Bringing Home Baby

Oh baby! How we long to see that sweet face! Nine months pass, sometimes in a blur and other times with agonizing slowness. We wait, we dream, we pray, head shaking and mind spinning at both the profound blessing and the great unknown. We try to anticipate what it will be like to hold that precious little one in our arms, feel that breath on our cheek. The good news is that even when sleep is elusive or all parenting questions have to wait for good answers, your baby can rest, play and dream well in a nursery created just for him or her. With smart choices, you can create a cozy space that will transition through the years, taking your babe from infancy to childhood.

A neutral palette and plenty of storage may seem unlikely choices for a nursery, but in a few years you’ll be glad you took this approach. Rather than sinking money into brightly colored walls, carpets and baby-themed items you’ll soon be replacing, consider investing in built-in storage, comfortable furniture and accessories. Some of these items can transition to other parts of the house as baby grows. You can add as much color and whimsy as you like with stuffed animals and toys.

Start by choosing a soft high-quality carpet in a neutral shade. Invest in a quality pad to extend its life for years. Or go with solid floors and throw rugs if you’re concerned about allergies. Before laying carpet, paint walls a harmonizing neutral shade with a low-odor, low-VOC paint to protect mom and baby from harmful chemicals.

You can never have too much storage in a child’s room. New babies come with lots of needs—everything from dozens of diapers to baskets of stuffed animals from doting family members. As children grow, their collections grow with them.

Built-in storage provides a place for all that stuff from day one, making it easy to teach little ones good habits. Creating it is easier and less expensive than you might imagine. Measure your space and check out big box stores and cabinet suppliers for sturdy, heavy-duty book cases and cabinets. Or look at a Habitat for Humanity Restore for items that can be repurposed, avoiding those that might contain lead paint. Once units are securely attached to wall studs for safety, give them a finished look by trimming tops and bottoms with molding.

A knitted dog rests on a window seat with pillows in a baby's nursery.

A window seat with plenty of cushions located between two wall units will soon become a favorite spot for parents and little ones. You may find something suitable at a store like IKEA. If not and you lack carpentry skills, enlist the help of a talented friend or relative to build a sturdy box. Add pull-out drawers for supplies. Later, they’ll hold toys and sports equipment.

A comfortable rocker/recliner is a welcome luxury for new moms and dads. Soft throws are beneficial to use while nursing, pillows and a convenient side table create a cozy, quiet haven.

Tips for Outfitting a Healthy Baby’s First Room

Baby’s impending arrival means you need to prepare a safe and healthy home and bedroom. Not all babies get a room by themselves so don’t stress if your newborn will be sharing. Adjust ideas to suit your circumstances. If buying new is out, friends and family may have items you can borrow, or shop at secondhand stores and yard sales. Always research items you plan to use, being sure they meet or exceed minimum safety standards and have not been recalled.

Crib

  • Allow no more than 2⁄8 inches between crib bars so your baby can’t fit through.
  • Avoid cribs with missing or cracked slats.
  • Avoid cribs with cutouts on headboard and footboard that could trap your baby’s head.
  • Be sure corner posts are flush with sides so clothing cannot catch.
  • Check to see that mesh is less than ¼ inch, with no tears, holes or loose threads in mesh cribs.
  • Make sure parts are tight and secure.

Mattress

  • Avoid used mattresses. Some studies show links to SIDS.
  • Make sure mattress fits tightly.
  • Avoid pillow tops and air mattresses. Firm is safer than soft.
  • Consider organic cotton or wool. Your baby’s face will come in contact with this surface.

Chemicals & toxins

  • Watch out for lead, found in homes built before 1978. It is highly toxic to children. Go to hud.gov for information.
  • Limit exposure to chemicals.
  • Use low-VOC paints and paint rooms at least 2 months before baby arrives.
  • Avoid painting or inhaling fumes while pregnant.
  • Install new carpets, which outgas, months before your baby arrives.
  • Purchase formaldehyde-free mattresses, crib sheets, blankets, comforters and toys.
  • Avoid plastics containing BPA.
  • Avoid room deodorizers and disinfectant sprays.

Get the Look

A round-up of items for a baby's nursery.

Create your own neutral nursery with these great staples, inspired from this story.

  1. Your baby will be content in the all-wood Modo Crib in two-tone from babyletto.com. Price is $379. This sleek and safe crib converts to a toddler bed (rail included) and a day bed, so it adapts as your child grows.
  2. Liven up a nursery with herds of stylish animals, such as the white Earthenware Elephant from zgallerie.com. Price is $24.95.
  3. Or get the giraffe. It’s sold as part of Planimal Africa Series from Kangarooboo. Price is $32.99 for three animals and a habitat.
  4. Nap time without a rocker would be no nap time at all. We chose the Nurseryworks Sleepytime Rocker from newarrivalsinc.com. Price is $700 for a soft, comfortable seat.
  5. Give your child a pleasant view. Mount a Sheep Mobile from blablakids.com above his or her bed. Price is $130 for this 13-inch mobile, which comes with six twirling little wool companions that promise a good night’s sleep.
  6. When it’s time to put away the rattles, the stuffed animals and the soft-cloth balls, they’ll be at home in the Small Havana Bin in grey from containerstore.com. Price for this storage container is $12.99.
A gender-neutral baby nursery.
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Looking to the Future

A clean line crib that transitions to a single bed, built-in storage, neutral wall and carpet colors and print fabrics that look as good for baby as they would for a teen are cost-saving choices for children’s rooms. These items grow with your child, letting you add toys, collectibles and artwork along the way to personalize the space according to interests and age.

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A dark gray glider sites in a gender-neutral baby nursery.
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One Size Fits All

Shelves that hold baby toys today will hold collections in a few years and books and electronics later. Adjustable shelves are best to allow for changing needs over time. Ready-made drapes hemmed to length in a neutral striped pattern have a timeless appeal that can take a child right through to high school.

Mothers and fathers spend hours in the nursery when baby is new. A rocking recliner offers plenty of comfort during late-night feedings and tender moments rocking baby to sleep. It’s big enough to hold dad and a toddler for a bedtime story later and stylish enough to transition to a family room. The window seat is designed for an adult to sit comfortably with back against a book case and legs stretched out, allowing parents to spend time together in baby’s room during those busy first years.

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A neatly organized closet in a baby's nursery.
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Smart Storage

A built-in storage system behind closet doors looks expensive but is an easy do-it-yourself project with off-the-shelf components available at big box stores. Three clothing rods set up for a baby can easily adjust to accommodate larger clothing in later years. Just remove one rod and space out the other two. A variety of baskets hold bath-time toys and products, diapers and gear.

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A reading nook in a baby's nursery is outfitted with pillows, a knitted pouf, a stuffed dog and books.
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Reading Nook

A knitted ottoman, pillows and a few cuddly friends with books make an inviting reading corner. Hang artwork using security picture hangers so children can enjoy it at their eye level but can’t remove the item from the wall.

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Small stuffed animals wait alongside a hand-made Noah's Ark.
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Ship Shape

Shelves adjust to hold keepsakes such as this handmade Noah’s Ark, built by an uncle. Later, shelves may hold books and other items. Provide the right foundation and a room can get many jobs done.

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Stuffed animals are corralled in soft-side bins, which also could hold socks and T-shirts.
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Big Softy

Stuffed animals and small toys are corralled in soft-side bins. These are soft enough for a baby to have on the floor during play time. Later they will hold socks and T-shirts.

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Pull-out drawers corral baby's toys.
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Toy Story

Pull-out drawers with hidden handles are mounted on heavy-duty slides rated to hold the weight of a child and toys. A soft-close mechanism ensures little fingers don’t get pinched. Holes drilled in drawers ensure a child who crawls inside gets plenty of air.

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