Home Birth Prep: Towels and Washcloths

We get questioned pretty frequently about why we ask you to, among other things, gather 12 towels and 8 washcloths for your birth. Twelve?! How could we possibly use twelve towels at a birth?

If you can imagine the goings-on at a home birth, it will start to make sense. Many times, we have the birthing person getting in and out of the shower or labor pool, and having a fresh towel is nice for each exit.

We may also need to put a towel or two on the floor next to the birth pool, both to keep the floor dry, and for your midwives to kneel upon when they are leaning over the tub to listen to your baby’s heartbeat.

But the towel’s most important job is to keep your baby warm after the birth. For this reason, we do say that you can replace four of the towels with receiving blankets. A newly-born babe is wet, and can lose body heat quickly, so your birth attendants will immediately cover baby with a towel after the birth (a towel is always good for this first step, because it is the one that is most likely to get birth fluids on it). A few minutes later, we will switch out this towel with a dry one, or a receiving blanket, and then repeat this process at least once more.

We will also keep some towels warm with a heating pad for the newborn exam, which will happen at around an hour after the birth.

So, if you add all of those towel changes up – it’s pretty easy to go through 12!

Now, for washcloths: we use these for all sorts of things, from cleaning the doppler gel off of your belly after we listen to heart tones, to cool compresses for your forehead, or warm compresses for your perineum. There have been births when we could have used far more than eight washcloths, but that number usually does the trick.

And, of course, we start all of this laundry for you before we leave.

So there you have it – a few boring details about why we ask for some of the things we ask for on our supply list. Having birthing!