The Items I Learned You Do (and Don’t) Need to Buy for Your Nursery

This grandma knows what’s worth buying for your little one.

So, you’ve learned you’re expecting a baby, and after the initial bit of shock, joy and fear fades, you begin (at least mentally) preparing the nursery. You’ve got big dreams for your little one, and you want them to start with the perfect room — a place they’ll feel loved, nurtured and protected. You probably want it to look beautiful without breaking the bank too, right?

My daughter and son-in-law recently experienced this. As they created my granddaughter’s nursery, they found shopping for items fun, but also a bit stressful. Spending money on hundred-dollar items — or requesting them as baby shower gifts — and praying you don’t forget anything vital gets a little exhausting sometimes.

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It’s easy to add items to your shopping list on a whim because they look adorable, sound terrific or come “highly recommended” — especially when you’re preparing your registry and hoping to receive it as a gift. But you’ll be far better off if you can look past the cuteness of an item and think practically. The same advice goes for you too, grandparents.

It Doesn’t Have to Be New

Before we get into specific items, I’d be remiss if I didn’t suggest you look into gently-used things as often as possible. Since newborns grow so quickly, clothes and other items are often minimally worn — or maybe not worn at all. Great deals can be snagged via family and friends, or at mom-to-mom sales, consignment shops, yard sales and even through Facebook Marketplace.

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Nursery Item Needs

Furniture

It helps to not be shortsighted in your thinking here. Go long-term when you can.

You need somewhere for your baby to sleep, of course, and the best option for your money is a crib that converts to a toddler bed, and can later be used as a headboard for a regular twin bed. A bassinet might be helpful, but it’s certainly not a requirement if money is tight. Hint: Here’s when buying used or even borrowing can prove useful.

Instead of buying a dresser and a separate changing table, find a combination unit instead. The dresser will be used for years, and the tray-top changing table can be removed when those diapering days are over.

My daughter strongly suggests that a rocking chair or glider be on your furniture list — grandmas also recommend them. A rocking chair will come in very handy during the baby and early childhood years.

Clothing

When it comes to clothes, don’t let the cute outfits get you. While you will want some adorable dresses or cute little suits for baby pictures, outings and holidays, remember babies grow fast — very fast. And in the first few months, you likely won’t be dressing your baby up every day, so think practically when it comes to clothes, and don’t stock up on too much.

Some tips: think snaps over zippers and sleep sacks over swaddle blankets. You’ll want a few T-shirts that are not onesies for the first few days before the umbilical cord falls off. After that, onesies that snap together under the diaper are your best friends.

Rompers with snaps are much easier than shirt and pants outfits, and long socks versus anklet types will stay on much better. But forget the baby shoes. Yes, they are cute, but until your baby starts walking, they are not a necessity. Save your money for the shoes they will actually need before you know it.

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Other Needs and Some Possible Wants

You’ll need a safe car seat, stroller and feeding chair, but again, look for products that grow with your child to get the most bang for your buck. While not a need, a Pack ‘n Play is a nice item to have for travel and visiting relatives or friends.

Note that when considering used items for those mentioned above, be sure to check for the latest safety recommendation to ensure you aren’t buying a potentially dangerous piece.

Additional things worth possibly purchasing include: a baby monitor, a sound machine for soothing and a baby wipe warmer. My son-in-law claims an item called the NoseFrida (for snotty noses) is worth every penny.

An adjustable baby bathtub and a bottle warmer make life easier, and the diaper genie makes life a little less stinky. None of these items are necessary, but they are a nice to have if you can afford it or can receive it as a gift.

A baby swing, bouncer, rocker or chair might also be nice to have, but you certainly don’t want or need all of them. They take up space, and your baby can only use one at a time anyway.

Not Needs

You don’t need any special pillows, combs, brushes, washcloths or towels. And unless money is no object, you probably don’t need the mamaRoo, a chair that simulates a mother’s rocking motions, or the Owlet Smart Sock & Baby Monitor, a sock that monitors a child’s heart rate and oxygen levels.

Think long-term, borrow or buy used when you can and know that it’s okay to use an adult comb or towel at bath time.

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