The Nesting Instinct

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Mother hamsters do it. Mama cats and dogs do it. Expectant birds do it. And, if you're like many human moms-to-be, you're doing it, too.

these days: preparing your "nest" for your soon-to-arrive baby. Though it's fortunately not manifested in the same behaviors (you're more likely to recycle that pile of newspapers than shred them or reach for the feather duster rather than the feathers), the nesting instinct in humans can be as powerful as it is for our animal friends. Productive, as well - driving many human moms-to-be to sweep out the garage, pair up all the stray socks that have wandered into the Laundry Room Bermuda Triangle, defrost the frost-free refrigerator, and brighten the bathroom grout lines with a toothbrush. If the nesting instinct hits your nest, make the most of it - now, before life becomes too hectic and before finding a moment to shower (and rinse thoroughly) will be challenging enough. Here's a bunch of last-minute details that you'll want to check off your list before your baby is born.

Restock your fridge. Out with the old, in with the new! Throw away any outdated items and shop for fresh ones. Stock up on key essentials you'll want to have on hand once the baby has arrived - milk, yogurt, cheese, juice, prewashed salad greens, fruit, and even a roasted chicken or two (perfect for meals, snacks, and salads). And if baby doesn't come this week - restock again next week.

Pad your pantry. Stock up on staples like there's no tomorrow (there will be a tomorrow, you just won't be able to spend it at the grocery store once baby's around). Easy does it when you're a new mom, so line your shelves with every healthy convenience you can think of, from soups (they can stand in for lunch when you barely have time to sit) to nuts (the perfect nutritious nibbler, particularly when teamed with dried fruit). Other goods to get: whole-grain crackers and cereal, canned beans, fruits and vegetables, pasta, brown rice, sauces.

Cook in quantity. If your urge to nest is accompanied by the joy of cooking, indulge while you can (cooking will almost certainly take a back burner once baby's on board). Make extra servings of your favorite frost-friendly foods (lasagna, mini-meatloaves, pancakes, bran muffins), and store in single-meal containers in the freezer (mark them clearly so you won't defrost a turkey burger when you're in the market for banana bread). You'll be especially grateful to come face-to-freezer with homemade meals and snacks after enduring a few hospital or birthing center trays - and when pushing a button on the microwave is about much effort as you can put into food prep.

Load your laundry. Feel like throwing in the towel? Do - as well as the duvet cover, pillow shams, throw rugs, guest bedroom sheets, and anything else that doesn't get washed regularly. Once baby arrives, your washer and dryer will have to work hard enough just to keep up with the spit-up stains.

Deep clean. You know the spring-cleaning that you're always putting off until next spring? Whatever the season, now's the time to tackle it. Wipe down the windowsills and blinds (you may discover that they're not gray after all!). Vacuum behind the sofa (and under the sofa cushions - chances are you'll make a quick buck or two while you're at it, plus find the remote control you misplaced three months ago). Finally get around to dusting the picture frames (before that baby photo explosion makes the dusting more daunting). Be sensible, though, in your quest for clean. Don't push yourself if you're pooped (push someone else, instead), and stay away from ladders or other precarious perches.

Outfit your baby. Still have some holes in the layette that your baby shower didn't fill? Don't overbuy, but make sure you're well-stocked on those newborn essentials (such as T-shirts, onesies, sweaters, and booties). Use the Buying for Baby worksheet to create shopping lists.

Outfit yourself. Buy nursing bras, if you intend to breastfeed, as well as nursing pads and easy-open (or nursing) shirts. And stock up soft, breathable, oversized underwear you don't like. Why? You'll need them extra big and comfy the first few weeks after the birth, and they might become stained with blood and discharge that may not wash away. Be prepared to throw them in the garbage about six weeks after your baby is born.

Be prepared. Babies need more than the clothes on their backs. They also need the diapers (and diaper rash ointment) on their backsides - and a host of other crucial consumables. Stock up also on baby soap, cotton pads, a rectal digital thermometer, rubbing alcohol, nasal syringe, nail clippers, bottles, nipples, and more. And for you, pick up plenty of super-absorbent maxi pads, Tucks medicated pads, and ice packs (not the kinds of things you want to run out of in the middle of the night).

Order birth announcements at a nearby stationery store, so they're ready to go as soon as you know the final baby stats. And address the envelopes now so they're ready to be stuffed and mailed.

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