Nursery necessities - What Do You Really Need?

Grace Nixon, AKA The Baby Lady, offers practical tips on what is really important when setting up a baby’s room.

There are a huge number of baby products on the market today, so it’s no wonder prospective parents feel overwhelmed at the thought of setting up their nursery. It’s also no secret that getting everything you need for a new baby can be an expensive exercise, so it’s important to know what you do and do not need, what is important to invest in, and what can be left for a later date. Let me start by suggesting you work out your budget before you begin, otherwise you can fall into the trap of whittling your money away on gorgeous but non-essential items before you’ve purchased the basics!

The three essential functions of a nursery are;

• a place for baby to sleep

• a place to change baby

• a place to comfortably feed

Let’s start with sleeping
Bassinets or Moses baskets are very popular choices, especially if you are one of those fortunate people who have a gorgeous bassinet that has been in the family for years, (just make sure you buy a new, firm, flat mattress). The advantage of Moses baskets is that they are relatively inexpensive. A bassinet, on the other hand, is just as cosy as a Moses basket but has the added bonus of being larger so your baby will likely be using it for longer.

If you wish, you can safely sleep your baby in a cot from day one. Whatever you choose to start with, a cot will be an essential item for your nursery by the time your baby is about six months old. When choosing your cot, make sure it meets the Australian and New Zealand safety standards, especially if it is second hand. Check it has been painted with lead-free paint and is in good condition with all screws tight, no missing pieces and no sharp edges or holes your baby could put his finger into. The mattress must be firm and flat and fit the cot with the space between the mattress and cot sides being no greater than 25mm. Make sure you remove any plastic wrapping as this is a suffocation risk.

It is important that you position your baby’s bed away from the external walls of your house and away from window draughts and curtain strings. Make sure there is nothing in or around the cot that could be a choking, strangling or electrical hazard to your baby – it’s amazing the places little ones can wriggle into!

Changing times
A place to change your baby is the next thing to think about. Depending on the space available in your room, you can purchase a dedicated changing table or alternatively, secure a changing mat to the top of a set of drawers. Either way, make sure your changing station is the right height for you to easily change your baby without any strain on your back – you’re going to be changing a lot of nappies!

While the floor is often touted as the safest place to change a baby, when you do it repetitively the angle can put undue pressure on your back. It also needs to be said that changing your baby on the bed is not recommended, as it is unsafe for baby who will probably learn to roll when you are not looking. In short, keep baby safe by never leaving them on a change table unattended, and take care of your back – you’re going to need it!

It’s a good idea to have storage for nappies, wipes and clothes and a rubbish bin all within arm’s reach so you don’t need to turn your back or leave your baby on the change table unsupervised. If you are using disposable nappies, there are many nappy disposal bins on the market. You can also put dirty nappies into a disposable scented nappy bag and place in a regular bin that is emptied daily. A mobile over the change table will give your baby something stimulating to look at and might make the experience more enjoyable for him.

Take a seat
Many hours will be spent feeding your baby so it is vital you have somewhere comfortable to sit. While you can always feed your baby lying down, investing in a comfortable feeding chair is money well spent in the long run. Look for a chair that supports your back and arms well, as this will both take the weight of the baby and help you with correct feeding positioning. Make sure your feet are flat on the floor, and that the chair is easy to get in and out of, especially while holding your baby.

Think about where you want to feed, too. Do you want to be traipsing to the lounge in the middle of the night to feed? Will it be warm? Where do you want to be feeding when you have visitors? Wherever you choose to feed, I would recommend having a little table next to you with your drink bottle, phone and a clock. Make it a comfortable space that you want to be in.

Handy to have
Other things I would recommend for baby’s room would be blackout curtains, a night-light, a room thermometer and if feasible, thermostat controlled heating. The blackout curtains are especially helpful to prevent early waking in the summer months. A night-light will softly light your baby’s room for night feeds without over stimulating him.

A room thermometer will give you confidence that your baby’s room is a comfortable temperature. Heating is especially important for newborn winter babies as they need to be in a room that is no cooler than 18°C.

A lot of people like to use a baby monitor and there are many on the market from a basic model that just conveys sound, right up to those with cameras and the ability to sync to your smart phone. Depending on the size or layout of your house you might find it comforting to have one.

More than likely you will be given many clothes and toys, so you’re going to need somewhere to put them all. Your baby is going to grow very quickly so make sure you store clothes with like sizes together and smallest sizes closest to hand. Store clothing in a way that works for you. I’ve seen everything from organized drawers with everything beautifully folded through to two open boxes that clean clothes are tossed into – one with all the tops and the other with all the bottoms.

As for toys, there are many ways to store and organize them. Think about what will be easiest to tidy; do you want them out of sight in attractive storage boxes or do you want to see toys on open shelves? Speaking of shelves, make sure they are fixed to the wall right from the start – one less thing to think about as your tiny newborn quickly grows into a busy baby on the move!

Having worked both as a midwife and nanny, I have been in more nurseries and used more baby equipment than you could imagine. Let me assure you that your baby will not know whether things are new or second hand so don’t feel burdened to make your nursery look like it is all straight from the shop floor.

Be true to yourself and your family, keep within your budget and be confident that your baby will thrive in a warm, loving and secure environment.


Grace Nixon, BHSc (Midwifery), also known as The Baby Lady, is an Auckland-based newborn specialist. Using the skills and experience gained both as a midwife and nanny, she helps new parents prepare for, and adjust to, life with their new arrival. She also has a range of fabulous gift packs. Check her out at or on Facebook at


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