The Baby Essentials You Need: The Nursery (Pt. One)

Published on 03/20/2023 · 14 min readWith all the new accessories and gadgets, it can be hard to know what you actually need for your baby. Baby & Toddler Expert Robbie M. lists the nursery essentials!
Robbie M, Baby Expert
By Baby Expert Robbie M

Photo by Minnie Zhou

Babies require a ton of new things that you may not have if you don’t have a baby. This article will help lay out the best baby essentials you’ll need to ensure you are completely ready for when your new family member arrives.

As a dad of a two-year-old, I like to think that my wife and I have figured out the best baby essentials you need to feel confident to take on whatever your little bundle of joy brings along. My son is now two years old and we have gotten a ton of use out of all the items listed in the review below. In a weird way, gearing up for your first kid can sometimes feel like gearing up for a big trip or expedition.

There are so many different baby items made specifically for your little one that you’ll need to keep them happy and healthy. You’ll find that in almost every room of your home and throughout the day with your baby you’ll be using some piece of baby gear that you would have never even known about had you not had a child. This article will hopefully leave you and other new parents feeling more confident about the list of must-haves you and your family will want to find before your kiddo makes an appearance in the world. See below for a comprehensive list of the best baby essentials in the nursery, check out Part Two of this series for care and feeding and Part Three for outings and playtime!

What Will I Need for the Nursery?

The main place where your newborn sleeps, be it your bedroom or a nursery, will be the baby’s home base, especially within the first few months of their life. And because young babies basically only sleep, eat, and “dispose” of their meals, a lot of your time is going to be spent in that room. To make catering to those functions as safe, easy, and comfortable as possible, you’ll want to stock the room with a few items for the baby—and for you too!

Crib vs. Bassinet: Where Should My Baby Sleep?

Photo by Paul Hanaoka

Your baby will need a place to sleep, and a crib or bassinet will provide a safe and comfortable place for your child to catch some z’s. A crib is a safe place for your child to sleep, containing them in a space and ensuring they are safe throughout the night.

What to Consider When Buying a Crib?

When buying a crib, it’s important that new parents pay attention to the materials the crib is made from, how easy it is to assemble, and whether it checks all of the boxes for safe sleep as defined by the Academy of American Pediatrics (AAP). Almost all new cribs available at major retailers will have been manufactured in compliance with the latest safety standards. After that, features such as crib height, built-in storage, and convertibility to full-size beds are also important to consider.

Benefits:

  • Cribs—when used with a fitted crib mattress and crib sheet—provide the ideal safe sleep environment for your child
  • There are options with built-in storage, which allows for stowing items within close reach
  • Are cost-effective as some cribs can be converted into a toddler bed and then a full-sized twin bed
  • Not having your child sleep in your same bed promotes good sleep habits and hopefully more sleep for yourself!

Be Aware:

  • Unlike store-bought cribs, a used crib could possibly be a model that was recalled for safety concerns
  • Used cribs may present other safety risks such as weakened or broken components
  • A crib’s safety is dependent on whether or not it is assembled correctly, so it’s essential to purchase a crib that you can put together correctly

Should I Get a Bassinet?

Photo by Freestocks

Many parents opt for a bassinet, which is essentially a smaller-sized crib, that can stand nearby, hook onto, or even be placed in bed with you. Bassinets are typically only good for the first few months of your baby’s life, as they have a smaller height and weight limit than a crib. In my household, the biggest regret was not having a bassinet for easy access to our newborn baby when he cried at night. Like cribs, make sure your bassinet has a fitted mattress and fitted sheet for the mattress.

Benefits:

  • Some bassinets are able to be attached to, pressed up against, or put into your bed, allowing for easy access to the baby for feeding or diaper changes, especially in the middle of the night
  • Helpful for C-section moms or anyone with a condition that causes back pain
  • Take up less space than a crib, great for people with smaller rooms
  • Can be easily moved around (room to room or brought along for road trips)
  • Generally cheaper than a crib

Be Aware:

  • Know that your child will outgrow the bassinet within the first few months of life
  • Bassinets without a sturdy base can be vulnerable to tipping over. Avoid rocking as it increases the tip hazard
  • Ensure the bassinet you purchase is up to AAP sleep safety standards. Chances are, if it’s on the market and distributed by a reputable retailer, you should be good to go

How to Choose the Right Bassinet for You

Look for bassinets with a bedside height for easy access to your child and avoid rocking bassinets given the extra tip-hazard risk.

The Halo BassiNest Essentia is an awesome bassinet option for parents who want their baby as close to the bed as possible without being in the bed. Make sure you buy sheets (a couple of sets) for your bassinet and/or crib mattress, as it’s inevitable that your kiddo will need a sheet change at some point.

What Else Do I Need for the Crib or Bassinet?

Mattress When picking a mattress, be sure that it is a firm one (either included with the crib or bassinet, or purchased after the fact) that fosters safe sleep conditions as determined by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). A firm mattress will keep your child safe in the event they roll onto their stomach, whereas a mattress that is too soft poses a suffocation risk to newborns.

Sheets Using fitted sheets is a key part of making a baby's sleeping place both comfortable and safe. Make sure you get a couple pairs of fitted crib sheets for wherever your baby will be sleeping to prevent SIDS (see the American Academy of Pediatrics site for more on SIDS).

Sleep Support: Should I Get a Sleep Sack or Swaddle?

Photo by Kelly Sikkema

Unlike us fully-grown humans, babies require pretty strict sleeping conditions to ensure their safety throughout the night. One of these restrictions is no loose articles like blankets, pillows, and so on in their sleeping space. So, one way to make up for that loss of warmth is by using a sleep sack or swaddle blanket. Both are essentially wearable blankets, and most babies sleep incredibly well and safely in them. For newborns, swaddles also provide comfort as it simulates the position of being in the womb, making your baby feel safe and secure.

Benefits:

  • Helps keep babies warm and swaddled safely
  • Comfortable sleep means longer, deeper sleep
  • Reduces the risk of SIDS
  • Reduce wake-ups from startle reflex

Be Aware:

  • If your baby is a squirmer like ours, velcro wings are a good option to help keep their arms wrapped up
  • Consider a zippered sleep sack rather than a button-up because buttons can be cumbersome, especially with middle-of-the-night exhaustion

What to Look for in a Sleep Sack or Swaddle

As far as pricing goes, most sleep sacks or swaddles are priced between $15 and $50, with more expensive swaddles featuring nicer fabrics, different designs, and sometimes temperature-regulating materials. Cheaper swaddles tend to not have closure devices and rely on a proper “burrito roll” to stay swaddled and may feature thinner materials. Like other pieces of clothing, sleep sacks are made of different materials with varying thicknesses.

Consider the thickness of the material that the swaddle or sleep sack is made from and if you plan to put pajamas on your kiddo in combination with the sleep sack so you can help regulate their body heat. Another feature of sleep sacks to be aware of is the closure mechanism. Some have velcro, some have zippers, and some have a combination of both. With our son, we found we needed to harness the power of Velcro to keep him snug in his swaddle.

Sleep Environment: What is a Noisemaker? Should I Get One?

Life happens, and even when you try your best to keep things quiet, the world can be a noisy place. A white noise machine is a great solution to help drown out life’s background sounds from your sleeping baby. There are a plethora of options available for noisemakers with different available sounds and features.

The cheapest sound machines available are often the smallest and simplest. In the $15-$25 price range you’ll find portable sound machines (using batteries or a rechargeable battery), which typically feature a few physical buttons and a volume adjustment. These can be great for travel or on-the-go naps, but beware they generally require you to be in the room to turn them on or off.

In the $25 to $50 range you’ll find sound machines with several different sound modes and settings, allowing for slightly more customization. These will typically last longer than portable sound machines and often require being plugged into the wall.

Lastly, in the $50+ category are app-controlled sound machines featuring many different sounds and colored lights. Along with the convenience of being able to control via your smartphone, these sound machines also typically have one-touch controls, making it easy to turn the sound or light on or off easily. This feature has saved me and my wife during many middle-of-the-night diaper changes and successful nap transfers.

Feeding: Do I Need a Nursing Pillow?

For either breastfeeding or bottle feeding, a nursing pillow is a must-have for any parent. Nursing pillows are specially designed to help hold and elevate the baby to a more ergonomic feeding height, making feeding time more comfortable for mom (or dad) and your little one. Typically, nursing pillows are U-shaped or crescent-shaped to allow them to hug your body while you lay your infant on top to nurse or bottle feed. This allows you to feed your infant hands-free and not have to hold their body weight throughout the feeding. Some nursing pillows can act as pillows for your child as they do tummy time and learn to sit.

Typically, you’ll be able to use a nursing pillow until your child is around 12 months old. Even though it may seem simple, a good nursing pillow, such as the Boppy, can make a world of a difference for parents feeding their infant many times a day (and night).

What to Consider When Buying a Nursing Pillow?

Not all nursing pillows come with a removable cover, but it would be useful to get one that can be removed and washed as messes are bound to happen. U-shaped nursing pillows are nice as well as they hug your body, giving you close access to your child. Ensure the pillow is soft enough that it is comfortable for your child but supportive enough that it will hold them in an optimal feeding position. Bonus features found on some nursing pillows include pockets; you’d be surprised how many times having your phone or remote nearby can be a saving grace during a feed.

Soothing: Should I Buy a Rocking Chair?

A rocking chair or glider is incredibly nice to have in your child's nursery. You will likely spend hundreds if not thousands of hours in this chair, so make sure you find one that is comfortable and will last a long time. Rocking chairs allow you to give your child movement that they were used to in the womb that they generally find soothing. For the parent, being able to produce this movement while sitting is a big perk, especially when sleep deprived and running on minimal energy. Personally, I prefer upholstered chairs that hide the mechanics of the chair, as they reduce the likelihood of pinch hazards and injuries when your baby turns into an adventurous toddler. Look for heavily padded chairs; you’ll be spending many many hours in the chair so find one that you’d be comfortable watching a full-length movie. Typical price points on rocking chairs are $120 up to $1,000 depending on the chair’s materials, brand, and features.

Changing Essentials: How Do I Set Up the Nursery for Diaper Changes?

What Type of Changing Table Pad Is Best?

Photo by Toa Heftiba

Because diaper changes happen often, a changing table pad is an item you will use countless times throughout your baby’s diaper years (until they’re about two years old). There are many options, from cloth to foam to silicone, but in my opinion, the better options are easily-cleanable and can be wiped down with baby wipes for the occasional “uh-ohs.” Typically, cloth or foam changing pads are the cheaper of the options, priced around $15-$50 plus the cost of covers. However, the more expensive $70-$150 silicone changing pads take the cake when it comes to ease of cleanup and “mess resistance.”

Silicone Changing Pad

Benefits:

  • Made of a non-porous material that is easy to clean
  • Tend to have a 360-degree lip around the edge to contain “spills”

Be Aware:

  • Are typically more expensive than foam and cloth changing pads
  • Can feel firmer and colder to your child, therefore less comfortable

Foam and Cloth Changing Pad

Benefits:

  • Typically less expensive
  • Softer, plusher, and warmer than silicone pads
  • Have a nice U-shape to them to keep your child centered

Be Aware:

  • Ends may not have a lip, which means there is the potential for spills
  • Are not waterproof so are harder to clean

Diaper Disposal: What To Look For In A Diaper Pail?

Diaper pails make the aftermath of your baby’s bathroom breaks much easier to clean up. Simply ball your disposable diapers up and toss them into the pail. A smell-protective liner (typically disposable) will keep all the nasties contained within the pail. We chose the Diaper Genie, however, just about any brand’s diaper pail will work well. There are also pails that work for cloth diapers if your family is pursuing that route! Look for an easily removable or replaceable liner to make exposure time to the smelly content as limited as possible.

What Else Should I Keep At My Diaper Changing Station?

Diaper Rash Cream and Spatula In the event of diaper rash, a good diaper cream such as Boudreaux’s Butt Paste or Aquaphor Healing Ointment are a saving grace. Even though they may be expensive—at around $15-20 for a tub—they work really well at reducing and eliminating diaper rash for your little one.

Expert Tip: Get an applicator, such as Dr. Talbot’s Silicone Brush, to keep things less messy.

Wrapping it up

This list of essentials for your baby is a good start for any parent looking to make caring for their baby as easy and stress-free as possible. A little research can go a long way, so be sure to look into the various types of offerings on the market for each of the categories. If you have any questions on the gear listed in this article, things not listed in this article, or just want to chat through a few things, be sure to reach out to a Curated Baby & Toddler Expert to help get your family geared up for its newest addition; we’d love to help you out! If you enjoyed this article, make sure to check out Part Two for care, cleaning, and feeding and Part Three for outings, playtime, and clothing!

This content is meant to be informative and add to your understanding of this subject, but it is not definitive nor a replacement for your own sensibility. Neither Curated nor any Curated Expert is responsible for any liability resulting from information or advice shared here. Please consult with a medical professional for any health concerns.

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