While bringing new life into the world is the best thing that a person could do, it is also immensely stressful, both physically and emotionally. If it is your first child that you’re expecting, then there are lots of things that you have to sort out. This is perfectly normal, and in fact, at around week 38 and 39 of a pregnancy many expectant mothers start to feel what is known as the ‘nesting instinct’. This surge of adrenaline induces mothers to start preparing their home for their baby. This could mean something different for each mother, from cleaning your house to organising things. The reality is that when the baby comes, your place will probably become rather disorganised right away. This is perfectly normal too. Research suggests that this impulse, which we share with animals from cats and dogs to birds, goes back a long way in our evolutionary history. Ensuring that the environment into which you will bring your baby is organised and clean is a way of making it safe, and it promotes bonding and attachment between mother and child. Interestingly, pregnant woman also become more selective in the company that they keep. This allows for a greater sense of control in anticipation of an event that can be new and daunting. One curious aspect of this phenomenon is that mothers have reported that they feel more tired at this stage of their pregnancy and yet they display greater levels of activity.
In any case, the nesting instinct can sometimes provoke a person to do things that you would not expect to be conventionally helpful, like organising toys by size and colour. This will certainly not help when the baby arrives but feeling the need to do it is normal. However, having a baby does represent a seismic shift in a person’s life and there are lots of useful things that you can do to prepare for it. Of course, your family and friends will be there to help and you may even feel that their attention and their desire to fuss you feels rather overbearing. In that case, you can just send them on an errand for a little while and get some peace to yourself. Here are a few ideas for things that you or they could be doing in the run-up to the big day:
One of the most obviously pressing concerns when you know a little one is on the way is preparing somewhere for them to sleep. It is likely that in the first weeks and months, the crib will be with you in your room so you can attend to the baby when it wakes up and cries during the night. However, they will eventually need to move to a room of their own and preparing it needs to start before they are born. Decorating it is the first thing to consider. If you know the sex of your new baby, then that will give you something to work with in terms of how you’d like the room to look but if you don’t, the best bet is to go for a neutral colour that could suit a boy or a girl. Once you’ve got a crib (and a really important thing to remember is that when you put your baby to sleep, do so on their backs) and some toys, you are just about set. However, since technology is seemingly insistent on improving every aspect of our lives, it has come to the rescue with babies too.
One interesting fact about babies is that the reason they respond to the ‘shh’ sound that is often used when trying to quiet them is that it replicates the sound of blood rushing through parts of the placenta during pregnancy. This is a sound with which they are familiar, and they are calmed by it. It is unreasonable to expect parents to stand over the crib every night trying to lull their babies to sleep. Luckily, there is a great product that can help. It plays relaxing sounds for your baby including white noise (which they like), a heartbeat (which comforts them in the same way that blood flow does), and the sound of a car ride. You can set it for how long you want it to play and it will slowly get slower and quieter as your baby drifts off to sleep. It is an old joke but expectant young parents are often told by their more experienced counterparts that in the run up to the birth of their child, they should get as much sleep as possible because they won’t be getting any for a few years after that. It is, of course, a comic exaggeration, but when it comes time to helping your baby sleep (and they need between fourteen to eighteen hours at the beginning), anything that proves successful will soon seem like magic.
Another thing the modern era has provided us with is technology that some people would consider too much, however there are now commercially available video baby monitors so that you can watch your baby sleep on your phone. It is clearly more useful when they are not asleep and they get up to mischief trying to escape from the crib. If an old fashioned audio monitor doesn’t suffice, consider a video setup. Another cool innovation is the pacifier that is also a thermometer. Every parent knows that when you think your child has a high temperature, the situation is made much more stressful by your baby making it difficult for you to check. Whether they are wriggling around or simply just crying, something that calms them by letting you figure out if anything is wrong is a useful thing to have around.
While there are lots of things that can help your baby get to sleep at night, or to find out if they are unwell, another important thing to think about even before they are born is how you are going to nurture their development. The race to get them into the most elite nursery schools can seem rather ridiculous at times, especially when there are so many things that you can do at home to help your child become smarter and more aware. Talking to your baby is one of the simpler things you can do. They will start to pick up language right away even if they don’t speak themselves for a while. Counting out loud is another great way to get them used to ideas that they’ll need later on. Games like peek a boo are not just fun (if they are at all, especially after the hundredth time) but help your child learn about object permanence. Otherwise, there are a few things that you can invest in that will help your child too, such as music. While the so-called ‘Mozart effect’ (the idea that listening to greats like Mozart will intrinsically make your baby smarter) has been dismissed, listening to any and all kind of music will help your baby concentrate and it can help calm them too. Lastly, while your baby will probably not learn to read until they are two or three, they start to pick up aspects of language as early as three months. Having books around that they can look at and get used to is a good idea.
While getting ready for a baby has a lot to do with their needs, there are some things that you should invest in for yourself. While you may not be spending as much time as you’d like in bed, getting a good mattress is crucial. If you have a mattress that isn’t suited to you, it can cause problems. Besides, just being pregnant can put a lot of strain on the body and a mattress can help with that: lower back pain relief is really important throughout pregnancy since the extra weight of the baby can stress the spine. Being pregnant may have also changed the way you sleep (especially if you were once someone who slept on their front) so picking a mattress that better responds to how you move and lie is a good idea too.
All sorts of other things can happen that you don’t expect as well. For instance, you may find that your gums are more sensitive. You should therefore choose a more delicate dental floss as well as toothpaste. A persistent and irritating aspect of being pregnant is the morning sickness that you have to deal with. To help deal with the effects of nausea, you may want to consider filling your bathroom with something that you enjoy smelling such as lavender. This can help distract you from the bad taste in your mouth. Another thing that you may have to contest with is heartburn so stocking up on whatever helps you (like ice cream, as if anybody needed an excuse to eat it before) is something you should look into.
While there are a lot of things to prepare, it will all be worth it in the end. Seeing your child for the first time will be the happiest moment of your life. Nothing else will ever come close.