How to set up a safe nursery

Setting up your baby’s nursery is one of the most exciting things you’ll do during your pregnancy, satisfying the nesting instinct that tends to kick in during the last trimester. Here’s how to set up your nursery safely, plus some guidance around what you’ll need. There’s also a checklist of useful extras and little luxuries to pick and choose from, depending on your space and budget.

Basic nursery safety

Don’t worry if your baby’s nursery isn’t completely ready when your baby arrives, there’s still time to get organised. To keep infants safe and happy, experts recommend that your baby sleeps in the same room as you for the first six months, whether in a cot, crib or Moses basket. For more information about which to choose, please review our guide on first sleep solutions.

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 furniture and other essentials

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 to use the bed.

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

Safety gates, baby gates and stair gates

Safety gates, baby gates or stair gates are all useful for keeping your baby out of harm’s way. You can choose from metal, plastic or wooden gates, and have them fixed firmly or keep them flexible, so they can be moved around as you need them.

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.

A 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.

Baby changing kit and nappies

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 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.

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. If your baby is expected to be full term, they’ll probably grow out of newborn sizes in just 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. Check out our great range of baby clothing .

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 guides on 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 nursery that can make life easier

Baby changing unit

A baby changing unit is a great way of organising your nappy changing kit. Its 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 to 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 purchase.

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 and curtains

Dim lighting 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.

Your window dressings are not only pretty, they’re also essential considerations to help keep light out when babies nap and sleep. To make sure the curtains are safe, we recommend you use curtain hardware that can be fixed securely to a wall stud. We also suggest you:

- Never use tension rods that can fall

- Always avoid cords or strings that can pose a strangling hazard

Little luxuries for your 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.

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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