Houston, we have a problem: By the third trimester, your bump is large and in charge, leaving you feeling sluggish, with little desire to stray from the sofa. But before you blast off into the strange new world of parenthood, it’s imperative to set up yourself—and your mission control center—for success. Start tackling your preflight checklist early (say around week 35), so you have a jump-start before your energy begins flagging. Then, do what you can when you can, and accept help along the way. (That latter bit is key—so ask for a hand if no one offers.) By getting a few housekeeping items out of the way in advance, you’ll free up time to look after your little earthling later.
Now, let the countdown begin …
10. Boil those bottles.
Even before your munchkin arrives, you’ll need to clock some extra time on dish duty. Make the first wash of baby’s feeding vessels a thorough one by sterilizing all of the parts. (You can do this with pacifiers, too.)
To sterilize bottles and nipples (as well as any other related equipment—like breast pump parts), fill a large pot with water and drop in all the pieces. Check to make sure that everything is completely submerged and no air bubbles are trapped inside. Cover the pot, and let it boil for a minimum of 10 minutes. Made-for-the-task sterilizers are also readily available at baby superstores, if you’re looking to make the process even easier.
After the initial cleaning, it’s fine to wash bottles and nipples with soapy water or by running them through the dishwasher (as long as they’re dishwasher-safe). If you prefer the latter, consider investing in a basket to corral all the bits and pieces.
9. Lighten your laundry load.
Keep a watchful eye on that laundry basket as you near D-day. By staying on top of the washing and drying, you’ll come home from the hospital to plenty of clean clothes and towels to get you through those challenging first days.
Yours isn’t the only stuff that needs a sudsy spin, though. Whether they’re brand-new or pulled out of storage, all of your babe-to-be’s clothes, hats, blankets, crib sheets, burp clothes, etc., should be washed and put away. Make a mental note of where everything is—and clue in your partner, too—so you’re ready when a diaper blowout or spit-up catastrophe strikes.
Double up on changing pad covers and fitted crib sheets by layering one underneath another. When the top one inevitably gets dirty, simply peel it off to reveal the backup underneath.
8. Snap some photos.
Your baby bump has an expiration date, and whether you’re relishing every minute of pregnancy or can’t wait to have a cocktail at the finish line, you’ll appreciate having some snapshots of this special time in your life to look back on.
Some mamas opt to have a professional behind the camera, but even if that’s not in the budget (or just not your style), you don’t have to skip it altogether. Ask a friend—or even the server at your date night restaurant (see: No. 4)—to capture a photo. One day, you’ll point to that picture and tell your tot she was right there in mama’s belly, and the amazed look on her face will make the effort worth it.
7. Clean the house.
Pull out the vacuum, wash those windows and run a duster over those long-neglected places (yes, even the baseboards and ceiling fan blades). This is a big job, so you may want to call in reinforcements, be they your best buds or a professional cleaning service.
Giving your home a good scrubbing will help keep icky germs at bay—a must considering newborns’ fragile immune systems. But remember that same bitty babe you’re trying to protect is currently inside you, so leave the heavy lifting to your partner or gal pal.
If you choose to tackle some of these chores on your own, look for all-natural cleaning products (baking soda and vinegar are a dynamic cleaning duo), and read all labels to ensure items are cleared for use during pregnancy. Play it safe by wearing rubber gloves and opening doors and windows to air out strong smells that could lead to nausea.
6. Prep the pantry.
In the days after you’ve just pushed a baby out of your lady parts, the last place you want to be is roaming the aisles of the supermarket. Buy foods that will last you through your first couple weeks postpartum, and keep the cupboards fully stockpiled.
A far-off expiration date isn’t the only prerequisite, though, so think twice before tossing those pizza bagels into the cart. You should be noshing on nourishing foods that are good for your recovering body—and your breast milk should you be nursing.
Stick to fruits (all-natural applesauce, raisins, frozen berries for smoothies), vegetables (canned and frozen varieties), whole grains and legumes (brown rice, quinoa, black beans and chickpeas) and lean meats (chicken, turkey, low-mercury fish and beef).
Healthy snack options could include whole-grain cereals, granola bars, peanut butter and crackers, fruit leather, trail mix and dried fruit. Plus, these no-refrigerator-necessary goodies will be perfect to stash in your hospital bag for sustenance after the cafeteria closes.
5. Get cookin’.
Filling your freezer with ready-made meals can save new parents from turning to fast food or less-than-appealing picks, like instant macaroni, after a long, exhausting day. Clock a few hours in the kitchen now to save yourself time and effort postpartum. You’ll get a home-cooked meal, and you and your partner won’t dread dinnertime because the hard part has already been completed.
You might have some recipes in your regular rotation that are suited for the freezer. Most anything you can pile into a slow cooker or oven is a safe bet. Think stews, soups, casseroles, enchiladas, potpies and lasagnas. The best part is no one has to stand over the stove. Pop it in, walk away, and enjoy those extra minutes snuggling your babe—or sneaking in a shower.
In case the one-dish meals get old (you can only eat so many casseroles), you should also prep ingredients for other dishes. For example, buy a few chicken breasts, slice them into strips, and coat them with a marinade before freezing them. Then, when you’ve got a hankering for chicken fingers, thaw and bake. The same goes for veggies: Chop and pack mixed bags for stir-frys or pasta add-ins.
4. Take time for two.
It’s true, growing your family from two to three is a huge deal. But baby shouldn’t be the only thing on your brain as your due date approaches—remember the person who helped make the bun in your oven, too! It won’t be just the two of you for much longer, so relish these moments while you can.
Make time for a date night—or four—to stoke the flame before you’re knee-deep in dirty diapers and sleep deprivation. Stick to a tried-and-true classic, like dinner and a movie, or try something new—pasta-making class, anyone? What matters is that you’re out on the town (something that will be harder to come by when you become parents) and you’re together.
While the sparks are flying, you might want to enjoy the more physical parts of your relationship as well. Sex will be off-limits until at least six weeks postpartum, and even then it could be awhile before you’re completely comfortable between the sheets. (A lot has changed down there, after all.)
Bolstering your bond now can stave off relationship dissatisfaction after baby, which 7 out of 10 new parents experience. It never hurts to remind each other that there’s room in your heart for both your first and your littlest love.
3. Install the car seat.
No newborn is allowed to leave the hospital without a properly installed infant car seat. Have the seat in whichever car you plan on taking, so you’re ready to roll. (Besides, catching glimpses of baby’s ride from the rearview mirror will be a sweet reminder she’s coming soon.)
Read the instruction manual carefully to ensure you understand how all the features work, but don’t stop there. Once you’ve put the car seat in your backseat—rear-facing, of course—tighten and secure the seat belt or LATCH system that holds it in place. Adjust the angle of the base as needed to make sure it’s at the recommended level.
An extra step that could save you a headache later: Go ahead and move the car seat straps to the lowest setting. Newborns are tiny, so odds are the straps will be at the correct height for your babe when she arrives. Plus, if you notice at the hospital that the straps need to be moved up a notch, you’ll already be familiar with how to do it.
Once you feel like you’ve mastered the car seat mechanisms, it’s time to get a second opinion. Even the safest models won’t protect your newbie if they aren’t installed properly, so drive by a child car seat inspection station to ensure everything is in tip-top shape. Most fire stations offer this service, but you can pinpoint your nearest location at safercar.gov.
2. Pack the hospital bag.
During your first contractions is not the time to be loading up your labor bag. You’re guaranteed to forget something if you’re running around at the last minute. Gather everything you’ll need into one grab-and-go carryall, and stash it close to the exit.
For labor, moms-to-be have varying preferences on what’s worth hauling to the hospital, but you won’t want to forget:
- toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo and other toiletries
- two nightgowns (so you have a clean one after delivery)
- photo ID, insurance card and any hospital paperwork
- copies of your birth plan
- cellphone and charger
- a nursing or maternity bra
- comfy clothes to wear home
Most of what baby needs will be available at the hospital or birthing center, so stick to the basics: a going-home outfit, socks, a receiving blanket and maybe a hat if it’s chilly out.
1. Just relax.
There will be plenty of excitement and ruckus soon enough, so resist the temptation to put your finger on the fast-forward button. Instead, savor the rest of your pregnancy, however long it lasts, and enjoy the perks of pre-parenthood.
Take advantage of any chance to sleep in before shut-eye is hard to come by. Other than throwing yourself a snooze fest, do whatever puts your mind at ease and makes you feel like a million bucks. Soak in a warm bath. Read a book you’ve been meaning to get your hands on—one that isn’t in the baby-birthing or -rearing genre. Get a mani-pedi with your girlfriends. (You’ll still see them after you take on your mama title—they’ll want to cuddle your cutie, too—but you won’t have hours to gab over brunch like you do now.)
As you prep for the labor launch pad, remember all the things you’ve done to make way for baby. You’ve laid the groundwork for a smoother transition into motherhood (way to go, mama!), and soon you’ll be able to sit back and get to know your new arrival.