Decorating a room for your new baby is an exciting time, from choosing the theme and paint colors to shopping for furniture and bedding. But it can also be confusing – should you include bumpers in the crib or not? What about those sleep wedges that are supposed to keep babies from rolling over onto their tummies? Is it really dangerous to keep toys in the crib? And where should you place the baby monitor? This is the one room you want to get right the first time, so here’s a how-to guide on setting up your baby’s nursery:
Before you head out to buy furniture, be sure to check for recalls here and make sure you are aware of items to avoid. And, as much as you appreciate your best friend’s or aunt’s offer of her old crib, don’t accept a used crib. Instead, purchase a new crib that meets Federal safety regulations and industry voluntary standards. Make sure it doesn’t have decorative extensions or decorative cut-outs on the headboard or footboard. Corner post extensions of more than 1/16 of an inch can cause entanglement with clothing, while decorative cut-outs could pose head or neck entrapment. Make sure the mattress fits tightly – you shouldn’t be able to fit more than two fingers between the edge of the mattress and crib side. Also, slats should be spaced no more than 2-3/8 inches apart and no slats should be missing, loose, or cracked.
Be sure that all drapery or window blind cords are out of your child’s reach and never put the crib near a window. On the dresser, install latches on the lower drawers. This will prevent your older baby from using the drawers as steps and possibly causing the dresser to tip over onto your child. You can also use angle braces or anchors to secure the furniture to the wall.
Cover electrical outlets and don’t place the monitor in the crib – your baby could get tangled in the cord. Keep the baby monitor at least three feet from the crib. Also, crib toys shouldn’t have strings or cords that dangle into the crib.
Although bumpers are not recommended, if you want to use them, be sure they are tied securely or snapped into place. They should fit around the entire crib and should have straps or ties in the corners and along the middle of each long side (top and bottom). Cut off excess length after tying to prevent your child from becoming entangled.
Skip the sleep positioner. Although these are supposed to prevent your baby from rolling onto her tummy (and therefore preventing SIDS), babies have suffocated on the foam, so the Consumer Product Safety Commission has warned against using them. Put your baby to sleep on her back in a crib without stuffed animals, pillows, blankets, or any other soft objects.
Must-Haves vs. Wants
Walking through the baby section can be a little overwhelming – do you really need a baby wipe warmer? Some items are nice – but not necessary. You need baby wipes (lots of them), burp cloths, receiving blankets, a baby thermometer and baby nail clippers, and lots of diapers. You may also want a tube of diaper rash cream, just in case. You'll want an abundant supply of "onesies" and soft pajamas – those complicated, cute little outfits? Not so much – maybe a couple of cute outfits for pictures or special occasions, but your baby will be fine in pajamas for the first few months.
You don't "need" a changing table – any surface will do, as long as you have a changing mat. If you do decide on a changing table, be sure to get one with straps, as most injuries from changing tables occur when a squirmy baby falls from the table. You also don't need a bassinet. If you choose one, make sure it meets safety regulations and (just as with the crib) don't add extra pillows, blankets, or soft toys.
A rocker or glider may not be an absolute need, but it will make life easier – babies are soothed by the rocking motion, and during long nights with a fussy baby, this may quickly become your favorite piece of furniture in the nursery.
Those diapers will stack up quickly, so a diaper pail isn't a necessity (you could carry them to your household trashcan, after all) but it is nice to have one in the nursery. To keep odors to a minimum, empty the pail frequently or consider a diaper disposal system that wraps each dirty diaper in a bag.
Choosing paint colors for your baby's room is a personal preference: Do you want a sophisticated, elegant nursery in muted shades of ivory and sage or a more traditional baby's room decorated in baby animals and primary colors? Do you want over-the-top girly with lots of pink and lace, or an all-out boy's room with a sports or truck theme? It's up to you – but there are a couple of things to consider.
A newborn baby's eyesight is still developing. The first colors they recognize will be black, white, and red. But while the black-white-red trend was very popular several years ago, experts now recommend softer colors to avoid confusing the baby's eye. Also, if you choose a more muted color scheme, it will grow with your child and you won't have to redecorate in a few short years.
No matter what decorating style you choose, decorate with furniture that will stand up to your child's sticky fingers. Look for durability – and items that can be easily wiped clean or washed. From chairs to rugs to blankets, choose fabrics that will hold up under a toddler's explorations. And of course, be sure the paint in your nursery is lead-free (according to the EPA, any home or condo built before 1978 could contain lead-based paint).