thing!  Get in touch if you’d like to meet with some of Nutmeg’s doulas!

#6 – Plan for “messy” : Learning as much as possible about what ACTUALLY happens to your body during labour/birth and in the first few weeks after birth is so important for healing.  Learning about everything from dealing with haemorrhoids, how much bleeding to expect, how to use ice packs, depends, and knowing what medications are safe, is so useful to allow your postpartum stage to be more pleasant and less stressful.  

#7 Plan to be tired:  People sometimes think I’m joking when I say they should sleep during labour, but I’m serious!  Labour can be long and this could be the last chance to sleep for a LONG while.  After baby is born, going to sleep whenever baby sleeps is worth it and so important for healing!  Learn about normal newborn behaviour, cluster feeding, why babies don’t want to be put down in the early weeks, and the fact that babies have their nights and the fact that babies have their days reversed for the first month, will help you know how to best cope with lack of sleep, and  you also won’t be worried that something is wrong when they’re doing these normal newborn behaviours!

#8 Plan for Breastfeeding: If you’re wanting to Breastfeed/Chestfeed or pump, it’s important to know that it’s not as natural as many people say.  Breastfeeding is a learned skill and it’s normal to need help.  If everyone knew that it’s really not supposed to hurt, you should be comfortable while feeding, what swallows look like and how to know when baby is getting enough milk, more people would reach their feeding goals!  Learn as much as possible about breastfeeding BEFORE baby arrives, to avoid problems from the start! 

#9 – Plan for needing help :  Get a list of resources in order so you will be ready to call in reinforcements when you need them!  Search out and ask for recommendations from other new parents to have these things on speed dial:

  • Food delivery, groceries or grandma
  • Doctor’s office
  • Lactation Consultant, Postpartum Doula
  • Dog walker, cloth diaper service

or anything else that you want to have ready to go to help you once baby is home.  Check out the Nutmeg Postpartum Planner for TONS of great checklists and guides!

#10 – Plan to love that baby!! Love will come, even if it’s not easy at first.  The practical day to day of a new baby is HARD, but it gets better.  For no logical reason you will take care of this baby, and love this baby, and it will be amazing.  Even if it’s not instant and overwhelming, it’s ok.  It will come, and  it is worth it!

To learn ALL the things:

Check out our on demand Baby care and Breastfeeding Prep Classes, our one-on-one Lactation Consultant sessions, Birth Doula Support options if you want more support during pregnancy, labour and birth, and our Postpartum Doula Visits are here if you need them after baby is born!

Remember to check out our new Postpartum Planner too, so you can feel even more ready and prepared for what comes after baby is born!