There are lots of simple changes you can make and small preparations you can plan for in order to make your home birth successful. Here are a few of my favorites.
It is important to eat and drink regularly in pregnancy, and labor is no exception. When you get depleted it will quickly evidence itself in your labor pattern, energy, ability to cope with pain, and sometimes, the baby may show non-reassuring heart tones that lead to a preventable transfer to the hospital. While you may very well have a quick labor, its always best to plan for the long haul. Fruits and vegetables, yogurt, cheeses, nuts, nut butters, sandwich meats and eggs are easy things to snack on in early labor. Smoothies are a great way to get “bang for your buck” nutritionally, so if you have any favorite ingredients keep them on hand. Foods that don't require a lot of chewing are wonderful when you are in the thick of active labor. You may love that chewy granola bar in pregnancy, but in labor the very thought of eating can be exhausting. Spoonfuls of honey, yogurt, soups and broths are easy to eat between contractions. Stalled labors often pick right back up after a nice snack! Having something to drink besides water on hand is also recommended. You will be doing some of the hardest work of your life, sweating and loosing electrolytes. Some families will make a "labor-aide" drink, or keep extra coconut water, Ultima, or juice in the home for labor.
Early labor is a great time to make your bed with clean sheets. It is an old "trick of the trade" to put a shower curtain liner over both fitted and flat sheets, and make the bed again with separate sheets on top of this plastic liner. This way, if the top layer is soiled it can be removed along with the plastic and the bed is freshly made for you and your family.
Another of my favorite improvisations is to warm the baby blankets in your oven. That's right, your OVEN! During active labor the Midwife will roll up your receiving blankets in a large paper grocery bag, and place them in the oven on “warm” (below 250) above a shallow pan with water in it. This creates moist heat and surprisingly enough, the blankets will stay warm for quite some time after the baby is born. After baby is born, they will be placed immediately on your chest. Once you've had a few minutes to take them all in, we will offer you a warm blanket to dry the baby. Skin to skin helps them regulate their heart rate, respirations and temperature, and keeping a blanket on top traps that heat so that they don't have to work so hard. Hats are not recommended, as they interfere with your ability to smell the baby and bond with all of your senses.
In order to reduce the normal swelling and discomfort that can occur with birth, it is helpful to make some ice pads ahead of time. Included in your birth kit are a special blend of herbs to facilitate tissue healing, and box of organic cotton unbleached sanitary napkins. These pads do not have the chemical that gels with moisture. If you cut them in half width wise, they will be about 4 inches long. You can make a strong cup of “tea” using the herbs and sprinkle on the pads. Place in individual bags, stack in the freezer, and voila, "pad-sicles" to soothe and heal your bottom. After birth, another batch of this "tea" will be made up to spray on your perineum when you empty your bladder. This dilutes the urine, soothes the tissues and expedites healing.
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