Though you’ve probably spent your entire pregnancy planning for your baby, the planning you do in your third trimester should really be all about you.
That first trimester may have crawled by at a snail’s pace with the second trimester serving as a nice respite from the foggy fatigue and crippling morning sickness, the third trimester often surprises most expecting parents, both with how it seems to fly by and also by how seemingly unprepared you can feel at times for life to change all in a single day.
So much of your pregnancy thus far has been solely focused around your baby and you’ve probably been slowly collecting all of the baby gear items you’ll need to help your little one thrive, from basics like diapers, wipes and onesies to big-ticket gear like a car seat, crib and stroller. But, as it turns out, newborns really don’t need that much. In fact, whatever items are still left to be purchased on your registry probably aren’t survival essentials or even must-haves.
As an expecting mom, it’s fundamentally important, however, to consider your own needs, especially in this last trimester, the home stretch before your baby makes their long-awaited debut. The third trimester really should be all about making you comfortable—physically, mentally and emotionally—now and postpartum.
To help prepare you for what lies ahead and ensure that you’re providing yourself with the right kind of supplies and support, I put together a complete checklist for what you’ll need to finish out your pregnancy, give birth and make it through the postpartum period in stride.
Your ‘Thriving in the Third Trimester’ Checklist
Buy (breast)feeding essentials
Breastfeeding is hard. There is a steep learning curve, and you’ll need to be patient as both you and baby get the hang of things together. While there is no telling what your breastfeeding journey will look like, you can be prepared to optimize the outcome, and minimize stress. Below are some items that probably didn’t make it onto your registry list, that you absolutely should consider purchasing ahead of baby’s arrival:
- Milk collector: This was a major game changer for me this postpartum. If you’re nursing, a milk collector like the Elvie Curve or Elvie Catch is a great way to catch extra milk that’s released from your non-feeding breast. This can help you save several ounces without having to pump. I didn’t do this my first pregnancy, and I regret it. In the first several weeks (up to 2 months) as your body regulates your supply, you’re alternate breast will let down milk, often a good amount. By being prepared with this tool this time around, I built a huge freezer supply without ever pumping! I recommend finding one that fits in your bra instead of the popular Hakka breast pump which often gets kicked off causing literal tears from spilled milk, and can only attach with suction making you express more milk than just extra let-down. Instead I’d opt for the Elvie Catch, but if you want the option for suction, or expect to be leaking more than 1oz in a nursing session the Elvie Curve is a better option.
- Freezer bags: Whether you’re collecting via the Elvie Curve or pumping, freezer bags will come in handy to freeze milk you’ve collected. This frozen milk can last up to 12 months in the freezer, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), While you don’t need a big freezer stash, it is helpful and gives peace of mind when you need to leave baby for a bit and won’t need to squeeze in an extra pump session prior to doing so. After consulting with my mom friends, the Lansinoh Breastmilk Bags are the most popular choice (and what I use too).
- Undergarments: In the immediacy of giving birth, postpartum underwear will be your savior. While your hospital will likely give you some mesh underwear, I highly recommend Bodily, which sells an All-In Panty: 5-Pack of super comfortable, high-waisted panties with an antimicrobial fabric. Nursing bras too, will come in clutch, especially during those first few weeks and months when you’re engorged and getting the hang of breastfeeding. I absolutely recommend Bodily’s Everything Bra, the fabric is so soft and buttery.
- Breast pump: Most insurance companies cover at least a portion of your breast pump, so it’s a good idea to look into ordering one in your third trimester. Aeroflow is a great site to help you navigate insurance coverage and order your pump and some other helpful items like a prenatal belt support to help with back and pelvic pain. I HIGHLY recommend spending a bit more money to get a pump that does not require you to be attached to the wall. I have both the Spectra S1 and Willow Go. I’ll write more about my love for wearable pumps like Willow or Elvie later, but know it is worth the extra $$.
- Feeding pillow: In the early days this will help you get baby in optimal position, once you get the swing of things it will be your secret to hands free nursing. The SnuggleMe Feeding Pillow is my preferred choice (I actually own 2). Mine comes everywhere with me.
- Nipple Cream: You’ll want this for the first couple of weeks for your cracked nipples. I like Motherlove’s formula, which feels more like a balm rather than a sticky cream.
- Lactation Massager: A massager comes in handy for those early days of engorgement, and is great to keep on hand if you ever start to feel a clogged duct coming. I didn’t have one with Caden, but used one with Willow and the heat plus vibration really helped relieve discomfort. Highly recommend Frida Mom’s 2-in-1 Lactation Massager.
- Formula: That’s right. Buy formula ahead of time, even if you don’t plan on using it. I didn’t do this with Caden – I was terrified of using formula – but when my milk took longer to come in since I had a c-section, I ended up needing to supplement. And when I was 2 months postpartum and started having other health issues, my supply dropped and I needed formula, fast. Instead of adding stress to an already stressful situation, do you research, pick out your chosen formula brand, and order some to have on hand. With Caden, I opted for European formula because of its higher standards for ingredients (no added sugars, no wheat or soy, no synthetic preservatives, stage based for optimal brain development). With Caden, after much research, I purchased Hipp Dutch because of the pre/probiotics and DHA. For Willow, two new US based brands disrupting the broken American formula industry debuted: Bobbie and ByHeart. I opted to try out ByHeart, and while I have yet to need to use it, I have it ready to go when the time comes.
Think of these as your “survival kits” – everything you need in one organized spot so that you don’t have to frantically rummage through drawers or go room to room to take care of yourself. I didn’t prepare all of these my first pregnancy, but this was a major focus for me my second time around. And wow, they made a huge difference with my less of comfort and ease going home from the hospital.
- Bedroom: Make sure you have a small night-light; I LOVE this one – it’s small, soft, dimmable and you just have to flip it over to turn on meaning no fussing with buttons or switches in the middle of the night. You’ll also want to stock up on over-the-counter meds like Tylenol, Advil, and Colace. Have burp cloths handy,for you to reach for during nursing sessions. Set up your bassinet, since this is where your baby will likely spend the first few months. Be sure to have an extra set of crib sheets, a mini sound machine and a swaddle (highly recommend the Ollie) on hand. Regardless if you have a planned c-section, have a step stool ready to go to help with the uncomfortable game of getting in and out of bed. If you do end up with a c-section, I also recommend building an incline up the headboard of your bed with pillows to mimic the hospital bed. I assembled all of these things (plus the items mentioned in the breastfeeding essentials section above) in a tiered cart that could roll between my bedroom and bathroom.
- Bathroom: Keep your postpartum necessities here in a basket or drawer by the toilet: Frida Mom mesh underwear, pads, peri bottle, baby wipes, ice packs. Frida Mom makes it easy to prep this station with their Postpartum Recovery Kit. If you have a c-section, you’ll still want comfortable mesh underwear, pads and baby wipes.
- Second diaper-changing station: If you have a two-level house, it’s wise to set up a second diaper-changing station to help you avoid having to climb the stairs so many times while you’re still recovering. Include a wipeable changing pad like the Keekaroo Peanut (check out Facebook marketplace if you are purchasing a second one), a wipes dispenser and, of course, tons of diapers (here’s my review of the most absorbable brand).
- Living room station: Stock up on snacks, tissues (hello crazy hormone shifts), burp cloths, extra baby clothes and swaddles so that you don’t have to head over to baby’s nursery constantly. Place your baby lounger (I like the Snuggle Me Lounger) and your feeding pillow in this room if it’s where you plan to spend the majority of time.
- Kitchen organization: Put out the baby dish soap and a drying rack for you to clean and put away baby bottles (be sure to have size 0/1 nipples handy). Also, consider making freezer meals for when you’re too exhausted to cook or simply have your hands full postpartum. This can be really helpful in staving off anxiety (or in channeling it), notes Leah Rockwell, L.C.P.C., perinatal mental health trained licensed professional counselor in Frederick, Maryland. “These are things that you can contain and set aside (literally!) so that you can be present for whatever comes your way.”
TLC for you (and your partner)
Don’t let this be an afterthought!
- Schedule prenatal massages: If there’s one gift you can give yourself, let it be this. Find a massage therapist who specializes in giving prenatal massages and consider this your time to yourself—free from distractions, to-do lists, and the stress and pressure related to pregnancy and preparing for a baby in general. As for medical safety, just be sure you are working with a Certified Prenatal massage therapist. “These professionals are familiar with avoiding acupressure points which induce labor, approximately 4 finger widths above the inner ankle bones,” notes Risa Klein, nurse midwife and OB/GYN NP and Director of Midwifery at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
- Go on date nights: “Going on dates with your partner prior to baby’s arrival can allow space for you to reflect on the relationship of two before becoming a family of three, savoring the joys of couplehood,” says Leah Rockwell.
- Take long baths: Need I say more? Just make sure that the water temperature is under 100 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent your body temperature from going any higher than 101. Grab some bath salts (my favorite) and turn on an oil diffuser (try Yoga and Tantra blends) to create that spa-like vibe. Get $10 Saje products here.
- Take maternity photos: If you can swing it, try to schedule professional maternity photos with your partner between 32 and 36 weeks pregnant. I also highly encourage you to do a little DIY photoshoot at home between 35 and 37 weeks pregnant. You don’t need anything fancy, just a bare wall, a cute outfit to show off your bump and an iPhone. You can also ask your doula or labor nurse to take photos during your actual labor and birth. “Don’t be shy; I have found my patients who did not want pictures taken, did regret it afterwards, especially the moments of mom’s and partner’s reaction when the baby is placed in their arms,” says Risa Klein.
Prepare your other child(ren) for the transition
If you have other children, they too are about to go through a big transition.
- Buy gifts for big brother/sister: A great way to set the tone for adding a new member to the family is to buy a gift for the older sibling to be given when the new child is born. Risa Klein also recommends asking the older sibling to draw a picture for their baby sibling and placing it in the baby’s hospital bassinet. “Take a picture of their picture in the bassinet next to the baby so the older sibling can feel proud their artwork is with ‘their’ baby,” she says.
- Plan a special day for your little one(s): Whether it’s a beach day, museum day, outing for ice cream, do something special to make your little one feel extremely loved! My good friend wrote about this strategy in her article Advice for the Second-Time Mom on NMM.
Plan for your time at the hospital
My first birth they had to force me out of the hospital, my second, I couldn’t wait to get out.
- Make a hospital playlist: Make a calm and an upbeat playlist that you think you’ll enjoy listening to for motivation and encouragement during birth. Here’s my “calm” playlist that we continued to listen to nonstop in the hospital even after both babies were born.
- Pack a hospital bag: Check out my hospital bag packing checklist to make sure you’re 100 percent prepared with everything you need.
- Make a nurses gift basket: Thank the team that is caring for you! Coffee, nuts, candy, popcorn, it all will be appreciated.
It’s normal to feel overwhelmed those last weeks of pregnancy. Remember to take the time to take care of yourself, clear your mind, and prioritize doing things that will make your life easier after baby arrives.