expecting couple assembling crib
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Outfitting baby’s room: Part one, the basics

Once you’re expecting your first little one, there’s just no way around the fact that you’re going to need some baby gear in your life. When you start thinking about everything you might need, it can be easy to get overwhelmed, but the good news for you – and your wallet – is that Baby doesn’t actually need very much, especially in the early days.

There are a few factors that might influence what you can or will want to buy, including the space in your home and where Baby will be sleeping in her first days. In fact, for at least the first six months of life, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that newborns share a bedroom (but not a bed!) with their parents, before moving into their own space. Do you want to get a lot of baby gear right now or little by little as time goes on? Will you borrow any items or be buying everything new? You may also want to consider just what else is a priority for you. Do you just want to get the basics or go all out with accessories and decorations?

What do I need? A minimalist list

As you pick out these items, it’s helpful prioritize safety, functionality, and versatility. You’ll want to be confident and rest easy knowing that Baby can sleep – and spend her waking hours – safely. You’ll also want to know that when changing diapers in the middle of the night, you’ll already have diapers and wipes and baby balm – oh my! – close at hand. And it can also be helpful to consider if the items you get now can grow with your little one once she’s not so little.

  • A safe place for Baby to sleep: This might mean a bassinet, a crib, or a playpen. Little ones generally sleep in cribs as they grow bigger – for example, once it’s not safe for them to be in a smaller sleep spaces like bassinets because they can roll over and begin to push themselves up – but many parents prefer to have their newborns close by beside their own beds early on, and bassinets, playpens, or even cribs (if you have the space) in your bedroom can be great for this. When it comes to buying any of these options, there are enormous ranges in price and style. Along with a safe sleep space, you’ll want to have at least two sets of crib or bassinet sheets (and, ideally, something like a waterproof mattress protector, because diaper accidents and blow outs do happen) so you can have at least one clean backup set on-hand to use while washing the dirty set. And while many parents choose to safely swaddle their newborns, when it comes to blankets, stuffed animals, or any other soft stuff, you should absolutely avoid placing anything like this in Baby’s crib until she’s at least a year old, and avoid pillows for another year after that, because these are a suffocation risk early on.
  • A place for diaper changes, plus all the accompanying supplies: This might mean a changing table, or it might just mean a changing pad that you place on top of another surface, like a dresser or the floor. You’ll also want to have all the necessary diaper change accessories close at hand – diapers, wipes, diaper balm, and somewhere to dispose of dirty diapers, like an odor-proof diaper pail.
  • A comfy place to feed Baby, plus a nursing pillow and some burp cloths: If you’re nursing, you might be comfortable nursing in bed, but – especially in those early sleepless nights with a newborn – this can make it more likely for moms to fall asleep in bed, which isn’t safe for babies because of the risk of suffocation. If you have the space, many parents like to have rocking chairs or gliders in their bedrooms or nurseries to feed and rock their little ones. Many parents also like to have a nursing pillow ready at hand, as it can provide support and make nursing (and even bottle feeding) newborns much more comfortable, as well as burp cloths at the ready for once baby is done feeding.
  • Somewhere to store clothes, swaddles, burp cloths, and other items: This might mean storing clothes and other baby linens in the drawers of a changing table, in cute storage cubes, or in other storage containers. Keep in mind that early on, you’ll be dealing with very tiny garments, though as Baby grows, so will her clothes, and you’ll likely have even more of them to store. Much like diapers, you’ll want to have some of these things – like onesies, pajamas, swaddles, and similar items – close at hand, especially when middle of the night changes need to happen.
  • A baby monitor: If your little one is sleeping right beside you, you won’t need to use a monitor, but if she will be sleeping in her own space, or if she will be sleeping while you’re out of the room, a monitor is great for keeping an eye and ear on what she is up to. Some monitors just transmit audio, and others include video, so you have a range of options for spying as Baby snoozes, and keeping track of when she wakes up.
  • A light source: When Baby is up for overnight feedings, a diaper change, or needs to be rocked, you’ll need at least enough light to see what you’re doing. Typically, you’ll want to keep things dark at night so that Baby can begin to learn the difference between day and night (something newborns actually have to learn), though some parents do like to leave on something like a nightlight for a soft glow. If baby wakes overnight, you’ll also want to be able to have at least enough light to move around safely and see what you’re doing. And, of course, on rainy or overcast days, or even before bedtime or in the early morning, you might want to have something like a lamp or more substantial light to read a bedtime book or see as you start your day.

When picking out all of this baby gear, there’s no right and wrong, only what works best for your family. And it doesn’t hurt to just tackle the basics early on if that’s the right choice for you. You actually don’t need much for you and baby to be safe, comfortable, and happy – which is the priority after all.


If you’re expecting twins (or more!), tap here to read about setting up a nursery for multiples.


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