I've been a doula for 4 years now, and with time my doula bag has gotten smaller and smaller. As a new doula, I had every gadget and goody possible. It helped me to feel secure. But the more births witnessed the more my confidence as a doula grew. And I quickly realized that the stuff I had is not what made me a great doula. It was my experience, compassion, kindness and awesomeness that made me a great doula! There are some birth that I go to where I don't take a single thing out of my bag! Other times I am glad that I have some essentials with me. So I'll break it down for all you new doulas out there so you know what you really need!

MUST HAVES: these items no doula should do without. Most of these are about taking care of yourself, but I've also included a couple of my most used tools. The extreme minimalist will really only need the following:

Personal Care Items- You know how on an airplane you are instructed to apply your own oxygen mask before assisting others? This same principle applies to being a doula. Although it can be difficult to remember to take care of yourself, most of the "must haves" in your doula bag should be able self-care. Because you can't be the best doula when you are not taken care of, right? I bring and will often use eye drops, my contact case, lip chap, a hair brush, a headband, deodorant, a toothbrush, and toothpaste. I always have extra feminine hygiene products on hand in case I get any surprises. I try my best to live up to my "crunchy doula" status by stocking Tree Hugger Cloth Pads ;) And when I was still breastfeeding a made sure to bring plenty of Cotton Nursing Pads...because nothing causes a bigger milk letdown than the cries of a newborn baby!

Phone Charger- Because you never know how long you'll be away at a birth. And I don't know about you, but I never want to be out of touch with my childcare provider or my other clients!

Food and/or Money- Childbirth can take time, and you'll need to eat! I usually pack easy to grab snacks like nuts, apples and bananas on my way out the door. But I never eat while in the birthing room. Some labouring moms have super sensitive noses. I also bring money to buy meals at the hospital or nearby restaurants, but that's only because I really hate cooking. Feel free to pack more in your bag than just snacks if you are ambitious and don't have the same loathing of cooking as I do!

Extra Clothes- Birth brings with it a lot of sweat (usually my own), tears, blood and other bodily fluids. You'll want to have a few extras just in case, trust me. I like to bring an extra pair of socks, underwear and t-shirt. I usually pack my Birth Nerd t-shirt because...well...it's just awesome.

Rice Bag- At some point my clients almost always get a sore back, and a warm rice bag is a lifesaver! I use one with a washable cover to that I can use it with more than one client.

Massage Tools- I think I've pulled out a massage tool or two at 90% of the births I've attended. They feel great and they save your hands. The Reflexology Ball is my fave!

SHOULD HAVES: these items aren't necessary, but sure come in handy sometimes! If you don't want to take the minimalist mindset to such extremes, pack the following:

Electric Tea Lights- Some might include these in the "Luxury Item" category, but personally I use Electric Tea Lights so much. Plus they are small and don't cost much.They are great when you are trying to add a little ambiance to the room, or help the environment be a calmer one.

Combs for Acupressure- Another small and inexpensive item that is worth the add to your bag are hair combs. These combs can be gripped by a labouring mom during contractions to help ease pain by releasing endorphins.

Straws- Bendy straws come in handy at home before heading to the hospital, or at a home birth. Sometimes mom needs a bit of assistance with her water intake, and a straw is the easiest way for mom to drink.

Gloves- When I am helping clean up at a home birth, I like to wear gloves. And I hate asking the midwife to use some so I just bring my own.

Birth Ball Pump- Do you ever notice that the birth balls at the hospital are never inflated properly?! And there is never a ball pump to be found! I have used my trusty pump on several occasions.

Aromatherapy- My go-to aromatherapy tools are my Clary Sage EO (a dab on the inner ankle to help with contractions) or my Anti-Nausea Aromatherapy Inhaler.

Labour Massage Oil- Many labour massage oils are made with essential oils that are specific for childbirth, like Lavender (relaxation) and Clary Sage (contractions). Plus, who wants a dry massage? I use my massage oil often for foot massages during early labour.

LUXURY ITEMS: although I rarely use these items, they are helpful from time to time. Depending on your mode of transportation or the hospital in your city, you may want to move some of these to the "Should Haves" category.

Birth Ball Cover- I don't use my birth ball cover as much anymore, but when I lived in Toronto and took the TTC to births, it was used a lot! It made lugging around my birth ball a lot easier, and as a bonus it started a lot of great conversations on the TTC about doulas.

Deck of Cards- For distraction in early labour, or when the labouring mom has an epidural and doesn't want to sleep. I think I have only used my playing cards once, but when I did it was hours of fun and distraction for mom.

ID Badge- An ID badge is not required in my city's hospital, but for some reason it adds legitimacy to my presence. There have been a few times where the nurse was like "Show me your credentials", I whipped out my badge and they were like "Awesome, welcome to the team". Hey, whatever works!

Neck Pillow- For those times you are trying to nap in an uncomfortable hospital chair. Neck pillow, all the way!

The Labor Progress Handbook- A handy reference guide while at a birth, and a book every doula should have.

What would you add or take away from this list?