How to Deliver a Baby: The “Just in Case” Guide You Need

Last Updated: February 8, 2024
Liesel Teen, RN-BSN

By Liesel Teen

BSN, RN, Practicing Labor and Delivery Nurse

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Want to learn how to deliver a baby?? Labor and delivery nurse here to help you out!

And let me start off by saying…I *hope* this is information you tuck away in your back pocket but never actually end up needing to use! 

But I live by the motto, “better safe than sorry”. So without further ado, I give you this “just in case” guide to deliver a baby at home (or wherever you might be!).

Follow @mommy.labornurse on Instagram to join our community of over 640k for education, tips, and solidarity on all things pregnancy, birth, and postpartum!

10 Steps to delivering a baby

Step 1: Know when to head to the hospital

Knowing when to head to the hospital can be tricky! Even for veteran mamas it can be tough to know if it’s the real deal or not. So let me help guide you!

Assuming your pregnancy is uncomplicated and you aren’t preterm, you should head to the hospital when your contractions are painful, regular, and aren’t stopping

By regular I mean: 

  • They are 3-4 minutes apart
  • Lasting at least 1 minute
  • And this is all happening for at least 1 hour

Now this is sort of a rough guideline. The intensity is equally as important, debatably even more important, than the duration. 

One thing is for sure though – true labor contractions are regular, increase in intensity, and won’t stop with relief efforts such as changing your position, emptying your bladder, or hydrating.

You should also head to the hospital if you suspect that your water broke. Breaking your water, regardless of contractions, is pretty much a guaranteed admission! 

Check out the post below for ever more signs of active labor!

Step 2: Call 911

It’s a good idea to go ahead and notify emergency services, aka call 911, if you find yourself in this situation – especially if you are alone!

And once you call (or before) make sure to unlock your door so they can get in when they arrive. 

The last thing you want to be doing when you are about to give birth is unlock your door (or deal with a damaged door from the emergency crew having to “break in” for that matter, ha!).

Step 3: Call your spouse, neighbor, or friend

If you are home alone, be sure to phone a friend after calling 911. Preferably it would be someone that is close by and can get there quickly so that you have some support!

I get it, not everyone wants their friend present for such an intimate moment, but it’s better to have someone present (at least until more help arrives) in case of an emergency. 

If you don’t want the person in the room when you actually deliver, have them stand in a room nearby so they can assist with something only if needed. 

Step 4: Don’t panic 

Easier said than done! If you can remain calm and not panic it can help you think more clearly and respond appropriately and safely to the situation. 

Believe me though, I know your adrenaline is going to be pumpin’!

Step 5: Take off your pants and undies (duh)

This might go without saying but it’s sorta hard to deliver a baby with pants and/or underwear on. 

Even if you forget this step initially, I’m sure you will remember when your baby’s head starts coming out!

Step 6: Find some towels and blankets (it’s probably going to get messy)

You may or may not care about (or have time for) this step but if you think about it, grab some old towels or blankets and put them down wherever you plan on giving birth.

It will be much easier to throw a pile of linens in the wash (or trash) than clean a rug or your floors – nobody’s got time for that!

Step 7: Get in position

Find whatever position you feel most comfortable and confident in and assume it. For some this is lying on their back and for others it might be in a standing or squatting position. 

And guess what, you can try one position and switch it up if it’s not working for you! Listen to your body, mama!

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Step 8: Push when you feel the urge

It will be normal to feel an intense amount of pressure in your butt, like you have to poop. When that pressure becomes constant, that’s usually a good sign that it’s go-time.

And again, listen to your body! Your instinct (and adrenaline) will kick in and hopefully guide you through the process. 

A little reading material ahead of time about pushing positions and how to push will be beneficial as well, check out my article below!

Related Reading: How to Push During Labor: Open Glottis Pushing, Guided Pushing, Positions, and More!

Step 9: Use a towel to dry baby and immediately put them skin-to-skin

Keeping baby skin-to-skin is super important to help them transition to being on the outside. This also helps baby stay warm and regulates their heart rate and breathing.

But remember, the umbilical cord will still be attached so you will be limited on how far up you can bring baby!

Hopefully by this point some assistance has arrived, but if not I recommend keeping baby skin-to-skin with something dry draped over them until backup arrives. 

What should you do if baby comes out and needs a little assistance? Check out step 10 for a couple, very basic resuscitation tips!

Step 10: In case of emergency

In the unlikely event that baby is not crying, here are 3 things you can do until medical help arrives.

1. Dry and stimulate (rub)

This is when having those dry towels or blankets nearby will help. Part of initial resuscitation efforts for all births is to dry and stimulate the baby. 

In the hospital this involves using a warm blanket that has been under the baby warmer to dry and rub (stimulate) baby’s skin (typically their back). 

This act of rubbing baby helps perk them up and gets them crying if they aren’t initially. 

And don’t hold back! I know they are little and seem so fragile but sometimes vigorous stimulation is exactly what they need to get going!

2. Wipe away mucus

In the hospital we use a little bulb syringe to help baby clear their secretions. Typically suctioning their nose and/or mouth is done at the same time as drying and stimulating.

Now I know there’s a really good chance that you won’t have a bulb syringe lying around the house – I totally wouldn’t expect you to!

But you can clear away nasal mucus by running your fingers alongside their nose or using a towel to wipe it away.

3. Keep baby skin-to-skin 

Another benefit of skin-to-skin, aside from regulating baby’s temperature and heart rate, is that gravity can help the extra mucus drain. 

Keeping baby’s face against your chest (with their head turned to the side) can allow for easier clearing of secretions.

You can even continue to rub their back and stimulate them while they are skin-to-skin if needed.

Wrapping up

There you have it mama! You are now officially equipped to deliver your own baby should the situation ever present itself.

Again, I hope this is knowledge you never have to actually use. But it’s better to have it and not need it then need it and not have it!

Here are some additional Mommy Labor Nurse pregnancy and birth related resources for you to peruse:

Birth Plan
Liesel Teen, RN-BSN

Liesel Teen

BSN, RN, Practicing Labor and Delivery Nurse

As a labor and delivery nurse, I’ve spent countless hours with women who felt anxious — even fearful — about giving birth. I want you to know it doesn’t have to be that way for you!

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