If you find yourself eyes wide open at 2 a.m., wondering if you should reach for your phone, get up and make yourself a snack, or power up the kindle, you’re not alone. Any parent’s advice to a mama-to-be is, “Enjoy your sleep!” But guess what? Sometimes it’s just not that easy.
Even the soundest sleepers can become total insomniacs once the creation of life is on our to-do list. And there’s a whole host of reasons why. Maybe it’s because you have to get up to pee every two hours, or because your new nightly heartburn makes it impossible to lie down. Or maybe it’s the cramp in your leg, the ache in your back, or the ever-growing belly you’re trying to maneuver every time you want to roll over (or the tiny human inside that’s kickboxing your uterus!).
And it doesn’t stop there. Our mind can be as big of an insomnia culprit as our body. What will labor feel like? How many prenatal vitamins do I have left? Did I remember to put those crib sheets on the registry? Cloth or disposable? Sometimes we can easily spin ourselves out till sunrise. There’s no tried-and-true secret for sinking into a deep, undisturbed sleep while pregnant, but there are a few ways you can set yourself up for greater success.
Body pillowWith your growing belly, stretchy hips, and achy joints and muscles, getting comfy at night can feel like a pipe dream. But a body pillow can be a huge help. And there are so many different kinds—S-shaped, U-shaped, wedge-shaped, and more—so if one isn’t right, don’t let it stop you from trying out another. Find one that gives you support where you most need it, whether that’s between your knees or under your neck or belly.
Diffuser Lavender essential oil has been shown to alleviate anxiety and up sleep quality. Add a few drops to a diffuser and let that little machine mist you into dreamland. Or skip the diffuser all together and just go straight for the oil: add a couple drops of lavender oil to your pillow case before you go to sleep, or dab a drop or two on your wrists or temple.
Eye mask When we’re having trouble sleeping, even a little bit of light (from a streetlamp, a bathroom light, or even a smartphone) can feel like a floodlight. If you’ve never been an eye mask person, now might be the time to try it—wearing one is the easiest way to you may just wonder why you went so long without one.
Meditation Yeah, we know you know—meditation makes everything better. But it’s kind of true! Especially when it comes to sleep and the mental acrobatics anxiety makes us perform. You can start small, really small, with just a couple of minutes a day. But see if you can keep it up, we swear it gets easier.
Exercise Here’s another one you’ve probably heard, but that’s ’cause it truly works—a bit of exercise every day has been shown to improve sleep. We’re not saying to benchpress your weight after you put your PJs on, but getting your body moving during the day will help it slow down at night.
Sound machineThey’re not just for babies! Having some soothing, consistent noise in your bedroom at night—hello ocean sounds!—can help lull you to sleep and then keep you there, by drowning out external noise and keeping your brain in a state of calm.
Packing a hospital bag is one of those pregnancy milestones, along with setting up a crib and washing those tiny newborn onesies for the first time. Here's your Hospital Bag essentials to make the big day a little easier!
When those first contractions hit, you know what you don’t want to be thinking about? YouTubing car seat installation tutorials or finding someone to feed the dog while you’re away from home. Going into labor just doesn’t leave much space in your brain for those kinds of details, so it’s best to tackle logistics beforehand—the peace of mind is worth it! Even if you’re a master procrastinator, your baby might not be, so giving yourself a deadline for these tasks at least two weeks before your due date is a great goal to have. And you know what? The world won’t end if you don’t get everything squared away before delivery. You’ll just figure it out on the go, which is a good taste of new parenthood anyway.
But here’s a helpful checklist so you’ll know what to do (or at least be aware of what you’re not doing—the fewer surprises the better!).
Pack your hospital bag
This one is the easiest to put off, but unless you want to end up in the maternity ward without your favorite robe and nothing but hospital soap to wash your post-delivery face with, you might want to make it a priority. You don’t need much, just the essentials and whatever else will make you feel comfortable and at ease, whether it’s a snuggly pair of socks, or your favorite rosewater face mist. Check out our hospital bag checklist here, for suggestions.
Install the car seat
Hang out in a hospital parking lot long enough, and it’s almost inevitable that you’ll spot a flustered partner checking and re-checking the infant car seat they’ve just installed. It doesn’t have to be this way! Install your car seat ahead of time (don’t forget the newborn insert!), and you can ensure that it’s all buckled and secured exactly as it should be, for the safest transport of your baby’s first ride.
Choose a pediatrician
If you want to see a few offices and meet a handful of doctors in order to choose the one that feels right for you and your family, this might take a bit longer than you think. Many pediatricians hold open houses at particular times, or you can schedule individual appointments. Throw in the question of insurance coverage, and you might need more than one first choice. But taking the time to choose one beforehand will mean the first doctor your baby sees right after delivery will be someone you trust and feel comfortable with.
Wash baby’s laundry
Maybe you packed your hospital bag and installed the car seat, but when you get home with baby realize you have nothing clean to put this sweet newborn in! Be sure to wash your crib sheets, bath towels, and newborn clothes beforehand, so that doing laundry isn’t the way you spend your first day at home.
Create a contact tree
News travels fast, especially when it’s this good! But you and your partner don’t want to be the ones having to share it with everyone when you’re recovering from delivery, figuring out breastfeeding, and basically making constant heart eyes at the tiny human you’ve just met. Tell the few people closest to you, and designate a point person or two that can communicate to the rest of your friends and family members. This is also a good time to think about who you want in the delivery room with you (if anyone!), and who you’ll want to see just after birth, ’cause pretty much everyone is going to want to see you, but that doesn’t mean you have to roll out the welcome wagon.
Set up a house-, pet-, baby-sitter
If you have any pets, any other children, or even any houseplants that you’ll need caring for while you’re away from home, designate someone who can be on call and ready to step up when the time comes. In fact, designate two people, so you have a backup if necessary. Make sure each person has a key to your house ahead of time, and all the instructions they’ll need.
Create a meal train
If there’s one thing most new mamas are, it’s famished. Labor and delivery is grueling work, and constantly breastfeeding a newborn means you’ll need all the sustenance you can get. Rather than putting your favorite takeout spot on speed dial, set up a meal train beforehand, that can kick in as soon as you get home. Your friends and family will want to help, and this is the perfect way for you to get fed, and for them to support you.