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With your new arrival on the way, you’re probably thinking about the nursery – what it will look like, what will go in it, and how to make it cozy and comfy for your baby. While it’s fun to create a beautiful room, it’s important to set up a safe and useful one, too. Here’s a guideline on nursery basics along with a few essential safety tips; bring this to the store to ensure that your baby’s room is just right for both of you.

Sleeping

Your newborn will spend most of his time asleep – though it may not feel that way to you – so buy a crib that’s comfortable and safe. Make sure you select one that meets the requirements of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. The slats must be no more than a soda can’s width apart, and head- and footboards must be free of cutouts, all of which will prevent your baby from getting his head caught in the crib. You should also avoid a crib with corner posts, which can catch a baby’s clothes. New cribs should meet these safety standards but always double-check to be sure. When you put the crib together (yes, most are “assembly required”), insert all brackets and screws as tightly as possible.

The crib mattress should be firm and fit snugly into the crib, leaving no extra room around the edges that might trap little fingers. According to the National Safety Council, bumper pads should cover the entire inside perimeter of the crib and tie or snap in place (cut off excess material on the ties).

You’ll need three or four fitted cotton sheets that are elasticized all around, not only on the corners, to fit tightly on the mattress. You might also buy a mattress pad for extra comfort or a waterproof pad, just in case. Don’t keep any loose sheets or blankets in the crib since these pose a risk of suffocation; instead, make sure your baby has a warm coverall or a sleep sack for bedtime.

Diapering

Babies go through an average of 5,000 to 7,000 diapers before they are potty-trained. Since your little one will be making dirty diapers as fast as you can change them, a well-stocked changing table is key. Look for one that has straps to help prevent your baby from falling. You can also buy a dresser and a separate changing pad that secures to it; that way you can remove the pad when your child is potty-trained and just use the dresser for clothes.

No matter what piece of furniture you select, make sure it has plenty of storage space. Stock it with diapers in various sizes, baby wipes, diaper rash ointment and some basic baby clothes so that everything is well within your reach. Place a diaper disposal system next to the changing table to keep the room odor-free. You might also keep a small toy or stuffed animal nearby to distract your baby while you’re changing them.

Toys

Start with a few playthings – you’re sure to get plenty more from friends and family. Babies love stuffed animals and other plush, textured and brightly colored toys. Buy a few board books for quiet time together before sleep. You might want a rocking chair or a glider just for that purpose – you can also use it for feeding and soothing. Babies love to see themselves, so hang a non-breakable mirror on the nursery wall. Your little one might also enjoy a mobile hung above their crib; just make sure it hangs high enough that they can’t pull it down.

Nursery Shopping Tips

  1. Buy in bulk. Shop at a wholesale warehouse to purchase diapers, wipes and other supplies in large quantities – you’ll save both time and money.
  2. Buy early and buy often. You can pick up diapers and wipes on your weekly errand run months before your baby is even born. Buy a few newborn packages, but mostly bigger ones – your baby will grow out of those tiny diapers very quickly.
  3. Clip coupons. Check the newspaper for coupons and sales on nursery needs. It’s a great way to save money on the must-haves.
  4. Don’t overbuy. Keep in mind as you peruse the baby section of any store that everything is going to be adorable. But that doesn’t mean you need it all. Make a list before you go, and stick to it.
  5. Keep it simple. It’s tempting to pick a fun theme – like sports or princesses – and go crazy with it, but keep in mind that your child will one day have their own ideas about what they want their room to look like. If you buy a few key items that relate to your chosen theme, the room will be a lot easier to redecorate in a few years.
  6. Choose conversion furniture. Many manufacturers offer conversion furniture that grows with your child. For example, you can find cribs with several mattress settings and the ability to become a toddler or even a regular-sized bed. You might spend more money on these pieces upfront, but they’ll save you time and money down the road.

Keeping Baby Safe in the Nursery

Around the Room

  • Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in the nursery. Pick a date each year (like your child’s birthday or a daylight-saving day) to remind yourself to change the batteries.
  • Keep a baby monitor on the dresser or changing table near the crib. Have your half of the monitor with you at all times so you can hear your baby when you aren’t with them.
  • Keep all cords for blinds or drapes tied securely so your baby cannot get caught in them. Secure them high up with a twist tie to keep them out of their reach.

Changing Time

  • Never leave your baby unattended on the changing table. They could roll or fall off and seriously hurt themselves. If you have to leave the room before you’re done, take her with you.
  • Do not put the changing table near the window. Even if the room feels fine to you, your baby could get a chill.

In the Crib

  • Resist the urge to buy an antique crib, and don’t accept a hand-me-down, either. Older cribs aren’t likely to meet current safety standards.
  • Always place your baby on their back for sleep; it’s the best way to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and suffocation.
  • Don’t put stuffed animals or toys in the crib. These can cause overheating.