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There are two times in a woman’s life where she goes up and beyond her normal spending habits; her wedding and when she finds out she’s expecting her first child (at least for most of us!). These two milestones are freakin magical – as it’s the time we know that we’re finally a grown-up doing grown-up things.
The information out there is REALLY overwhelming. What nursery essentials are actually essential?, “do I even need a nursery?”. I had no clue and thought my baby probably needed #allthethings and #alltheroom.
Having to figure out if you really need a nursery, what you need in the nursery, and all of the must have nursery items is frickin stressful (because you know – pregnancy isn’t stressful enough!)
But it’s okay – just sit back and relax mama. I promise it’ll get easier than it feels like right now.
From an experienced mom of two (and working with kids in an emergency shelter), I’ve learned what your baby’s nursery SHOULD include. I’ve made you an extensive list of allllllll of the nursery essentials that you’ll want to include on your nursery checklist.
WHAT FURNITURE IS NEEDED FOR A NURSERY?
When you think about nursery essentials you probably start thinking about furniture first. Baby will need a place to sleep, a place to have their diapers changed, a place to relax or play, a place to get a drink (kidding), and a place for their clothes to be stored.
Basically – it’s a LOT of stuff.
First things first – get some nursery furniture that’ll grow with your baby (which will happen every time you blink – crazy).
So…what baby room essentials will grow with your baby?
Cribs that can transform into toddler beds, a dresser that has at least four drawers and a changing table that can be used for something else in the later years (ours is a second dresser).
See what I mean? It’s the best way to go easy on your wallet but still get everything you’ll need.
Your nursery will change at various stages of childhood. This will be your baby’s first area of their OWN. As your baby gets older, it’ll transform away from a nursery full of baby essentials into a toddler’s bedroom with a play area and a race car bed (or princess -whatever).
While you may feel like going a little overboard (or a lot overboard) and think you need all of these extra items, the reality of new motherhood is a few basic baby room essentials is all that’s needed. At the same time – if you wanna splurge, splurge!
As long as you understand that it’s totally NOT necessary.
Anyway – let’s get to the nursery checklist. I mean for it to make it easy to organize your thoughts and simplify the process a little. Hope it helps. 🙂
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NURSERY ESSENTIALS LIST
We’ll go over #allthethings when it comes to what nursery essentials you’ll want to grab, but we’re going to start with the big-ticket items first.
Newborn babies spend about 67% of their life sleeping. This is why having a comfortable and safe place to sleep is going to be the first priority on this nursery essentials list. Two things play into this – the crib and the mattress. Don’t discount the importance of either.
First, we’ll talk about cribs.
You know what’s most important when it comes to purchasing a crib?
Making sure the crib you get is SAFE. Most cribs sold in retail stores and online outlets do meet the government standards and requirements for a new baby crib (possibly all meet safety standards – but I don’t like to deal in absolutes).
Where you have to be extra careful is purchasing an older crib. Dropside cribs are especially unsafe. Here are some safety considerations to watch out for when choosing a crib.
TYPES OF CRIBS
The five common “types” of cribs are listed below – as well as a snippet of information that’ll help you understand what it is.
- Standard crib: a full size crib. These are nice because your little one can use it for at least the first year or two.
- Transitional crib: this is your crib to toddler bed – some have three or four transitional periods, so make sure you understand what you’re purchasing.
- Travel crib: Often people use a playpen as a travel crib (or something like this). They aren’t very comfortable, but some parents use these until the child transitions to a twin bed.
- Mini crib: These are awesome for small spaces, but your little one will grow out of it fairly quickly.
- Bassinet: These are pretty cute – but honestly I don’t think they’re usually worth it because your baby will grow out of it so quickly. The exception to this is our favorite one because it doubled as a good travel crib.
I wanted to share a couple of my favorite standard cribs. Honestly, as long as you purchase a crib from a reputable retailer, you’re probably going to be fine. I urge you to be cautious purchasing an older crib (drop cribs are a big no) – although as long as you make sure it’s SAFE you’ll be just fine.
Related: Safe Sleep Tips for Newborns
Just be aware that it may come with a few chew marks (because older babies chewing on the sides of cribs is definitely a thing).
This is the crib we got for my second daughter, and it’s held up well. I like it because it has a solid back, which means there are fewer places for baby to get their arms and legs stuck (which has happened to BOTH of our kids – it was terrible). The other thing I really like about this crib is that it’s a four in one.
What is that you ask? It goes from a crib, to a toddler day bed, to a toddler bed, to a full size bed with a headboard. That means we’ll probably have this thing for years. 🙂
This crib is wildly popular and comes in plenty of colors. It’s quite a bit cheaper than my top choice, which makes it an awesome budget-friendly option.
Overall, it’s not my favorite because I really DO prefer the cribs with a solid back. The downside to a crib with a solid back is that it has to be arranged a certain way to sneak in and check on baby while they’re sleeping. If you can be flexible with the placement of the crib this shouldn’t be a big deal, but still good to keep in mind.
The other benefit to this crib is that it is a seven in one (which truly isn’t that much different from the four in one). The settings aren’t something too crazy – you just have more “style” options with this crib versus the first one I showed you.
Graco 4 in 1 Crib
Graco is pretty much a household name – at least for parents. This crib from them is a 4 in 1 (can you tell I love convertible cribs?!) so it’s another one that’ll save you money in the long run.
It’s available in six different finishes, so you have a lot of color options. Overall it’s highly rated, and Graco makes it very easy to find other furniture to match. Some users complained that the crib was missing pieces – but honestly I think this is a risk you run buying ANYTHING online that is delivered to you in pieces.
You’ll want to have a good hypoallergenic mattress for your baby because you never what type of allergies or irritants will bug your baby’s skin. I highly recommend that you opt for an organic, foam, waterproof mattress if you can – but not all of us have the budget for that (and it’s not totally necessary – just nice to have).
Related: Complete Baby Checklist
Your baby’s mattress needs to be firm. Before purchasing a mattress, press a hand on it. If it leaves a mark or conforms to your hand – the mattress is probably too soft. This is a suffocation hazard – the firmness thing is REALLY important.
You probably want to buy a brand new mattress to ensure it meets government standards and requirements.
Find something that is GreenGuard or GreenGuard Gold certified. These are legitimate and signify that the mattress in question has undergone rigorous testing, and allegedly only emits a small amount of VOCs. GreenGuard Gold has stricter restrictions. They ARE healthier for your little one and becoming the standard.
Related: Baby Girl Names with Nicknames
Personally, I think the purchase of your mattress is almost more important than the crib. Splurge on a good mattress that’ll last a long time and be the most comfortable for your baby. It’s better than spending all of your hard earned cash on a crib that’s going to have mini chunks taken out of it once your baby is old enough to know.
Newton Crib Mattress
If you’re hoping for one of the nicest options for your mattress – the Newton crib mattress is everything you could want (and yes – it’s GreenGuard Gold certified).
100% recyclable, organic, washable, breathable, and hypoallergenic – this is a really great option. It’s been reported as extremely comfortable, yet firm enough to be safe. If I could do it all over again (and could afford it) – I would definitely go with this option.
Safety First Mattress
Safety First cribs are a trusted budget-friendly brand for many parents. We had a very similar mattress for our first daughter and didn’t hear any complaints from her, so I think it was fine (although we did eventually replace it with something nicer).
This mattress is also Green Guard Gold certified, water resistant, and lightweight. Overall it’s NOT a bad mattress, and most people have plenty of good things to say about it.
I think a Serta mattress option is very appropriate – as we all know they make quality mattresses. This mattress is also breathable, Green Guard Gold certified, hypoallergenic, and waterproof.
This mattress does not have a cover that comes off, but the whole surface is easily washable. This was the mattress we have for my mother’s house when we go to visit, and my youngest really likes it. Oh, and did I mention it’s another great budget-friendly option?
Whether you’re going to breastfeed or formula feed, you’re going to want a good chair to make feedings easier. When we purchased our first glider, I didn’t think I would end up sleeping in that thing.
Turned out I slept in that chair more than anything else – and it ended up being pretty dang comfortable (here’s the one I got!)
Related: Top Baby Products
Now..the chair for your nursery is kind of a personal thing. Get something that’s comfortable for you. If you can, go into the store and try a couple of them out, then go buy it on Amazon if it’s cheaper.
You may think it’s silly to call a glider a nursery essential – but you’re going to be spending a LOT of time in it. I would daresay you’ll feel like you’re living in it some days.
So make sure you’re comfortable.
We picked up our Storkcraft glider at a local Walmart – but you can also get it on Amazon if you want it shipped to your front door.
Although yes, the chair CAN be a little squeaky – it was comfortable and has survived two kids so far. It comes with the little rocking ottoman, which can make for a nice little seat on its own.
Did I mention it comes in different colors?
Your nursing chair wouldn’t be complete without a perfectly comfortable nursing pillow! I personally loved my Boppy (check it out here). Despite the silly name, it was definitely an essential item for OUR nursery.
Related: Breastfeeding Hacks
When picking a nursing pillow, make sure you get something washable (because it WILL get dirty!)
Boppy Nursing Pillow
A Boppy (like this one) is washable, comes in plenty of cute colors, and has multiple usages.
The nice thing about a Boppy is its usefulness doesn’t end when you’re done breastfeeding. We used it to help prop up our babies once they started sitting up on their own. Now it’s graduated to a dog pillow, where I’m sure it’ll be appreciated until the end of its days.
Honestly, a changing table is NOT a nursery essential – but it’s super nice to have (at least your back will think so). Most people think changing baby is easier standing up. Personally, I preferred doing it on the ground.
Related: Baby Boy Names with Nicknames
So if you don’t wanna do a changing table..opt for at least a changing pad (we had this one). Both of my babies were born during the winter, so we changed them in the warmest room of the house. We placed them on top of a changing pad on the bathroom floor – and it worked GREAT for us.
If you decide to go with an actual changing table (or pad), buy something brand new. I don’t think the “why” probably requires a lot of explanation, because poop. 😉
This gorgeous cherry changing table is budget-friendly, easy to assemble, and comes with great reviews.
There are six different color options if you aren’t a fan of the cherry. The high-sided table comes with a changing pad and a seat belt to keep your little one safe.
In my opinion, a dresser is truly a nursery essential. I will say, there ARE moms out there who keep all of their baby clothing hung up in the closet (or just use baby closet furniture). I tried this – but frankly, I did not have the time or energy to put tons of clothing on mini hangers, so I gave up.
Related: Organizational Hacks for New Moms
If your baby has more clothing than you do – don’t worry, that’s pretty normal.
Consider getting a dresser that has a changing table on top of it – this way you’ll have one less nursery essential to purchase (plus more room!) I recommend trying to go with something that looks like a dresser and NOT a changing table to avoid future embarrassment for your child. Nobody wants to be associated with owning “baby” things as a tween.
As far as drawer organization – I recommend only keeping clothing in them that fit your baby right now. Those drawers will fill up fast and it’s easy to get everything mixed up. Whenever my kids start to grow out of their current size, I switch out all of their drawers – and we’ve been doing this since they were born.
Related: Third Trimester Checklist
Make sure you attach your baby’s dresser to the wall. As your baby gets older and is able to crawl or walk, they’re going to pull their body up using the dresser drawer handles, which can turn into a nasty hospital visit if you aren’t careful.
We got this dresser with a changing table top for my oldest daughter. The dresser is still in fantastic shape and matches the rest of her room.
You have color options with this company and can get a crib to match. I loved that we had the option to remove the top when our little one grew out of it so that it can be a normal “big person” dresser.
Be wary of purchasing a dresser with a changing top, as sometimes the top is not removable. In that case, your child will eventually grow out of it so it’s worth looking for one with a removable top.
That’s pretty much it as far as your MAIN nursery essentials. There are plenty of other little things you’ll need to cross off of your nursery checklist, but at least we’ve taken care of everything big and bulky. We’ll talk about some of those little things you’ll want to consider next.
BABY NURSERY ORGANIZERS
This is a list of things you can consider that’ll help up your nursery organization game.
The usefulness of a diaper caddy is kind of questionable – but some people love them. It was too much work to try and keep refilled so our caddy gathered dust, but perhaps you’ll find more use for it.
The other nice thing about this particular item is you can keep more than just diapers in it – and it puts whatever you want to use it for within arms reach.
I kind of love this nursery organizer set. It includes over fifty pieces of organization goodness, which I think IS kind of essential for your nursery. It gives you a lot of variety and options regarding how you decide to use these things, and if you’re looking for a budget-friendly organization option – you’ve found it.
These drawer organizers can work in your drawers or in a closet. We had one of these and loved it to help keep things like socks and hats separate. Baby clothing is SO tiny, making it hard to keep it organized. These were an awesome solution.
These closet organizers can hang on the rod in your closet. If you don’t have the funds (or the want) for a dresser, this is a perfectly good alternative. It also comes in different colors, which makes it easier to match your nursery theme.
We have a couple of these toy boxes (and there are multiple animals to choose from!) They’re foldable, cute, and functional. You can also take a look at these cubed storage boxes. They come in many different shapes and sizes, so start exploring your options.
Your baby may not have a lot of toys yet – but that’ll change quicker than you thought it would.
OTHER NURSERY ESSENTIALS
Here are some other little things you’ll want to pick up for baby’s room. These aren’t furniture items, but they’re still important.
VIDEO BABY MONITOR
A video monitor proved to be one of the most useful things we owned with our kids – and it’s something you’ll use well into toddler-hood. This is the video monitor we ended up getting, but I can’t say it was the BEST option out there.
Related: Postpartum Essentials
It definitely did the job, but the range of distance was not optimal and the actual video quality was pretty bad. It’s a “you get what you pay for”, and even though we bought one of the pricier monitor options, it was still sub-par on quality (here’s the one we used).
So..what do you do if you want something better quality?
I had a friend that used a home surveillance camera as her baby monitor, and it seemed like a much better option. The video was more clear, and she had an app she used with it so she could pull the video up on her phone any time she wanted. I had not even THOUGHT about doing this, but I wish I had as it would’ve only been a little more expensive. Here’s the one she used.
While you don’t need to go with something extra fancy, everyone can have an appreciation for nice sheets. Go with a nice organic cotton set (like these) and you’ll be set.
You’re going to be doing So. Much. Laundry. with a baby. Before choosing a hamper, decide where you’re planning on keeping it. We kept ours in the bottom of our closet, so I went with a shorter hamper.
WHITE NOISE MACHINE
Our white noise machine was a lifesaver for our second baby. If you can keep the house relatively quiet while your baby is sleeping, it may not be a nursery “essential” for you.
Related: Best Swaddles for Newborns
We walked around on eggshells when my first baby was born, and kept the house silent while she was sleeping. With our second, we had a toddler running around and quiet isn’t in her vocabulary so the white noise machine WAS essential for us. We own three of this one.
This may or may not be necessary depending on your climate. I live in a very dry area, so a humidifier has been a lifesaver when my kids get sick.
I’m just recommending that you think about your climate, and what you may need to make the nursery more comfortable for your little one.
DO I NEED A NURSERY?
While most of the nursery essentials are truly to make YOUR life easier, having a nursery is also a fabulous way to make sure you have space for all of their stuff (because babies have a LOT of stuff).
Also – if I’m being honest, decorating a nursery is SO much fun, and that in itself makes it worth it. I’m certainly not saying you should just have a nursery because you’re bored and want something to decorate – but it almost feels like a right of passage into motherhood.
More importantly, the nursery can be used as a private, calming space for your baby whenever the house gets a little chaotic.
We have cats and dogs – so our nursery was the space where the kitties and doggies weren’t allowed. Anyone with pets knows that it’s virtually impossible to keep a house with pets fur-free – regardless of how much you vacuum. I was able to set my baby on the floor without her looking like she had an extra layer of hair when I picked her back up (#winning).
We only spent maybe ten percent of our time in that nursery for the first month or two, and it mostly served as a storage space for her stuff (because that baby had more stuff than I did!)
Related: Necessary Things to do After Baby
Maybe you’re thinking of putting off getting the nursery ready until after your baby is born?
You’re going to be tired and busy – finding time to set up a nursery after baby’s birth is complicated, to say the least.
So keep that in mind, even if you don’t plan to use the nursery right now, it’s gonna be hard to find time to set it all up later.
So to answer the question, “Do I need a nursery?”, no (but it’s SOOOO useful).
SETTING UP YOUR NURSERY
Try not to stress about how you decide to organize your baby’s nursery. Some parents may not agree with me, but I think setting up baby’s room should be about fun, safety, and functionality. That’s it.
Picking out a nursery theme and buying some cute decorations (we literally bought my daughter’s entire room off of Etsy) is actually a lot of fun – even if you aren’t really a creative person. Spend REAL quality time with your loved one while you build nursery furniture, and take lots of pictures. 😉
Make sure the nursery is SAFE. That baby will be crawling around and pulling out furniture before you know it, so be prepared. You’ve already done your homework on your new baby furniture and the safety measures related to those, so here are some additional safety steps you can take.
- Attach heavy furniture to the wall
- Use outlet covers
- Make sure vents in the room are clear
- Keep blinds and draperies high off of the floor
- Install a fire alarm
- Don’t put the crib right next to a window
Ok, so functionality is probably the most important long-term consideration when you’re setting up that nursery. Do you really want the sun beating down on your baby early in the morning because you put the crib on the west wall? Of course not.
I’m certainly not telling you not to put the crib where you want – but just think about the convenience and comfort of your chosen setup. We put my oldest daughter’s dresser behind the door in our original setup. It was a pain to have to walk in and close the door any time we wanted to get to her dresser.
So basically stuff like that. Here are some other things to think about that’ll help with keeping your nursery functional in the long run.
- Consider putting a small nightstand next to your rocker for things like a lamp, book, or an empty bottle – and get one with a drawer.
- Keep your dresser and changing table near each other to make diaper changes go more smoothly in case of an outfit change.
- Keep your diaper pail (if you have one) and the laundry hamper near the changing table.
- Don’t forget about vertical storage – install extra shelving if you need extra room
- Install extra shelving or cubbies (for a budget-friendly option, use cubed storage bins like this).
Regardless of your set-up, just make sure it’s functional. Simplifying life is a lifesaver when you’re overwhelmed by new motherhood – and this IS something you can control.
WRAPPING UP NURSERY ESSENTIALS
While you don’t necessarily need a nursery, it’s a fun way to get ready for motherhood. Many first time parents spend WAYYY more money than they need to, especially considering baby will just sleep and eat for most of the day. They just don’t need all of that other stuff for a little while.
Now, it doesn’t hurt to have it all ready – because you’ll eventually use it. You just don’t need to stress about it because you have some time to prepare.
What are some of the nursery essentials you’d include on your list to give to a first time mom?