Everything you need to know about nesting in pregnancy


Whether this is your first pregnancy or your fifth, you’ve probably heard talk about the pregnancy phenomenon known as nesting.

But what is pregnancy nesting? When does nesting start? And does it truly happen to everyone? 

Here’s everything you’ve ever wanted to know about that motivation to make it nice.

What does “nesting” mean?

The term is rooted, not surprisingly, in the animal kingdom, where birds and a host of other expecting creatures often go to great lengths to deep clean and build the perfect nest or den for their impending brood.

It refers specifically to the animal instinct during reproduction to prepare a place with optimal conditions for offspring.

But you’re not a wild animal―so how does nesting come into play for human parents-to-be?

What is nesting in pregnancy?

In reality, the results aren’t too different from our finely feathered friends.

Pregnancy nesting is defined as the overwhelming desire to get your home ready for your new baby, characterized by a flurry of decluttering, organizing, and disinfecting. Nesting can also include finishing off (or even starting) home projects that have been on your to-do list for ages.

When does nesting start during pregnancy?

The desire to nest can begin at any time during pregnancy, but it is often reported in the final weeks before baby is due.

If your due date happens to fall in the springtime or near major holidays, you may feel even more motivated to make some major changes to your home. One study found that many pregnant women experience a sudden burst of energy and the compulsion to do at least some sort of organizing and cleaning, and preparing in the later stages of pregnancy.

What causes the nesting instinct?

It seems natural to assume that humans would respond to the same nesting instinct as our animal brethren, but the truth is that there is virtually no scientific evidence that the human nesting urge is rooted anywhere in our biology.

Even the study mentioned previously has been called into question by critics, as the information was based on a self-administered questionnaire for pregnant women. There is still no conclusive evidence that nesting is actually a biological response to pregnancy hormones.

So if you’re more than happy to kick your feet up all 40 weeks of your own pregnancy, that’s completely normal, too. 

That being said, the impending arrival of a new baby can often be its own motivation to polish off projects and create a safe space ready to welcome your new little one. And if you’re still enjoying the increase of energy that often accompanies the second trimester, then ride that wave!  

Signs of nesting in pregnancy

The signs of nesting in pregnancy can vary for everyone.

Television and movies often depict it as a mad scramble to rearrange furniture and scrub the tiniest recesses of our homes, but it can also manifest in smaller ways.

The important thing to note: Whether you’re driven to organize the pantry or you suddenly find yourself folding onesies for an hour on the couch, your instincts are completely normal. 

What to avoid while nesting

There are a few tasks you want to skip or delegate at this point in pregnancy.

Anything involving lifting heavy furniture (enlist your partner’s help if you suddenly want to shuffle the layout of the nursery), dangerous chemicals (choose natural cleaning and paint products, hire a painter, and keep all rooms well ventilated), or standing on a tall ladder (your balance isn’t what it used to be!). 

What to do while nesting

As long as your domestic goals are safe and within reason, many pregnant women actually find the nesting urge helpful in checking off those last few to-dos before baby makes their arrival.

Looking for productive ways to target that nesting energy? Here are a few ideas:

  • Wash, fold, and put away the baby laundry you’ll need after their arrival. (When you’re newly postpartum, you will not feel like doing laundry!)
  • Wash and organize bottles and other pumping equipment.
  • Dust and vacuum the nursery and any other common areas where you’ll be spending a lot of time with your newborn.
  • Wash, dry, and arrange baby’s linens, including setting up your bassinet.
  • Clean out the fridge!
  • For the last few weeks before your due date, double your dinner recipes and freeze the second portion to create an easy freezer stock to draw on while you’re recovering.
  • Finalize your baby’s pediatrician details and figure out what paperwork you’ll need to submit to your insurance to get baby added to your plan. 
  • Check out this list of 5 areas of your home to declutter before the baby arrives!

Tips for embracing and managing nesting

With any luck, those last few weeks of nesting urges will give you the energy — and the ideal level of distraction — to get you through the last leg of pregnancy. Just remember: While you might be feeling supermom energy levels right now, your body is already working harder than a non-pregnant body even when it’s just at rest.

Pace yourself, and remember to take plenty of breaks for water and recovery.

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