How to set up a safe nursery

Baby

Setting up your baby’s nursery is one of the most exciting jobs you’ll do during your pregnancy and will satisfy the nesting instinct that tends to kick in during the last trimester. Here’s how to set up your nursery safely, plus a rundown of what you’ll need. There’s also a checklist of useful extras and little luxuries to pick and choose, according to your space and budget

Basic nursery safety

Don’t worry if your baby’s nursery isn’t completely ready when your baby arrives: advice from the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths (FSID), now called The Lullaby Trust, is that your baby should sleep in the same room as you for the first six months to reduce the risk of cot death. For full information on first sleep solutions for your baby, read our guide on cots, cribs and Moses baskets

Once your baby is old enough to be sleeping in the nursery on their own, make sure you follow this safety advice before you put your baby down to sleep

  • Always make sure your baby’s crib, cot or Moses basket is a good distance away from radiators (or other heat sources) and windows.
  • Check windows are draught-free and lockable, and turn radiators and other heaters down to their lowest setting. If you get direct sunlight through the window, provide shade for your baby in the morning or during daytime naps.
  • Don’t buy second-hand or antique furniture as it might be painted with lead-based paints. These are toxic and your baby could swallow peeling flakes of paint. The furniture most likely to be painted with lead-based paint dates from the early to mid 20th century.
  • Make sure your baby can’t reach dangling cords from blinds, as there’s a risk of strangulation.
  • Don’t put your baby down to sleep near anything heavy that they could grab, or under shelving that might fall on them.
  • Make sure that any baby bed and mattress you buy conforms to the latest BS safety standard. To check, visit the British Standards Institute and search for the product before you buy.

Nursery essentials

You will definitely need to buy the following items for your nursery:

A cot or cotbed

cots are the obvious choice, but the most cost-effective purchase is a cotbed (a cot that converts into a toddler bed).

Whatever you choose, make sure your baby’s mattress is brand-new and fits your baby’s bed snugly without gaps that could cause suffocation. If you’ve bought a cotbed, buy a detachable side rail for when your baby is ready for the bed.

For more on sleep solutions for your growing baby, read our guide on cots and cotbeds.

Baby bedding

It’s best to buy baby bedding made from natural fabrics, such as 100% cotton. These are kinder to your baby’s skin and more breathable. Go for layers of cellular (holey) blankets that allow the air to circulate. Tuck all bedding in securely to prevent your baby getting tangled up.

baby sleeping bag is another option but don’t add blankets or a duvet. Avoid styles with hoods and make sure there’s no room for your baby to pull their head inside through the neck hole.

For more information on what your baby should wear to bed, read our guide on baby bedding .

Nappies

You can choose from disposables or various types of washable cloth nappies. Cloth nappies, often called reusable nappies, are expensive at first but can save you hundreds of pounds in the long run.

With reusable nappies, you’ll also need to buy liners, which you flush down the toilet, complete with contents, and waterproof outer wraps. If you buy a large supply you won’t be constantly washing them.

Baby changing kit

You’ll need nappies, wipes and nappy bags. Nappy cream is good for any soreness but not necessary otherwise. To prevent soreness, change your baby’s nappy as soon as it’s wet or dirty.

You may prefer to have a changing unit set up in your baby’s nursery with everything you need to hand, but if you’re using a mat on the floor and a changing bag, it’s a great idea to have second changing bag in the nursery, so you won’t have to bring the same bag back and forth all the time.

First baby clothing

Babies don’t need many clothes at first, just half a dozen bodysuits and sleep suits, a cardigan and seasonal hat and jacket.

Don’t buy newborn sizes if your baby is expected to be full term because your baby will grow out of them in a few weeks. It’s better to buy the 0-3 months sizes and roll up the arms and legs for the first few weeks.

Baby room thermometer

The ideal temperature in your baby’s room is 16-20°C (60-68°F). If that seems cold, don’t worry – babies are far safer being slightly cool than overheating. You can buy a special baby room thermometer from nursery outlets.

For more information on sleeping safely, read our baby bedding and cots and cotbeds guides.

Carbon Monoxide (CO) detector

If you have gas appliances, oil-fired central heating or an open fire in your house, it’s vital you install a CO detector to alert you if this lethal gas escapes into your baby’s room. Carbon monoxide is odourless, yet it can kill.The carbon monoxide monitor is about the same size as a smoke alarm and can be wall-mounted or put on a shelf in the nursery. Replace the batteries and check the carbon monoxide monitor regularly.

Useful extras for your baby’s room

Things that can make life easier include:

Baby changing unit

Although not strictly necessary, a baby changing unit is a great way of organising your nappy changing kit. Their height means you don’t have to bend to change your baby’s nappy, so it’s better for your back. There should be a deep-lipped edge to help prevent your baby from rolling off. Closed-in drawers will help to keep your changing kit dust-free, whereas open shelving means it’s more accessible.

A simple chest of drawers with a lipped changing mat fixed to the top may do the job just as well. It can then be used as a regular piece of furniture when your toddler’s out of nappies.

Remember never leave your baby unattended on a baby changing unit.

Baby monitor

A baby monitor can help put your mind at ease when your baby’s out of sight.

You can find listening-only devices or video-and-audio monitors that let you hear and watch your baby. Others give you remote access for when you’re away from home and someone else is looking after your baby.

You can even buy monitors that sense your baby’s breathing. Check out our baby monitors buying guide before you buy.

Comfy feeding chair or rocker

It’s recommended that your baby sleeps in your room for the first six months to reduce the risk of cot death. Once you transfer them to their own nursery, you’ll need somewhere comfortable to sit for feeds.

You can get feeding chairs with matching footstools for greater comfort. Rocking chairs can be soothing for you and your baby.

Make sure the chair has good support for you, especially around the lower back and shoulders.A firm cushion is good for laying your baby across, as it’ll bring them up to a better height for feeding and help stop your arms and upper back from aching.

Night light

A dim night light can help you find your way around the nursery without waking your baby. Some parents prefer not to use a night light so their babies get used to the dark, but if you do opt for one, there are a few types to choose from.

Some night lights have integral music or a light show and others plug in to a power point. You can also buy ones that attach to the bars of the cot, or that stand on a table and are shaped like cute animals.

Little luxuries for your baby’s room

If you have a bit of extra cash to spare, these little extras make lovely additions to any nursery:

Baby mobile

A baby mobile attaches to the top of your baby’s cot and provides an amusing moving show for them to watch. Some baby mobiles have detachable toys that can be played with independently, whilst others have a musical option or an enchanting light show that beams onto the ceiling.

Cot bumpers

Some medical bodies believe cot bumpers put your baby at risk of suffocation. The Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths (FSID), now known as The Lullaby Trust, says there’s no evidence linking them to UK cot deaths but, if used, they should be removed when your baby is old enough to sit unaided.

You should cut any tie cords short on the cot bumper to reduce the risk of strangulation. Some parents feel cot bumpers protect their baby’s head from bumps on the cot rails but mainly they add a splash of colour to the nursery.

Bookcases

A bookcase that can be screwed to the wall for extra safety is a great addition to a nursery. Having books around from the start means your baby is more likely to grow to love them. Remember, it’s never too early to start reading to your baby.

First soft toy

A favourite cuddly toy can help comfort your baby to sleep or when they’re upset. A brilliant tip is to buy two of the same soft toy and swap them regularly so they each smell of you and your baby. Then you can wash them separately without your baby missing them – and if one soft toy gets lost your baby will never know.

Storage baskets

Lidded baskets make ideal storage for toys you don’t want permanently on display. For safety, you should keep your baby’s cot as empty of toys as possible, so put any surplus bits away at night.

Nappy disposal unit

This special type of nappy bin individually wraps and seals dirty nappies. Depending on the model, a nappy disposal unit can hold 20+ nappies before it needs emptying. You can also buy refill cassettes for your nappy disposal unit.

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