Nursery Furniture Essentials
by Elizabeth Shaw
Figure out what’s essential—and what’s just a nice-to-have—with this buying guide for baby room furniture. Plus, get inspired by these gorgeous nursery photos!
Setting up your baby’s room is thrilling—besides watching that gorgeous bump grow, it’s one of the first “real” things you get to do as parents. Of course, you want it to be great. What it doesn’t have to be, however, is budget-crushing. Here’s what you need to know before you buy these nursery furniture essentials.
Go for the firmest and lightest. And that will usually mean a foam one. They’re just a whole lot easier to maneuver in the middle of night when you have to change the sheets after a blow-out. If you prefer to go for an innerspring mattress instead, look for one that has at least 150 coils, says Fields. Otherwise, it will likely be too soft.
A triple-laminated vinyl cover comes in very, very handy. Babies pee, poop, and spit up—a lot—in their cribs. When there’s an accident you want to make sure the mattress is protected.
Want to go organic? Look for GREENGUARD certification from the GREENGUARD Environmental Institute, an independent organization that certifies products for low chemical emissions. That said, keep in mind that mattresses are treated with chemicals because of strict laws requiring that they be flame retardant. Regardless of whether the one you choose is “green” or not, you can reduce your future baby’s exposure by letting the mattress air out (preferably outside or in the garage) for several days before placing it the crib.
More expensive doesn’t mean better. All cribs sold in the United States must meet the same federal safety standards, so you can rest assured that there are plenty of safe ones out there that fit your price range. In fact, cost alone isn’t a fair way of assessing quality, says Alan Fields, co-author of Baby Bargains. “You can argue that some lower-priced cribs have been hit with more recalls,” he says. “But what that really means is that you have to consider a company’s safety track record instead.” And that’s true regardless of how much you plan to spend. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has just launched a new database, SaferProducts.gov, that allows consumers to both report potentially dangerous products and research safety info for those they want to buy. What’s great about this: You can find out about problems well before an official recall.
Buying new is a better bet than used. Unless you know for certain that a used crib meets the following standards, get thee to a store:
- the mattress is firm and tight-fitting;
- there’s no drop-side;
- the slats are no wider than a soda can (2 3/8” apart);
- corner posts are no higher than 1/16”
- there are no cutouts in the headboard or footboard
Convertibles won’t necessary save you a lot of cash. That’s because almost all require that you buy a separate conversion kit, says Fields. And given that most toddlers can move right into a twin once they’ve outgrown the crib, the toddler-bed convertibles are simply nice-to-haves. That said, if you have the space, love the way it looks ,and just want to be done with it, go for it.
These are worth considering if you can swing it. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants room-in with mom to help establish breastfeeding. There’s also evidence that it can help reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). If you don’t have space for the full-size crib in your bedroom, one of these smaller options can be just the thing. And there’s no need to spend a lot of cash on these, says Fields. A simple model is fine. You’ll just want to follow the same safe-sleep rules as with a crib (tight-fitting mattress; no bumpers or other soft-bedding) and check manufacturers’ safety record at SaferProducts.gov. And if cost is an issue, there’s nothing wrong with putting your baby to sleep in her crib from day one, even if it has to be in her own room.
Be sure to check the return policy. There’s no doubt that audio and/or video monitors can offer peace of mind, says Fields, but interference can be a major issue thanks to all the cell towers, wi-fi routers, and cordless phones around. Should you get yours home only to find you hear nothing except your neighbor, you’ll want to know you can exchange it. Got a small place? This is probably one expense you can cross off your list.
5 Hi-Tech Baby Monitors
Try before you buy. Babies love the soothing back-and-forth motion, so having a glider or rocker in the nursery is usually worth the investment. Finding one that’s comfortable for both you and your partner is key, so make sure you both try them out (lower-priced gliders in particular can be narrow, says Fields). Which one you opt for is really up to you, though one benefit of gliders: Most come with a locking mechanism now, a handy safety feature if you’ve already got a toddler underfoot.
Feel free to wait on this one. Until babies start eating solids, their dirty dipes don’t have much odor. You can probably get away with using a regular kitchen garbage bags in a trashcan with a tight lid. Once things, er, change, you can reassess. If you take the garbage out daily, you still might be fine. If not—or if you just happen to be sensitive to odors—you can always consider an official diaper pail with proprietary bags. Either way, you’ll save a bit of cash on the front end, which is always a good thing.
A single-purpose changing table is absolutely not necessary. For one, once your kid is out of diapers, there’s no other use for it. Consider opting for a contoured pad that attaches to the top of a dresser and stashing your dipes, wipes and other supplies in the top drawer or in a little side cart. Or, go ahead and use the floor!