Nesting 101

Hello, Third Trimester!



Nesting isn’t just for the birds. And if you’re entering your third trimester, there’s a good chance you know it all too well. Nesting, the act of preparing for a little one’s arrival through sporadic bursts of energy coupled with unusually strong compulsions to clean or organize, can take on a life of its own, particularly in the last few weeks of pregnancy. For some women, nesting manifests itself in a desire to color code the sock drawers or alphabetize the medicine cabinet. For others, it may be found in an uncontrollable urge to tackle bigger feats, like cleaning out the garage or repainting the house. But according to research conducted at McMaster University, the impulse a pregnant woman feels to prepare her surroundings is an adaptive behavior stemming from a need to protect and control an environment as much as prepare it. This need for control is a key feature in preparing for childbirth.

“Nesting is not a frivolous activity,” says lead study author Marla Anderson, a graduate student within the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behavior. "We have found that it peaks in the third trimester as the birth of the baby draws near and is an important task that probably serves the same purpose in women as it does in other animals.” She concludes, “Providing a safe environment helps to promote bonding and attachment between both the mother and infants."  

McMaster University psychology professor Mel Rutherford notes one of the greatest paradoxes of nesting in the third trimester is that women complain about feeling increasingly tired while performing a higher level of activity, confirming just how powerful the instinct can be. This productive surge is most likely to peak during weeks 38 to 39 of pregnancy, when adrenaline kicks into high gear, equipping a mother to nurture her child. But don’t worry if a drive to tame Mount Laundry or scrub the tile grout with a toothbrush hasn’t hit you. While nesting is common, it does not hit every woman nor does it determine how well you will parent. 

If you’ve caught the nesting bug, take advantage of it. This may be the longest amount of peace and quiet you will have for a while. Just make sure not to overdo it. Take frequent breaks, eat periodic snacks throughout the day and delegate heavy lifting, climbing ladders and using toxic chemicals or paints to outside helpers. Here are some important details you will want to cross off your list before your due date.

Stock the fridge.  Better yet, clean the fridge out first, tossing any items that have expired. Stock up on quick and easy snacks, as well as basics like fresh fruits and vegetables, pre-washed salad mixes, yogurt, milk and cheese. If Baby takes his time coming, restock the next week. 

Stock the pantry. Preparing for Baby’s arrival is kind of like preparing for a snowstorm: the last thing you want to do is go out in it (or with it, as the case may be) if you don’t absolutely have to. Do yourself a favor and pad the pantry early with staple items like canned soups, whole grain crackers, cereals, rice, pasta, nuts and dried fruit to avoid a hungry mom/cranky baby episode on aisle four. 

Stock the freezer. No one plans to have labor-related complications or a colicky baby. Do yourself a favor and promote yourself to off-duty chef when your little one comes. Take note of your family’s personal preferences and prepare favorites like lasagna, enchiladas, hearty soups and casseroles in bulk. If you run out of freezer room, allow that nesting impulse to bless someone else. Olathe mom of three Leslie Schmidt admits, “I made so many casseroles, I started giving them away.”

Stock up on baby supplies. Babies don’t really need much. Or do they? Conflicting answers abound depending on the family and expectation. Write out everything you will need for your little one’s arrival and fill in the gaps that have been missed in baby showers. Don’t forget small but important items like swaddling blankets, layering items, tiny nail clippers and a rectal thermometer. Also, remember the big items like choosing a pediatrician. The third trimester is the perfect time to get baby’s doctor lined up. 

Stock up on personal supplies. Baby supplies are a fun novelty, but don’t forget to have personal supplies on hand for your own changing body. Have Tucks medicated pads, ice packs, super absorbent maxi pads or Depends close by, as well as several pairs of soft, breathable granny panties you’re not emotionally attached to. Why? Your postpartum body will need time to transition back down to its new normal. Expect to use larger than normal pairs for a while that may need to be thrown out shortly thereafter due to blood and discharge stains. If you plan to breastfeed, make sure to have nursing pads, a good pump and lanolin, along with a collection of nursing tanks and bras on hand.

Stock the linen closet. Before you throw in the towel on nesting, throw washcloths, bed linens, throw rugs and, yes, all those bathroom towels (along with any other item that might otherwise not get washed frequently) in the wash. After all, your washer and dryer will be pulling double duty soon enough just getting spit stains out! 

Did You Know: According to the American Pregnancy Association, there are both internal and external factors at play throughout nesting. The urge to clean and organize, pregnant or not, is typically at an all-time high after long winter months of being cooped up indoors. It’s no surprise then that nesting impulses are strongest within mothers due in late spring and summer. Other outside motivational factors include boredom, frustration, excitement and the knowledge that time for projects will be more limited once Baby is born.

Lauren Greenlee nested before the arrival of each of her three boys. She and her family reside in Olathe.

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