Are you getting close to your due date and the urge to reorganise the garage RIGHT NOW is taking over? Do you feel like it is imperative to scrub the walls in every room in your house before this baby gets here? Or do you feel compelled to wash and rewash every single item of baby clothing you’ve been putting away in preparation for your new arrival? You may be experiencing the “nesting instinct”, and while it is perfectly normal, it can be a wild ride for pregnant women and those around them (who may get dragooned into helping with some of the more intense tasks you want done, pronto).
Nesting is a common phenomenon that many pregnant women experience in the later stages of pregnancy. The term “nesting” refers to the urge to prepare the home and create a comfortable and safe environment for the incoming baby – think of a mama bird feathering her nest in preparation for laying eggs.
Nesting can be a physical and emotional experience that can impact a woman’s life in many ways. This instinctual behaviour is, as so many things seem to be during pregnancy, related to pregnancy hormones. During pregnancy, hormone levels, particularly oestrogen and progesterone, increase dramatically. The release of the hormone oxytocin, known for triggering nurturing behavior, may play a role. These hormones play a role in the physical and emotional changes women experience during pregnancy, including the nesting instinct.
Nesting usually occurs in the third trimester, as your due date approaches and your body prepares for childbirth.
What does nesting look like?
Nesting behavior can manifest in many ways:
- Cleaning and organising the home: You may feel compelled to clean and declutter every room in the house, as well as organise and prepare the nursery, do all the washing, even power wash the driveway and revarnish the deck.
- Preparing meals in advance: You might want to prepare and freeze meals, snacks, and lactation cookies to have on hand after your baby’s arrival, resulting in a major cooking frenzy.
- Child-proofing your home: This can include installing baby gates, covering electrical outlets, and moving potentially dangerous items out of reach.
- Shopping for baby essentials: You may feel the need to purchase even more items for your baby, such as clothing, nappies, and baby gear – accompanied by a feeling that you don’t have enough.
Is there any reason I should be worried if I’m nesting?
Nesting is a natural and normal part of pregnancy, and it is not something that should cause concern. For many women, it can be a calming and therapeutic activity as they prepare for their new role as a mum. Other women might feel anxious or irritable if you have a long to-do list of nesting tasks and you aren’t able to complete them, or if your partner isn’t able to help.
However, it is important to remember to take care of yourself and listen to your body. Pregnancy is physically demanding, and it is important to rest when necessary and avoid overexerting yourself. It’s also critical that you avoid toxic chemicals and unsafe activities, such as climbing tall ladders or standing on chairs, working with paint or stain, and lifting heavy objects or moving furniture.
Ways to help a friend who is experiencing the nesting urge
If you know a pregnant woman who seems to be going through a nesting phase, the best thing you can do is to help – not to tell her to stop! Here are some ways you can help pregnant mums-to-be to get that need to nest in hand.
- Offer to come over one day and spend a day helping her prepare for the baby, just doing tasks that she feels need done. Even if it’s something small like folding washing, it can help her to feel like her needs are being acknowledged and met.
- Don’t argue that she needs to rest or relax, or tell her that the tasks she wants done aren’t a priority. They feel very important to her! Acknowledge what she’s saying and ask how you can support her.
- When you do go over to help, bring along a meal, some snacks, and water. She may be so “in the zone” that she forgets to eat, and this is something you can gently facilitate by reminding her that it’s break time and bringing out food so she doesn’t have to think about preparing it (or get frustrated that she’s losing focus).
- If you are able, help take on the physically demanding jobs such as moving heavy objects or painting – or help her to organise a working bee of friends and whanau who are keen to help with these bigger projects.
- Encourage her to talk to her LMC or midwife about what kinds of tasks she can reasonably take on during this time, and if there are any restrictions or things to think about.
Nesting is a normal part of the pregnancy experience that can bring comfort and peace of mind to expectant mums. However, it’s important to listen to your body and seek help to avoid becoming overwhelmed or exhausted. Pregnancy is a special time, and it’s essential to take care of yourself and your baby first.