First things first. 1
The crib is the centerpiece of any nursery. And there are lots of options out there from the most glam to the simply functional. Even many of the most affordable cribs can convert to a toddler bed or twin size bed. We love this one, available at Target (Delta Children Adley 3-in1 Convertible Crib, $120).
Don't forget the mattress. 2
Cribs are cute, so they get all the attention, but your baby can't sleep in one without a mattress. Make sure to purchase a nice, firm mattress that is fire safe. There are lots of options and price points out there, including affordable organic and eco-certified varieties, like this Serta Nightstar Eco Balance Crib Mattress ($150).
There are a lot of baby sleep solutions out there. 3
An infant swing can be a sleep saver. 5
Both of my kids slept in swings at various points during their infancy. While they are not recommended for all-night sleep, they can be life-savers for naps and the shorter nighttime stretches that are typical for newborns. The Graco Duet Soothe Swing & Rocker ($150) one sways side to side or back and forth and features a built-in sound machine with 15 different options.
Some parents swear by rockers. 6
Similarly to the swing and the bassinet mentioned earlier, baby rockers position baby in a snug, inclined position, but they're smaller and often a lot more portable. There are basic versions that must be rocked by hand, as well as options like this the Fisher-Price Deluxe Rock 'N' Play Sleeper ($131) which offers hands-free rocking and can be controlled from your Smart phone.
A waterproof mattress pad helps with middle of the night accidents. 7
It's not uncommon for babies to have blowouts, leak out of their diapers or spit up in their cribs in the middle of the night. Using a waterproof mattress pad can make those groggy clean ups a lot easier. I usually put the mattress pad on between two fitted sheets so in the event of a mess, I can just strip the top two layers off and get baby back to sleep as quickly as possible. I've used the same TL Care Organic Waterproof Crib Mattress Cover ($26) with two kids and it's still holding up well.
Upgraded crib sheets are nice to have. 8
A few standard crib sheets are essential, but for even more convenience and ease of use consider an upgrade. These QuickZip crib sheets ($46) allow parents to simply zip the top surface of the sheet on and off to change it so that you don't have to lift and lug the mattress. Plus, there's almost no risk of it slipping off and tangling up baby, making it an extra-safe option.
You'll need something to store all those adorable outfits in. 9
At least a small dresser like the Tyssedal 4-drawer dresser ($199) is essential for the nursery, especially if the baby's room doesn't have a closet. You need somewhere to neatly store all those sweet baby clothes! If you're short on space, a low dresser can double as a changing table.
A comfort item is a must. 11
A white noise machine makes for sound sleep. 12
Both of my children have slept with a white noise machine running since they were newborns--we even travel with one. The noise serves as a sleep cue to let baby's brain know it's time to settle down, and of course it drowns out outside noise so that the rest of the family can move around freely while baby naps throughout the day and sleeps at night. The Marpac Dohm Elite White Noise Machine ($50) is a good one.
Keep baby safe with a smoke and carbon monoxide alarm. 13
Essential oils can help calm baby. 14
You can skip the oils and use a humidifier. 15
If you're not into essential oils, you can go for a classic humidfier, which can be invaluable during cold and flu season and for keeping baby's airways from drying out and becoming uncomfortable from the dry heat. I recommend using a humidifier that can run continuously for at least 12 hours so you don't have to refill it during the night. MistAire Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier, $40
You'll spend a lot of time in the nursery chair. 16
Sleep sacks are a neat swaddle alternative. 18
If you're not keen on figuring out how to swaddle, you can wrap your baby up in a comfy sleep sack instead. The Halo SleepSack Swaddle ($22) creates a swaddle-like effect with velcro wings that you can use to hold down baby's arms, but it can also be used arms out, which is a great option for older babies.
Book storage is a necessity. 19
A small storage unit for books is ideal in the nursery. You can keep it right next to your rocker within arm's reach and varieties like this canvas book sling don't pose any danger to a baby who has started climbing. The KidKraft Classic Sling Bookshelf ($40) from Kohl's is just right.
This type of laundry hamper is so convenient. 20
A sturdy changing pad makes diaper changes easier. 21
If you plan to use a changing table, a sturdy changing pad is essential for safety reasons. You want something that will not slide around and that baby can't easily roll off of. The innovative Keekaroo Peanut Changing Pad ($130) also has the benefit of being waterproof and you can just wipe it down to clean, so there's no need for a separate changing pad cover.
A good nursing pillow can save your back. 22
I used a nursing pillow every time I nursed both of my babies for the first year of their lives. It helped me and the babies get more comfy and honestly made breastfeeding a bit easier than having to fully support baby with my own arms. Keep one like the My Brest Friend Nursing Pillow ($44) right by the rocker in the nursery for extra convenience.
Grab and go with a few wall hooks. 23
Yes, really. They might not be strictly essential, but when you're holding a squirmy baby with one arm, even the smallest thing can add a bit of ease to your routine. I like to put wall hooks like these Round Wall Knobs ($10) from Crate & Barrel on the back of the nursery door to hang things like bath towels and footie pajamas on so they can easily be grabbed with just one hand.
A wipe warmer is important for winter babies. 25
I thought wipe warmers were nonsense until I had a winter baby. She would cry out at every diaper change and I couldn't figure out why until I realized the wipes were freezing her bottom. Once I started warming them, she stopped complaining. Try the Munchkin Warm Glow Wipe Warmer ($22).
A diaper pail keeps odors contained. 26
Safety is a priority. 27
Electrical outlet covers may not be needed as soon as baby is born, but they are super-important once baby begins to crawl or even roll and reach. Babies develop new skills quickly and are surprisingly fast, so it's a good idea to install these Electrical Outlet Child-Proof Safety Covers ($3) when you are initially putting the nursery together if possible.
Avoid early wake ups with blackout curtains. 28
When you're trying to get baby to sleep through the night and not wake up at the crack of dawn, blackout curtains can be your best friend. They dim the nursery just enough to keep the first signs of daylight out so you and baby can sleep a little longer. The Twill Blackout Curtain ($20/panel) is an affordable option.
Provide a space for baby to play. 29
Daily tummy time is recommended for babies almost from birth. Spending supervised playtime on their bellies each day helps babies strengthen their neck and back muscles and prevents flat-head syndrome. A fun and engaging tummy time mat is perfect for dedicated play time for baby and the nursery on something like this Baby Musical Activity Playmat ($57), is often the safest place to do it.
A nightlight can keep nights restful. 30
I believe in rousing baby as little as possible for nighttime feedings, so I used to nurse my babies by the light of a muted TV. No overhead lights! But a nursing nightlight is an even better option. The adorable Osord Baby Nightlight ($13) is affordable and features customizable settings for brightness and color.