Setting up the Nursery

It’s one of the greatest joys of pregnancy. No, not the morning sickness or the aversions to your once-favorite-foods.

But setting up the nursery.

Cue all the feel-good-feels.

You get to pick new paint colors. New furniture. New decor.

Even if you’re on a tight budget or living in a one-bedroom apartment, preparing for your new baby to arrive home is a special moment of pregnancy. 

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I had high hopes for her nursery. We would get the latest bedding, the most expensive bassinet, and wallpaper. We can do wallpaper, right?

It didn’t take long for my bank account and logic to put a hard stop to all those dreams. How could I justify spending $1,000 on a bassinet that she would sleep in for 3 months? It just didn’t make sense.

In fact, those daydreams are a far way off from what ended up happening with my daughter’s sleeping situation, and I want to share 3 practical steps with you as you prepare for your newborn’s nursery – even if that nursery is a corner in your bedroom. 

Your baby needs a crib.

Or a bassinet, box, or pack and play. No, it doesn’t have to be the most expensive. The truth is, your baby likely won’t be able to tell the difference, and since the AAP recommends babies sleep in their own bed with a firm mattress free of anything else, you really don’t need to splurge on the cribs that boast the most comfortable night’s sleep.

Some moms find that babies do better in a bassinet, as it’s smaller than a crib and may feel a little more snug for baby. Additionally, you can have the bassinet right next to your bed so that you can easily respond to your little one, or easily move it to the living room during the day.

But you don’t need one with all the tricks and gizmos, unless you really want a specific feature. For my daughter, we used a standard bassinet that had wheels and rocked a little, but for my next baby, I would LOVE to have a bassinet that comes right up to the bed, where one of the sides lowers down.

For ME, I always wanted to have my hand near my daughter to easily soothe her, but with her bassinet, it wasn’t possible. So if you want a specific feature on your crib or bassinet, go for it. But your baby? All they need is a place to sleep.

But what about a play tent, a bureau, a changing station, and a rocking chair? Doesn’t every nursery need those things?

I’m sorry to burst your Pinterest-nursery goals, but no. Just a crib. All the extra stuff is nice, but it’s not needed. (I’ll explain why later)

Prep the Nursery for Safety

While you may not need to cover all of the outlets before your little one can crawl, you do need to have a few safety steps in mind when it comes to the crib. In the first year of your baby’s life, they shouldn’t have anything in their crib – no pillows, blankets, bumpers, or toys.

Even baby mobiles, though pretty, can pose a safety hazard. So while you may want to invest in a matching bedding set, don’t waste the money, unless you plan on using it after your baby is one year old.

I’m also going to advocate for you to take a few days to make sure the furniture is bolted to the walls and all chords are out of reach. No, your baby won’t come home from the hospital ready to climb the book shelf, but by the time they are (and really, you never know when you will turn your back for a second only to find your child 3 feet high on a shelf), you may be too busy to check for safety precautions.

Doing it now is the surest way to do it and forget about it so that you DON’T forget about it.

What other safety features does your nursery need?

I recommend a monitor, either a traditional walkie-talkie style or a camera monitor. Even if you’re having the baby sleep in your room, chances are, there will be times baby is sleeping alone in the room while you’re cooking, cleaning, or binging Netflix, and having a monitor can be reassuring and comforting.

What about devices that monitor breathing and movement?

When I brought my daughter home from the hospital, I couldn’t sleep. Not because she was keeping me awake all night, but because I needed to make sure she was still breathing. I spent hours awake just watching her chest rise and fall. Sticking my finger beneath her nose to feel any air. It was tortuous. 

I researched so many devices to monitor her breathing, and then would fall asleep, only for her to wake up and the pattern to repeat.

I do think there’s value in devices that can monitor movement or breathing, but they aren’t needed. They can ease a mother’s anxiety, but they aren’t fool-proof. Some are very expensive, and some have mixed user reviews.

So ultimately, that’s your call.

Don’t Overdo the Nursery

I’m sure your Pinterest board is beautiful, but when it comes to your baby’s nursery, don’t stress about overdoing it. Because for many families, they keep their baby in the caregiver’s room for at least the first year. And you just don’t know yet what you’re going to prefer when your little one arrives, even if you have your heart set on them snoozing in their own beautifully-decorated room.

The truth is, yes – you may start using the nursery right away. But you also may not move your baby into their room until they’re closer to two years old. And at that point, you may need to rethink the decor you picked out when they were in your womb.

Instead, focus your time and energy on preparing for your newborn in other ways: sorting their clothing into size categories, setting up the diaper changing station, assembling the stroller. Of course, make the room pretty and add special touches, but don’t stress about making it perfect just yet. Trust me, as you get to know their character and likes, you will be able to personalize their room just for them.

In Summary

Preparing your baby’s nursery is a joyous event, and one of the many nesting activities a mom-to-be will do. However, don’t let this task consume you.

  • Your baby needs a crib. It doesn’t matter if you use a bassinet, a crib that converts to a toddler bed, a box (some countries do this!), or a pack and play. But they need a place to sleep that is their own.
  • That crib needs to be empty and free of everything, other than a fitted sheet.
  • Take a few days to prep the room for safety. Think through whether you want any monitors (traditional walkie-talkie style or camera). It’s not a bad idea to plug outlets and bolt furniture to the walls now, even though you may not feel the need just yet.
  • Lastly, don’t overdo the nursery. Yes, make it pretty, but leave some room to add touches that will match your child’s personality. You don’t need every corner of the room figured out just yet.

I am so excited for this journey that you are embarking on! It will be the ride of your life!

Have other ideas of what absolutely needs to be in the nursery? Share in the comments below!

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I’m Katie

certified pediatric sleep consultant

Fueled by equal parts caffeine and passion, I spend my days helping exhausted mamas get their babies the sleep they need. 

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