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Baby Nursery Checklist: 7 Essential Items & 5 Things to Forget

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If I could go back in time, I would have become a wedding planner or someone who decorates nurseries for expecting moms. Why? Because there are two events in a woman’s life where she goes above and beyond a rational budget: her wedding and her baby’s arrival.

Since any woman can remember, they have fantasized about their wedding day, recreating her wedding dress, the location, the ambiance, her shoes – all the details, over and over again. Once that day comes and goes, she begins daydreaming about her baby. From the gender, to the name, to the nursery, and the outfits that will be hanging in the nursery’s closet even before the baby is born.

This is when a mom begins her “nesting period.” The nursery becomes a manifestation of that.

While it’s possible to save money on your wedding and reduce newborn baby costs, nurseries can become very expensive. Anxious and excited new moms often want to make sure their child has two of everything that stores suggest should be in the nursery. Purchases often become more emotional than logical, and retailers feed into that.

But there is a difference between a wedding and a nursery. A wedding is a celebration between two adults who have decided to come together in union as a family. And once the wedding ends, so do the charges. It is a one-time event. A nursery isn’t a celebration, but a practical room to be occupied by the child. The child will not remember the color of their bassinet or will harbor anger because the chevron rug wasn’t the right shade of gray. Because the USDA estimates that the average kid costs $245,000 to $455,000 to raise, it’s essential to trim unnecessary expenditures.

To figure out the crucial elements of a nursery, let’s begin by understanding who it’s really for: the mother. By the time the baby becomes a toddler, the nursery has to transform to what is required for a child that age. All that occupies the nursery is temporary. The nursery is really for the mother because each item in the room is meant for the comfort of that individual either physically, mentally, or emotionally.

So what should you buy for your nursery? Which items are unnecessary expenses?

Essential Nursery Items

Essential Baby Nursery Items

Let’s begin by going down the list of what a nursery should have and why:

1. Crib

A crib before all else must be safe. This should be obvious, but a crib is where a newborn will spend most of his/her time. According to Baby Center, newborns can sleep 16-17 hours a day (67% of their day), so a good crib is important.

A factor to note before purchasing a crib is the visibility. We had a baby camera on at all times but realized that it’s hard to place the camera where the baby was always visible. More than half the cribs available today have sides that are closed off. Make sure you choose one that is barred and visible on all four sides so you don’t have to go to the nursery every five minutes to make sure the baby is well. This minimalistic crib from Babyletto is modern, inexpensive, and sturdy.

2. Mattress

Organic versus foam versus waterproof seems to be a big debate when it comes to mattresses. However, there are plenty of great mattresses between $50-$100 that fall in all three categories and are reasonably priced. Pick one that you think is best for your child. I purchased this hypoallergenic crib mattress and still use it to this day.

3. Waterproof Mattress Cover

Not only does the crib need a waterproof mattress cover, but your bed probably does as well if your baby spends any time on it. There are countless inevitable spit-ups and blow-outs with infants. To save yourself time in the wee hours of the night, cover your mattress with a waterproof cover so that all you have to do is change the mattress cover, instead of having to change and wash the mattress itself. This bamboo mattress protector is a good inexpensive choice.

4. Crib Sheet

When it comes to fabric and linens, there is a clear distinction in quality. Burt’s Bees makes inexpensive organic products from sheets to onesies to lotions. They are dependable and affordable: adjectives you want in all your baby-related products.

5. Nursing Chair and Pillow

A nursing chair can be any chair that allows you to sit down and feed your baby comfortably. Ideally, this chair allows you to lean, rock, swivel, and put your feet up. A newborn will feed every hour, if not more, so make sure your seat is as agreeable as possible. There are many nursing chairs available from $300 to $800. Most are great, but they can only be used for nursing. Instead of purchasing a conventional “nursing chair,” I bought a chair from La-Z-Boy. I got a conventional rocking chair that allows for full extension so that post-baby, my husband can bring it down to his man cave for further use.

A nursing pillow is important as well. When nursing your baby, their head needs to be propped up in order to avoid indigestion and gas. Trying to support the baby in this position without a pillow will lead to carpal tunnel. I purchased a Boppy Pillow and have used it for two years. This pillow can be used for nursing but it can also be used for tummy time exercises. When the time comes, the Boppy serves as a seat rest for the babies to sit up as well.

6. Drawers and Dressers

Babies, although small, have a lot of clothing because they require changing about three times a day. This means that closet space is necessary. I suggest getting a drawer or dresser for your baby which will house all the clothes, washcloths, bibs, socks, mittens, and hats that they will need. A drawer or dresser can also be used as a surface for a changing pad kit, so there’s no need for a separate changing table. This Serta changing pad will suffice on top of any drawer.

7. Diapers, Wipes, and Clothes

The basic necessities of diapers, wipes, onesies, socks, and mittens are needed in the beginning of a child’s life. I went with Pampers Sensitive for the first few months for diapers and wipes and am glad I did. This is the most sensitive periods of their lives, so I’m glad I chose the mildest options.

Basic Baby Necessities

Items to Avoid Buying

You shouldn’t purchase everything that stores tell you to buy. The things that are either unnecessary or able to be purchased later are:

1. Blankets, Bumpers, and Dolls

According to NPR, the number of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) rose due to hazardous materials in the crib such as blankets, bumpers, and dolls. Just because retailers sell them does not mean that they are safe.

2. Changing Tables

As noted above, it is unnecessary to purchase a separate changing table. Simply purchase a changing pad kit and place it on top of a drawer or dresser.

3. Mobiles and White Noise Makers

Some babies may require this to soothe themselves. However, most moms like myself found that their babies never needed them. They simply collected dust. Babies tend to be soothed from motion like rocking and swinging. You should hold off until you think they are necessary.

4. Toys

When it comes to toys, more isn’t better. In fact, the less they have, the more focused they are on each toy. Babies and toddlers get bored of the same toy rather quickly, so you can rotate their toys by storing half. When your child seems to no longer be interested in the items in front of them (about two weeks), rotate them with new ones. In the beginning, there is no need to possess enough toys to rotate. It will just be clutter for the person who has to clean the nursery. Only have a couple of stimulating items around for the newborn. Once you begin accumulating more (whether from your own purchases or gifts), begin to swap so the toys are fresh in your baby’s eyes.

5. Diaper Pail

Yes, I’m guilty of owning one. It was an item on every “must have” list in a nursery. Many articles swore that it kept the nursery smelling fresh. I do agree that it traps the smell in, but every time I opened my diaper pail, the odor rushed out like a current and consumed the room. I also agree that it is convenient. However, I think it’s more sanitary to just throw each soiled diaper out in a plastic bag, away from the baby. My son’s diaper pail is still occupying the corner of his room, untouched. I want to discard it, but the hefty $100 price tag has me clinging on with buyer’s remorse.

Final Word

There are plenty of items to be purchased once a baby is born, and it all begins with the maternity bag that you brought to the hospital when your water broke. But keep in mind that there are more dispensable items than not. The money saved from making extraneous purchases can be better spent on things to help the new mom like baby nurses, cleaning, and food delivery services. Plus, there are still plenty of baby items worth splurging on.

What are the essential items in your nursery? What are some baby purchases that you regret making?

Yoojin Lee
Yoojin Lee graduated from NYU with a background in business and worked in the fashion industry for almost a decade before becoming a mom to son, Theodore. Instead of labeling herself as a "stay at home mom," she utilizes her education, experience, and skill sets to learn how to be a resourceful mother and wife while striving to pave a career for herself as well.

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