“We can’t bring a baby into this mess!?!?…”
In pregnancy, some women may feel this incessant internal urge to clean. Nothing ever seems to be together. Everything revolves around getting and being ready.
Nesting is the process of preparing for a newborn’s arrival; turning a house into a home and providing a place of comfort, belonging, and physical and emotional stability for your baby.
How is nesting related to OT? Because it is something meaningful to you. You are investing your time and energy in activities necessary to care for your little one.
There are many theories for why women nest. Some researchers suggest that nesting may be rooted in our evolution; managing the environment to protect and provide for the newborn. A 2013 study found that having control over the environment is a primary feature in preparing for childbirth.
It’s also been suggested that nesting serves as a coping strategy to pregnancy-related anxiety. A 2015 report suggests routines like cleaning and organizing may be an effective coping method for stress and anxiety.
What Can Nesting Look Like?
To be fair, anything you do during pregnancy to prepare for baby’s arrival can be considered nesting. But, these are the main actions:
- Cleaning – This is a common one. This may be due to knowing that a newborn’s immune system is vulnerable to disease within the first year. It can also be quick and provide instant gratification.
- Stocking up on supplies – This happened with my first child. I wanted to make sure I had anything and everything because, you know, just in case.
- Organizing – Clutter will no longer do as it is linked anxiety, especially now in these COVID times when we’re all staying home. As the French say, “A place for everything and everything in its place”.
- Packing (and unpacking) bags – Prepping your hospital bag or diaper bag can help pregnant moms feel more prepared and less anxious.
- Planning for baby – Decorating the nursery, taking baby courses, selecting a pediatrician, reading every parenting book, etc.
- Protecting the unborn – Baby-proofing the house, being wary of strangers, avoiding certain foods, or becoming selective with social situations.
Although nesting can happen at any point during pregnancy (and postpartum), studies have found that nesting behaviors peak around the third trimester. Researchers had previously associated nesting to hormonal changes during pregnancy. However, new research implies that those reasonings are unfounded and nesting is based more on societal norms.
Men are now more involved and emotionally expressive in parenting and pregnancy than in previous decades. And yes, they have been seen nesting as well. Have you seen your male partner transition to their new responsibility of protector and provider? For men, nesting may present itself as: putting together the baby furniture, remodeling the house (I currently sit here writing this post with the sounds of our basement renovation), looking for a better paying job, dealing with health insurance, or purchasing a minivan…much to their initial chagrin.
When nesting, consider the following:
- Delegate tasks. Do not feel that you must conquer your to-do list all by yourself. Friends and family want to help as they are just as excited to welcome your little bundle of joy into the world. Take them up on it! Also, doing tasks together with your partner helps them feel more included in the pregnancy journey.
- Organize your to-do list. Prioritize tasks within a realistic time frame to avoid feeling overwhelmed. In our first trimester, I made a list of everything I could possibly think of to do before baby. I put each of the tasks on individual Post-It notes and scheduled them all in my planner over the coming 9 months. I could move items around as I needed, and it felt awesome trashing them when the tasks were completed.
*A tech tip: Create a Shared Google calendar for you and your partner to track tasks as well as appointments.
- Avoid cleaners or noxious chemicals. You can definitely get carried away with the cleaning. If you do use harsh cleaners, use gloves and make sure the area is well-ventilated.
- Don’t overdo it. Yes, you may feel a burst of energy to get things done, but don’t push yourself to the point of exhaustion. Take a break, drink water, put your feet up, and get back to it when you’re ready. It may be beneficial to set a timer as a reminder to take a break. Also, watch it when it comes to buying stuff. You don’t need to go to Target every day, and you definitely don’t need to buy and test every brand of diaper cream.
- Safety first. Avoid climbing ladders, lifting heavy objects, or any task that could result in injury. As the baby grows, your sense of balance is compromised. You may want to immediately break into that new Ikea baby furniture, but don’t try to haul it up the stairs by yourself.
Nesting is a normal part of transitioning to parenthood. It can also be very fun and satisfying. If you don’t have this internal urge, that’s completely fine, too. However, if you feel that you are obsessively cleaning or decorating to a point that it is affecting your well-being, talk to your OB-GYN or midwife for guidance.
“Nesting Instinct While Pregnant: Here’s What It Means“, Nicole Jablonski. Healthline: Parenthood, November 18, 2019.
“Nesting During Pregnancy Explained“, Tanya Tantry, M.D.. Flo, April 14, 2020.
“Male Nesting: How Expecting Fathers Prepare During Pregnancy“, Cedar Burnett. ParentMap, May 21, 2012.
Lang, M., Kratky, J., Shaver, J.H. et al. (2015). Effects of Anxiety on Spontaneous Ritualized Behavior. Current Biology 25(14): e1892-1897.
Anderson, M.V. & Rutherford, M.D. (2013). Evidence of a nesting psychology during human pregnancy. Evolution and Human Behavior. 35(6): e390-397.
Shahvisi, A. (2020). Nesting behaviours during pregnancy: Biological instinct, or another of gendering housework? Women’s Studies International Forum 78: e102329.