Walk into any baby store and you probably will be overwhelmed by the selection of equipment available. A few items are essential, but most things, while enticing, are not necessary. In fact, some are not even useful.
To help you sort through the options, here is a list of the basic necessities you should have on hand when your baby arrives:
- A crib that meets all safety specifications. New cribs sold today must meet these standards, but if you're looking at used cribs, check them carefully to make sure they meet the same standards and have not been recalled. Unless you have money to spare, don't bother with a bassinet. Your baby will outgrow it in just a few weeks.
- Bedding for the crib, including a flannel-backed, waterproof mattress cover (which is cooler and more comfortable for your baby than plain plastic or rubber covers), and tight fitted sheets. Never use infant cushions that have soft fabric coverings and are loosely filled with plastic foam beads or pellets. Remove all pillows, quilts, comforters, sheepskins, and other pillow like soft products. Remember that the safest position for a baby to sleep in is on her back.
- A changing table that meets all safety specifications. It should be placed on a carpet or padded mat and against a wall, not a window, so there is no danger of your child falling out the window. Put shelves or tables to hold diapers, wipes, and other changing equipment within immediate reach (but away from the baby's reach), so you will not have to step away from the table—even for a second—to get anything.
- A diaper pail. Keep the pail securely closed. If you are going to wash your own diapers, you'll need a second pail so you can separate wet diapers from "soiled" ones.
- A large plastic washtub for bathing the baby. As an alternative to the washtub, you can use the kitchen sink to bathe your newborn, provided the faucet swings out of the way and the dishwasher is off. (The water from the dishwasher could dump into the sink, resulting in scalding.) After the first month, it's safer to switch to a separate tub, because the baby will be able to reach and turn on the faucet from the sink. Always make sure the bathing area is very clean before bathing your baby. Also, be sure the hottest temperature at the faucet is no more than 120 degrees Fahrenheit (48.9 degrees Celsius) to avoid burns. In most cases, you can adjust your water heater.
Keep Everything Clean
Everything in the nursery should be kept clean and dust-free. All surfaces, including window and floor coverings, should be washable. So should all toys that are left out. Although stuffed animals look cute around newborns (they seem to be a favorite shower gift), they tend to collect dust and may contribute to stuffy noses. Since your baby won't actively play with them for many months, you might consider storing them until she's ready for them.
Cool Mist Humidifiers
If the air in the nursery is extremely dry, your pediatrician may recommend using a cool mist humidifier. This also may help clear your child's stuffy nose when she has a cold. If you do use a humidifier, clean it frequently as directed in the package instructions and empty it when not in use. Otherwise, bacteria and molds may grow in the still water. Steam vaporizers are not recommended because of the danger of scalding.
One object that your baby is sure to enjoy is a mobile. Look for one with bright colors (the first color she'll see is red) and varied shapes. Some also play music. When shopping for a mobile, look at it from below so that you'll know how it appears from your baby's point of view. Avoid the models that look good only from the side or above—they were designed more for your enjoyment than for the infant's. Make sure you remove the mobile at five months of age or as soon as your baby can sit up, because that's when she'll be able to pull it down and risk injury.
Other Useful Equipment
Other useful additions to the nursery may include a rocking chair or glider, a music box or musical toy and a tape, CD, or MP3 player. The rocking motion of the chair will increase the soothing effect your baby feels when you hold her. Playing soft music for your baby will comfort her when you're not nearby and will help her fall asleep.
You will want to keep the lights in the nursery soft once your newborn has arrived and leave a night-light on after dark. The night-light will allow you to check on the baby more easily, and as she gets older, it will reassure her when she awakens at night. Make sure all lights and cords are kept safely out of the baby's reach.