What Is Pregnancy Nesting And How Can Men Help?

Here's the research, plus 3 tips to make yourself useful.


All different sorts of creatures nest. It’s common for birds to nest, of course, but fish do it as well. Reptiles like alligators can build enormous nests. And WASPs also nest, but mostly only in gated communities in the suburbs. Or condos. WASPs love nesting in condos.

So it’s not surprising that pregnant women might have a nesting instinct before giving birth. But is it a real thing or just legend? And is building a crib as big a pain in the ass as everyone says? Yes. And … yes.

flickr / Matt Billings

Nesting And Evolution

One of the first studies to ever take on the question of nesting was conducted in 2013 by researchers at McMaster University (where the education hasn’t been super-sized since 2004). The results of their study suggested that the nesting instinct was very powerful. So powerful, in fact, that it caused women to get crazy active in the exhausting third trimester of their pregnancy, which is commonly known as “ … Uuugghhhhhh, is it over yet!?”

Their paper, published in Evolution And Human Behavior, concluded that the nesting instinct ultimately works in humans the same way it works in other animals. Preparation of the home for safety and comfort of the baby creates a bonding experience that draws the mother closer to the kid before they’re even born. That bond (and all that safe space) is an evolutionary boon. Like thumbs, and the ability to text latte orders.

flickr / danielle defrancesco

Nesting Problems

The evolutionary drive of nesting can go too far. Some women report that they’ve experienced borderline crazy nesting behaviors like redecorating the entire house (which is to say their partner redecorated the entire house) and bleaching the garage floor.

Given these issues, there is some guidance for the nesting period. Here are 3 tips to help you along:

  • Chemicals Are Bad: Read the labels on paint, solvents and various other cleaning liquids. Make sure they’re safe for pregnant women to handle and use. At which point, hand her the sponge, tell her good luck and go get a beer. (Just kidding. Don’t ever do that).
  • Do The Heavy Lifting: It’s not that she’s oh so fragile and can’t lift and build and whatnot. It’s that she’s freaking tired. So yes, build that crib and climb those ladders. She’s fine to lift a paintbrush and whatever else, though.
  • Comfy Isn’t Always Safe: Sometimes the most comfy looking things are the least safe for infants. So while you work on feathering the nest, just know that in places where the baby will be sleeping, a tight sheet over a firm mattress is best. Leave the bumpers and blankies out of the equation, which is, generally: baby sleep + comfy pillows and whatnot = bad!