Waiting for Baby? Things to Do While Waiting for Labor to Start

Last Updated: June 19, 2024
Liesel Teen, RN-BSN

By Liesel Teen

BSN, RN, Practicing Labor and Delivery Nurse

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Wondering what to do while waiting for labor to start?

Girl, when your due date countdown goes from weeks to days, time can start to feel extra slow. We’ve all heard the joke about the last month of pregnancy lasting 5654213 days, right??

Well, here I’m going to share some ways to help you pass that time and get you a little more prepared mentally, physically, and sentimentally (is that a thing?) for your baby to arrive.

The big things are on our Third Trimester To Do List and Labor Prep List – these are the things that aren’t absolutely essential, but are a great way to fill those waiting days!

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What to do in those final days while waiting for labor to start

1. Make sure you’ve got a safe sleep space for baby in your room

As we prepare to bring baby home, the details and emphasis always goes into the nursery. It’s fun and exciting to organize and set up your nursery.

But now is a good time to check-in and make sure you also have a safe sleep space set up for baby in your room. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends co-rooming (sleeping in the same room as your baby, in separate sleep spaces) for the first 6-12 months of life to reduce the risk of SIDS.

Some great options for co-rooming are Pack and Plays, The Snoo, or bed-side style bassinets/sleepers like this.

In addition to a safe sleep space in your room, it can be helpful to have a changing area and rocker/nursing station. This portable, folding changing station looks like it could be perfect for even the smallest space!

2. Do some cooking or baking for your freezer

Okay, so this one might be one you’ve read or seen on other checklists, but I’m including it because it will be life-saving once you’re back home with a newborn. Take some time to prep healthy and easy crockpot meals for your freezer, and thank me later.

A lot of baked goods freeze easily too. Muffins and banana bread are my two favorites, and they make for a super easy snack or breakfast.

If you’re not the baking/cooking type, a trip down the freezer aisle can be just as productive!

3. Make some DIY Padsicles

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A post shared by Liesel Teen BSN, RN | Pregnancy + Birth (@mommy.labornurse)

Does everyone know about padsicles? Well, if you don’t, listen up! After you have a baby vaginally, regardless of if you tear or not, your vagina is usually quite sore and even swollen.

Ice packs feel AMAZING down thereand padsicles are basically ice packs infused with other healing and pain-relieving goodness.

These are perfect to make while you’re 9 months pregnant waiting for labor. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Grab some pads. The bigger and extra absorbent the better!
  • Pour some witch hazel all over, soaking the pad about halfway, but not enough for it to drip!
  • Then pour some aloe on the pad (make sure you use the CLEAR aloe not the green stuff)
  • Wrap them back up in the original package, put them all in a plastic bag, and store in the freezer
  • They should be good to go until you need them!

Get everything you need to make them right here!

Some women find that keeping them open & freezing flat works better than closing them up. I think it depends on how much you saturate the pads and the brand of pad!

4. Take some extra maternity photos

So, so many mamas tell me that they regret not taking more pictures during their pregnancy! Even if you did a maternity shoot, I encourage you to get some photos of yourself in your everyday life. I know lots of you feel swollen and don’t think you want your picture taken – but someday you’re going to wish you had them!

So, grab your partner or a friend and take some pictures of that beautiful bump! I love the idea of taking “due date” pictures if you go past your due date, and pictures right before you leave for the hospital if you can manage it.

5. Have a special day for yourself

Girl, I cannot recommend this enough! Get a pedicure, eat your favorite food, and just try to relax and enjoy your final days with your bump. Prenatal massages are a wonderful activity for your final days, and so is reflexology.

I got reflexology done in my final days with both of my babies, and some people even think it can bring on labor.

6. Go on a date night with your partner! 

It might be a while before you can do this again, and if you make it to your due date without going into labor, celebrate with a due-date date instead of being disappointed!

In our article, 8 Fun Things to do During Pregnancy, we suggest five different fun pregnancy date ideas including:

  • A due-date date
  • Induction/C-section eve date
  • Foods-to-start-labor date
  • Shopping for baby date
  • Movie night in date

7. Make something special for your baby

The activity of creating something for your baby in these final weeks is a great way to pass the time. It’s a keepsake you and baby will hold on to forever!

What you decide on will be unique to you, but here are some ideas:

  • Knit/Crochet them a hat, sweater, blanket, or booties
  • Create a unique piece of art for their room (painting, collage, photos, or refinishing are all wonderful options)
  • Pull out your sewing machine! Here the possibilities are endless: clothes, nursery décor, changing mat, burp clothes, blanket/quilt, etc.
  • Create a scrapbook or photo album, or start a baby book
  • Make a “familiar faces” book on a site like SnapFish. Put pictures of extended family and loved ones in it
Hospital Bag Checklist-1

8. Write your baby a letter

On a similar note, take some time to write a letter to your baby too. You can’t really do this wrong. Write anything that you feel compelled to say, tell, or document for them. Make a plan for when to give this letter to them later in life.

It may even be the start of a tradition. You might want to write letters to them every year for their birthday and give them the bundle when they turn 18 or perhaps if and when they start a family of their own.

9. Talk with your partner about labor updates and birth announcements

One aspect of labor and birth you may not have planned for yet is how you’ll keep family and loved ones updated. This might be especially true should your birth take an unforeseen turn and you want to update loved ones quickly.

Some people like to have one contact person who can then relay messages to everyone else, or maybe your partner is okay with handling the brunt of this!

You should also talk to your partner about who you want to tell directly after baby arrives, and at what point you want it on social media. Be direct and clear with people about your wishes surrounding birth announcements and social media so that no one posts it before YOU get to tell who you want to.

10. Think about how you’ll introduce your baby to your pets

This is another thing that some parents forget to think about. But cats and dogs can often have some big feelings of their own when a new baby enters the family.

I actually had a professional dog trainer on the podcast to talk about this exact thing! It’s full of great tips and considerations.

Listen here: Dogs + Babies: What Should You Know Bringing Baby Home to Your Dog?

11. Try out your baby gear if you haven’t yet

Hopefully, by this point, you’ve got the bigger things in place. The crib and gliders are assembled, you set up swings and loungers, and even installed the car seat. And, well, if you didn’t – do that!!

But I want to urge you to try the extra gear out too. Things like packing up the diaper bag, figuring out how your baby carrier works, and even practicing opening and closing the stroller.

All of these things are designed for ease of use, once you’ve got it down. Figure them out now while your frustration thresholds are nice and high 🙂

12. Start doing some techniques to encourage spontaneous labor

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A post shared by Liesel Teen BSN, RN | Pregnancy + Birth (@mommy.labornurse)

There are a TON of evidence-based (and anecdotal) ways to naturally induce labor out there. But you have to remember that unless your body is physically ready, it just won’t happen.

In fact, doctors don’t know exactly what triggers a woman to go into labor, which is kind of crazy if you think about it! There have been countless studies on the subject, and many theories circulating, but it hasn’t been figured out definitively yet.

However, something about baby’s position, your cervix’s “readiness”, and certain hormones all seem to be key players in naturally inducing labor.

In our article, Natural Ways to Induce Labor, you can learn about 6 things you can do in the final days and weeks including:

  • Drinking red raspberry leaf tea
  • Eating dates
  • Curb walking
  • The Miles Circuit (a bit more on this below, too!)
  • Sex to induce labor
  • And the Midwives’ Brew (which actually can’t be used until you are passed your due date!)

What about when I’m actually IN labor?

In addition to filling the time in the final weeks or days before birth, a lot of mamas ask me what they should be doing during early labor. You see, if you go into labor spontaneously at home, many women have a LONG early labor. This can be especially true for first-time moms.

For some, it can last 10+ hours. Labor has begun, but contractions aren’t super strong yet and may be kind of far apart. This is something I talk about in detail inside of our online birth classes, but here are a few tips to get you started.

1. Rest, rest, rest

The number one thing I want you to do during early labor? Rest or even sleep if possible! Birth can be a marathon for many women, and the more rested you are – the better. Once your contractions ramp up rest and sleep will feel impossible, but in early labor, a lot of women can still do it.

If you are just way too excited to sleep or rest, then use the other tips on this list.

2. Do the Miles Circuit

I love the Miles Circuit for early labor because it involves a lot of relaxing but still lets you feel like you’re doing something to help move labor along. It’s a series of stretches/positions that helps get baby into the optimal position for birth. Baby lowering into the pelvis and engaging is essential during early labor.

You can read all the details to get it done in our article, The Miles Circuit: My Success with These Stretches to Induce Labor

3. Try some distraction methods

Early labor can sometimes feel like an eternity. And I definitely don’t want you pulling out all of the awesome pain-coping strategies you learned in your birth class yet. You want to save those for more active labor.

In fact, I don’t even want you to time your contractions until they start to get closer together. Trust me, you’re going to burn out if you do.

Instead, if you can’t rest, and you already did the Miles Circuit – pull out some distraction techniques. I know some mamas love to bake during early labor, clean the house, do laundry, or watch an easy-going TV series (hello, Friends!).

4. Check in with your provider

Once you feel like your contractions are heading toward active labor, it’s a good idea to give your provider a call. Let them know what’s going on, review when to head to the hospital, and tell them where you’re at now.

Often they can give some good insight into how to spend your time. It’s also helpful for them to know you’ll be coming in sometime in the next few hours!

Trust that baby will come when they’re ready

Every baby and pregnancy is different, and it’s pretty IMPOSSIBLE to know exactly when that sweet babe will make their appearance.

I always like to take a look at the stats to see where I fall and look at averages. According to birth data put out by the CDC in 2017:

  • 10% of babies were born before 37 weeks
  • 26% were born in weeks 37-38
  • 57% were born in weeks 39 to 40
  • 6% in week 41
  • Less than 1% at week 42+ 

Signs of labor

It’s also helpful to know some clues that labor might be imminent (remember, some women have no warning signs!):

  • You feel extra exhausted
  • You experience diarrhea
  • You lose your mucus plug or see some “bloody show”. These can be signs labor will start soon (but not always). Your mucus plug, for lack of a better description, kinda looks like a giant booger!
  • You start to feel cramps that get stronger and more rhythmic (early contractions)
  • Your water breaks 

And what if you continue to go past due?

Your provider may want to talk about inducing you at 41-weeks. If this ends up being what’s best for you, it’s going to be okay!

BABY IS SO CLOSE!! You’ve got this, mama!

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Liesel Teen, RN-BSN

Liesel Teen

BSN, RN, Practicing Labor and Delivery Nurse

As a labor and delivery nurse, I’ve spent countless hours with women who felt anxious — even fearful — about giving birth. I want you to know it doesn’t have to be that way for you!

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