That undeniable urge to clean, organize and make everything perfect for baby’s arrival isn’t all in your head. A September 2013 study in the journal Evolution & Human Behavior indicates that a mother’s third-trimester nesting instinct may have evolved from a desire to protect and nurture a newborn. “Providing a safe environment helps to promote bonding and attachment between both mother and child,” says Marla Anderson, lead author of the study and a psychology graduate student at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. When the need to nest kicks in, embrace it by starting with this list of 6 things to do before baby arrives.
#1. Prepare the baby’s space.
Set up the crib, bassinet, or co-sleeper, wash the sheets and have the backups ready to go. Put any finishing touches on the baby’s room décor, or, if you don’t have space for a traditional nursery, create a cozy vibe around the spaces where the baby will be. For example, if the baby will begin sleeping in your room and the changing table only fits in the hallway, hang a whimsical picture or a name banner above it (out of a growing baby’s reach, of course). Being intentional, even in small spaces, fulfills those nesting urges and adds coziness to your baby’s environment.
#2. Stock the diaper changing table.
Most likely, your baby will wear either newborn or size 1 diapers to begin. It’s a good idea to have a couple different sizes and maybe brands of diapers on hand since you won’t be sure of your baby’s size until she arrives. Nevertheless, you may find that certain brands fit better or are more absorbent. Don’t forget other necessities like baby wipes, cotton balls, and washcloths. A diaper pail is also an essential. If you choose not to purchase one, you can create your own using a garbage can with a secure lid. Opt for a small one, to promote frequent emptying, and if you have pets, make sure they can’t get into it. Nobody needs that when you have a newborn (or ever, for that matter!)
If you are planning to use cloth diapers, make sure you have plenty of those ready to go too. You may want to consider disposable liners, especially right at the beginning, and you will need a plan in place for the washing. Hopefully, you have a partner or family member who is on board and ready to take this on from the beginning since you, New Mama, will need to take things nice and easy (as in, no housework!) for the first couple of weeks. Also, if it’s just too much, it is ok to use disposables for a few weeks or months and then switch back to cloth later. Be easy on yourself!
#3. Wash baby’s clothes.
Use a gentle detergent that is free of perfumes and dyes to wash your newborn’s clothes before she wears them. This helps to remove any irritating chemicals used during manufacturing. You can later switch to regular detergent and include your baby’s clothes in the family wash as long as she doesn’t have sensitive skin. Prepping the clothes and organizing them into baby’s dresser or closet is another great way to use that extra nesting energy, and builds excitement as you imagine the tiny clothes on your new baby, soon!
#4. Get ready for guests.
You know the grandparents are coming to visit. Now is the time to wash the sheets for the guest bed and make some room in the closet and dresser for grandma’s things. Also, think about what sorts of things you may want help with (or not). Some grandparents are not so helpful, or maybe you don’t want them to have to do anything. If that is the case, you will all still need to eat so make a plan! Ask a close friend to drop off dinner one night, make good use of your favorite food delivery service, or make food in advance to put in the freezer. Whatever the visitor situation, be honest about your needs, and if particular people are inclined to demand more from you as a host, perhaps their visit can wait a few months. These may be difficult decisions and conversations, but they are better had before the baby comes than in the sleepless fog of having a newborn.
#5. Install the car seat.
Have a certified child car seat technician inspect the car seat to ensure proper rear-facing installation. Visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for a list of car seat safety inspection stations, or call your local fire station, since they usually offer this service. Their expertise will give you peace of mind.
#6. Decide on and begin a baby book.
Think about if and how you want to maintain a baby book. Perhaps it will be online, such as this one by My Own Little Story, or a photo album put together by another company. Maybe you want a more traditional book at home or a variation. For example, you could keep a journal for the baby’s visitors to sign with a note for the baby, and for parents to write the things you notice, places baby visits, and happenings during the first year. Whatever you choose, make sure it is something you can follow through on knowing your life is about to get a lot busier. Then, get a headstart by completing a family tree or writing a letter to your baby about your pregnancy experience, what you are thinking about as you choose a name, or your dreams for her.
However you approach baby’s arrival, remember that perfection isn’t what matters–your baby won’t even notice. It’s the love and care you bring that makes the difference. So nest away and have fun with it!
By A. Louise Yoder