Maryann Bucknum Brinley

167 Cooper Avenue
Upper Montclair, NJ 07043-1810

973-202-5909 (cell)

Extraordinary at Ordinary

Searching for extraordinary science and understanding in the everyday ordinary of life

Don't Knock Nesting Instinct

Maryann Bucknum Brinley - Thursday, October 20, 2016

My daughter Maggie is going to have a little boy on or about December 22 of this year. She is absolutely thrilled and absolutely caught up in nesting instinct imperatives. Please don’t knock them. “Maternal nest-building is regulated by the hormonal actions of estradiol, progesterone and prolactin,” according to Wikipedia which references a study in the Journal of Neuroendocrinology.

Evie, Maggie and Chris...getting ready for a new baby boy!

Maggie’s brain is being flooded by her to-do and get-done list. And as a full time working mother of a toddler, she just doesn’t have enough minutes in her day or night. To add to her angst, four months into renovations to a third floor bedroom and bath, construction is delayed by her town’s malfunctioning permit planning department. Errrr. Painting and rearranging bedrooms on the second floor is ongoing but the fact remains: her nest is in a bit of turmoil as she heads into what is ordinarily a busy holiday season but in this case one that is even more complicated by a Christmas baby on the way.

Unfortunately, as she takes a deep breath and resolves to handle whatever comes her way, what irks her are the comments of well-meaning people who belittle her compulsion to get this nest in order.


“What’s your hurry?”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“Why do you need to do this now?”

In a research paper published in Science Daily titled “Driven to clean: Nesting instinct among pregnant women has an evolutionary backstory,” lead author Marla Anderson, a graduate student in the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience and Behavior at McMaster University, reports, “Nesting is not frivolous activity. It ties us to our ancestral past. Providing a safe environment helps to promote bonding and attachment between both the mother and infants.”

The tough part is that this urge to nest usually comes at the very same time a pregnant woman is really, honestly, physically tired: third trimester. Mel Rutherford, a professor in Anderson’s department at McMaster, adds, “So the urge to nest is a very powerful motivating force.”

Word of warning: don’t try to talk a woman out of her normal, biological nesting instincts. It’s not about the decorating. She’s protecting the human race. 

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