As your baby will, in theory, spend a large portion of their time sleeping for their first year, and hence your life will revolve around said sleeping, it is very important to be well set up for bringing your baby home ready to sleep. We were actually severely disorganised when we brought our first-born home from hospital, and spent our first night home sleeping on some blankets on the lounge room floor. It was not a pleasant experience. The most important thing to consider when buying nursery items for your baby is the SIDS and Kids Safe Sleeping recommendations. These should be paramount when making any decisions. So, this is my list of what one might need for a sleeping baby.
DISCLAIMER: I’m writing based purely on my own experience with my little ones. What worked for me may not work for other people. Everyone’s baby and budget is different. My opinions are based on products I’ve used, and things I wish I’d learned before I had my two little ones.
I would encourage anyone to have a bassinet for a newborn. One with wheels is very handy, but not essential. Depending on the size of your baby, you’ll probably use a bassinet for up to six months, perhaps even longer. It’s generally recommended that babies sleep in your room for the first six to twelve months, and a bassinet makes that significantly easier, particularly if you have a small space. Our firstborn went straight into his cot in his own room to sleep from birth, however we used our bassinet for over four months with our second-born. I would choose the latter again in a heartbeat. The bassinet with wheels was very handy for wheeling to wherever I wanted while he was sleeping, but it was so convenient having him sleep in a bassinet at the end of our bed, rather than dragging myself to another room for night time wakings. Newborns just look so tiny in a gigantic cot.
I’m personally not a fan of frilly bassinets, mainly because babies need lots of good air-flow when they sleep. There are so many options that allow for this. I love the Tasman Eco bassinet, and there is also the moses basket concept.
There is no rule that you must have a bassinet, and you can just as easily put your baby straight into their cot. Having done both, I preferred the bassinet option, but if your budget or space doesn’t allow for a bassinet, I’m sure no long-lasting psychological or physical damage will be suffered by you or your baby.
Once your baby is moving around, it’s time to graduate to the cot.
As long as it’s safe, and you stick to the SIDS and Kids safe sleeping recommendations, any cot should be fine. To be honest, we went the practical route and just bought the cheapest cot we could possibly find. It has lasted two children thus far with nary a problem in sight.
In hindsight, I do wish we had spent more and bought a cot that converted to a toddler bed. Alex just went straight from the cot into his race car bed (yes, it’s awesome) when he was about two, but I think he might have done better with a toddler bed for a while. He was far too big for the cot by that stage, but still a little small for a full-sized bed.
Boori make beautiful cots, but be aware that they do require a larger than standard mattress and cot linen. I have a bit of a thing for Stokke nursery items at the moment, if one has a budget that stretches that far, but again, this requires a different mattress to standard.
On the more budget end of things, check out Ikea cots. Just be aware that none of the Ikea cots have sides that lift up and down, and the base is also set down low. I haven’t used one myself, but I imagine that if you have back problems, bending over low to lay a sleeping baby down could be problematic.
On that note, if you have a cot where the side lifts up or down, look at what mechanism is used. I really dislike our one. You have to push buttons in on each end at the same time, which is a pain if you have a baby in your arms. Particularly a sleeping baby. Other cots lift up and down with a bump of the knee, or just a lever on one end, and I’m sure there are several other options. My in-laws have one with a lever on one end, which I find much easier to use than my cot.
Consider taking a five kilo sack of potatoes cot shopping with you, and see how easy it is to get the cot sides up and down while you hold it in one arm. If you really want to be certain, maybe take a ten kilo sack of potatoes, as preparation for a sleeping one year old.
Do not buy or allow anyone else to buy you cot bumpers or anything similar. While they may make your cot look pretty, they are a giant SIDS hazard. The least amount of bed coverings in the cot, the better.
From an aesthetic point of view, I do wish we had bought lovely matching nursery furniture. Alex’s bedroom was very mish-mash, and just not, well… pretty. It was practical, though, and served its purpose. There are lovely nursery furniture sets out there, depending on your budget. When it comes down to it, the baby doesn’t care what their nursery looks like, you do. There is nothing wrong with having an exquisitely decorated nursery, nor is there anything wrong with having a mish-mash one. Everyone has different priorities. Keeping it simple will probably be your friend in the long run.
Even babies accrue an inordinate amount of crap, and you will need storage for clothes, nappies and the associated equipment, stuffed animals, toys and books. At the minimalist level, you could probably get by with a cot and a wardrobe. The other end of the scale might be a cot, wardrobe, chest-of-drawers, toy box, change table, breastfeeding chair, and book case. Your space and budget will probably determine where you sit on that scale.
Whichever cot and furniture you end up buying, consider the longevity of the items. Not only whether they’re sturdy and well-made, but how your child can grow up with them. Nursery furniture that converts into something else can be very handy. Some cots can convert up to a double bed. Some change tables can turn into a chest-of-drawers. If you have a nursery covered in teddy bears for your little boy, for example, keep in mind that by the time they are three or four, they’re not likely to be into teddy bears, and might want to update the décor to something more age appropriate. If you’re happy to redecorate as they grow, that’s no problem. If you don’t wish to do so, perhaps consider furniture and décor that grows with your child.
Check out the Newcastle Tots Pinterest board for some ideas for decorating your little one’s nursery.
Muslin Wraps and Swaddles
You can never have enough muslin wraps. Between my sisters and me, we have approximately 100 muslin wraps, and I am not exaggerating. I have used them for everything from swaddling, wiping up messes, sunshade for the pram, rolled up as a chest support for tummy time, hanging up in the window of the car as a sunshade, and even making labneh.
I would recommend getting the biggest wraps you can find, or even making your own by grabbing a large square of muslin and sewing an edge around it. The standard sized ones will not be big enough to use a swaddle after a few months, or even weeks.
Grobags, or whichever brand you prefer of baby sleeping bags, are fantastic. Great to keep them warm and much safer than putting blankets in the cot when they’ve outgrown swaddling. Grobags are given a “tog” rating that tells you how warm they are, and are a good guide as to what to dress your baby in underneath it. SIDS and Kids recommend sleeping bags as a SIDS prevention as they reduce the need for blankets in the cot.
Charlie was a complete wriggler, and could get out of any swaddle, so we used the Kiddopotamus SwaddleMe wraps. I loved loved loved them, and wish we’d had some for Alex. I learnt from experience that the longer you swaddle, the better they sleep, even if they do not wish to be swaddled. I gave up swaddling Alex at two months old, because he kept wriggling out of the small muslin wraps we had, but he would only sleep for 20 minutes at a time after that. However, with Charlie, I persisted with swaddling and he slept for much longer periods of time during the day. Other swaddles that come highly recommended are the ergoCocoon and the Wrap Me Up baby swaddle. These are different styles to the Kiddopotamus swaddles but largely the same concept.
Once your baby outgrows your muslin wraps or other swaddling device, I found using a cot sheet worked great. Having a few extra flat cot sheets will not go astray.
Check out this SIDS and Kids advice on how to safely wrap your baby.
You don’t HAVE to buy a baby monitor. We borrowed one for Alex, but then realised we didn’t need it at all. Our house is the size of a postage stamp, and I could hear every sound our boys made. If you have a larger than postage stamp sized house, or if you spend a lot of time outside, it might be a good idea.
I really love the video monitors. I wish I had a video in the boys’ room even now, just to see what they get up to when I’m not looking. A webcam would do that quite well though, if one didn’t want to purchase a video monitor. Sometimes babies stir and cry without needing any attention from Mummy or Daddy, and a video monitor can let you know if you need to go in straight away, or if they are just having a little whinge.
Unless it has been medically recommended, you probably don’t need a movement sensor mat monitor. They will not save your baby from SIDS. A baby that dies from SIDS cannot be resuscitated, even if you are holding the baby when they stop breathing. Having said that, it could save a baby that stops breathing for some other reason, such as apnea or an Apparent Life Threatening Event (ALTE). However, they are not recommended by SIDS and Kids as a SIDS prevention, as such, and from what I have heard, most people take them out after a short time, as the alarm goes off frequently and wakes the baby needlessly. If you decide you need one for your own piece of mind, keep in mind that there are no Australian standards governing movement monitors.
If you think it will help you sleep better at night, it won’t do any harm to have one.
We have a portacot that has never been used. Both of my boys have hated being in it. I even attempted to use it as a play pen for Charlie when he was little, and he would scream bloody murder every time I put him in there. Even if they were completely asleep, as soon as I would put them into the portacot, they would wake up screaming. Kind of a useless purchase. Just a note that if you do get a portacot and your child will actually sleep in it, it is unsafe to add extra mattresses in it, even if you think the base is too firm. Children, even toddlers, have suffocated from getting stuck in between the sides of a portacot and an added mattress.
Other Nursery Items
Other items you might find useful are a room thermometer and a night light, or lamp. The ideal temperature for a baby’s room is 18 degrees (Celsius), so a room thermometer can be a useful guide to work out what to dress your baby in for bed. And obviously a night light or lamp is useful for lighting up the room. Some baby monitors combine the room temperature and night light concepts into the baby’s unit, which could be pretty handy, such as this one, for example.
– a bassinet
– a cot
– bassinet and cot linen, including waterproof mattress protectors, fitted sheets, flat sheets, and bassinet and cot blankets. Three to five sets of sheets would be sufficient for most babies. Maybe an extra two flat cot sheets for swaddling later on, but not essential. Do not put any cot bumpers or quilts in your baby’s cot.
– large muslin wraps, and/or swaddling wraps. As many as you so desire.
– sleeping bag with the correct tog rating
– if you think you’ll need it, a baby monitor
– some kind of soft lighting solution, be it a soft lamp or a night light
– definitely non-essential, but a room thermometer might be handy
That’s pretty much the basics of what you need to get your baby to sleep! Before you buy anything, be sure to read lots of product reviews (www.productreview.com.au is sometimes helpful), and consider the space you have, where you intend on putting the baby to sleep, and most importantly, the safe sleeping guidelines.
And then cross your fingers for a baby that actually sleeps.