There’s no question about it: Becoming a parent for the first time is exciting, but it’s also super intimidating.
As a new parent, you’re entering an unfamiliar world filled with rules, norms and products you didn’t even know existed. And, don’t forget the often-conflicting advice you’ll get from well-meaning friends and relatives.
Take it one step at a time and start with the nursery. After all, both you and baby will spend a lot of time there once she’s born. From safety to style, here are nine tips for choosing the right baby nursery furniture.
1. Start with a clean slate
You’ve been stashing random stuff in your spare bedroom for far too long. Now that baby is on the way, it’s time to start fresh. Call the team at Closetbox to come pick up your belongings for free. They’ll store them in a private vault until you need them. When you are ready to get them back, simply give the team a call and they’ll return your belongings.
2. Use safe paint
Before you get out the roller brushes and paint trays, make sure to select a paint that’s safe for children. Yes, the days of lead paint are long gone, but there are still a few safety-related factors you should consider before painting your nursery’s walls.
You want to seek out paints that are low in volatile organic compounds (aka VOCs), which are toxic gases emitted from certain household products, including paint. Exposure to these gases can cause eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches and even liver and kidney damage, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Your local hardware store can help you find paints that are low in VOCs.
Remember, too, that you should always open as many windows and doors as you can while painting. And don’t wait until the last minute to paint—you should give the room at least a few days to air out before baby arrives.
3. Keep it simple
While it’s tempting to splurge on every high-tech baby gadget on the market for your first child, it’s best to keep it simple, suggests Jill Simonian, author of “The Fab Mom’s Guide: How to Get Over the Bump & Bounce Back Fast After Baby.”
“I know it’s less fun, but remember: Less is more—babies don’t need a lot of stuff,” she says.
Paring everything down to the essentials, including in your baby’s nursery, can help you feel more focused and in control as a new parent, Simonian says. There’s enough going on after a baby is born—you don’t need any extra distractions.
4. Consider baby No. 2 (And No. 3!)
You’re probably still trying to wrap your head around becoming a parent for the first time, but remember, this may be just the start of your growing family.
Select gender-neutral colors and decorations in the nursery—the transition to baby No. 2 (or No. 3!) will be that much easier.
5. Create a room that will grow
In that same vein, your nursery may someday become a toddler’s room, then a child’s room, then a teenager’s room. Keep that in mind when selecting a theme or a color palette, suggests Lisa Janvrin, founder of YouthfulNest, a virtual interior design studio for babies and kids.
“We highly suggest a homeowner use more sophisticated or mature colors rather than ooey-gooey baby hues,” she says. “Another good choice would be to add age-appropriate decor to the room that is inexpensive and can easily be swapped out.”
6. Buy a new crib
There are lots of nursery furniture pieces you can buy used or refurbished to save a little money, but the crib probably shouldn’t be one of them. That’s because the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission implemented new crib safety rules in 2011—cribs made before that may not comply.
The new rules banned drop-side cribs and manufacturers are also now required to make sure crib hardware won’t come loose or fall off. New cribs are also made with stronger wood slats and more durable mattress supports.
“Take safety seriously and invest in high-quality products that will protect your baby’s well-being and give you peace of mind—there’s no way to put a dollar price on these two things,” says Emily Long, a health and safety expert with SafeWise.
7. Be careful with wall hangings
Though it’s tempting to hang cute framed photos or shelves in your nursery, be careful where you put them. Avoid hanging objects anywhere near your baby’s crib, says Kelsey Down of SleepTrain.
“Pinterest nurseries always seem to feature wall decor right above the crib,” says Down. “That’s a great idea in theory—in fact, my husband and I nailed wooden letters spelling my daughter’s name above her crib. But one of them somehow came loose and fell smack in the middle of the crib. Luckily, it didn’t happen while she was sleeping, but it could have seriously hurt her.”
8. Skip the extra bedding
Teddy bears, blankets and pillows are soft and comfy, yes, but they shouldn’t be in your baby’s crib. Babies need to sleep on firm, flat surfaces without any items that could accidentally harm them. Stock up on fitted crib sheets instead (you never know how often you’ll be able to do laundry with a new baby).
Down suggests buying a dual-sided mattress—one side is firm for infants, and the other side is softer for toddlers. When your child is old enough, you’ll be able to flip the mattress and keep using it.
9. Check for recalls and read the manual
Every eight minutes, a child under the age of three is treated in a U.S. emergency room for injuries caused by nursery items, according to a recent study from the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
Experts say new parents should follow the four Rs when buying nursery furniture: do your research, check for recalls, register the product and read the manual.
In addition to doing general research about baby products, you should also specifically check to see if the product has been recalled. Once you purchase something, register the product with the manufacturer so that you’ll be notified if it’s eventually recalled.
Finally, spend some time reading the manual. Yes, it’s boring, but it can provide valuable information about how to use the product safely.