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A Nursery That Grows with the Baby

By Debbie Williams

One size does not fit all

When it comes time to plan for your baby's nursery, don't just hit the shops until you have a plan. A smart plan emphasizes safety and convenience, facilitates organization, and can save you both time and money. Put first things — like safety — first.

  • As you purchase furnishings for your nursery, remember that little hands like to explore. Cracks, crevices, holes, and slots are there for prodding — virtually nothing is off-limits in the mind of a child. Think safety first when making your wish list for furniture, bedding, and accessories.
  • Hand-me-down cribs and changing tables initially save on expenses, as long as you make sure they are safe. If the slats on the crib are not up to code, a child could get his head or arm stuck between them and get hurt.
  • Also remember that gliders can pinch curious fingers, rockers can smash fingers and toes, and flimsy shelves can fall onto baby as she is trying to stand or walk. Toy chests provide storage and additional seating when closed. However, they can injure or even trap a child if not equipped with a special safety hinge that remains open until closed by an adult.

Stow away!

Nursery storage is not limited to the traditional changing table or decorative wooden shelves.

  • Provide additional storage for your child's growing wardrobe by installing a customized closet organizer in the nursery closet.
  • If you relocate frequently or don't want to install a permanent unit, hang a three tiered crate over the dowel rod in the closet.
  • If you have limited wall space, move baby's chest of drawers into the closet to increase floor space. Or invest in a heavy-duty bookcase made from plastic to store toys, clothes and out-of-season clothing in your closet.
  • Use under-bed storage to store baby clothes that are out of season, too big or outgrown. Keep an extra one on hand for outgrown clothes, then take to your favorite charity, resale shop, or hand down to relatives when full.
  • Make a home for all those treasures you will want to keep for years to come. Photographs, baby's footprints, and other memories can be stored in a box under baby's bed, filed on a regular basis.
  • Don't forget the little things in life, because they truly do multiply. Rattles, teethers, socks, mittens and anything with small parts will take over the living areas in your home if you don't contain them from the very start. Clear plastic shoeboxes hold all types of small items for baby. Invest in boxes with good-fitting lids so that you don't have frequent spills on the nursery floor. Plastic boxes with hinged lids carry blocks, locking rings, and bath toys for an active child.
  • Corral the plethora of stuffed animals you will quickly accrue by hanging a toy hammock in the child's room, or use a doll playpen. If you would like to store toys that are not frequently used, wrap a tension rod or dowel with Velcro, then wedge it between floor and ceiling. The furry toys stick to the Velcro, adding height and dimension to your room.

Ages and stages

Bear in mind that your baby will not stay little for long. Your newborn will quickly outgrow a bassinet, so if you don't have room for one, consider using a Moses basket or heavy-duty stroller. Both are small, easily stored and portable.

  • Try to stay a step ahead of your baby's exploration by baby proofing before he arrives home from the hospital. You are never completely prepared for crawling, pulling up, sitting or walking. Each baby develops at a different rate, and although your baby is not sitting up yet, he soon will be. Maybe he'll be a roller and will roll into a fan or humidifier on the nursery floor. Be prepared for anything by organizing in advance for safety. You'll soon be so busy with the daily routine of feeding, bathing and cuddling your baby that these milestones will creep up on you when you least expect it.
  • Once baby begins to crawl and pull up, you will probably want to move stacked clothes and toiletries from the changing table to a closet or high ledge where they can't be rearranged by your little decorator. Convert the changing table to a toy shelf. Remove the changing pad after your child grows too big, securing the straps underneath. You now have additional shelving for toys or stuffed animals.
  • Nurture your child's need for independence by hanging a second clothes rod in the nursery closet (or use a hanging crate as described above). This allows toddlers to help decide what to wear, reducing the temptation to climb and reach favorite outfits.
  • Storing toys in plastic tubs eliminates clutter, but it also teaches your child to pick up on a regular basis. Tape or glue colorful pictures or stickers to describe the contents within. Baby will have fun matching, and it teaches early math and language skills.
  • Purchase a set of colorful stacking bins. Use in a single layer when baby is small, then stack two and three high as she grows. Keep them in the kitchen, by the phone, in the living room and bathroom. They're practically indestructible and grow with the needs of your baby.

Closing thoughts

Planning for the arrival of your first baby can be fun, creative and practical. Be as frivolous or frugal as you like, and still be well-organized. Plan, shop, and plan some more. Remember that you can always change your system at any time when it stops working for you and your child.

Keep an eye out for creative uses of wicker baskets, baby wipe containers and other things to contain the clutter in your nursery. No matter how much you organize it, you'll find that it mysteriously multiplies, taking over your entire house. But don't worry — by that time, you'll be so enchanted by your little one that you won't mind at all.

You will grow with the flow of things, adapting your standards to focus on more important things, like rocking, singing, bathing, and catching stolen moments with your baby.


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Top 10 Must Haves
for the Nursery

Mobile

Hang a safe, exciting mobile over the crib and keep the little one happy and content as she falls asleep. Try a black-and-white one during the first few months as she learns to follow high-contrast shapes and objects. Some mobiles even have clips where you can change out the cards or insert family photos.

Glider rocker

Whether it's a large, overstuffed chair or a simple rocker, a quiet, comfy spot is important for breastfeeding, bottle feeding or just rocking the little one to sleep. Pick a comfy one — you'll be spending a lot of time here.

Changing pad and diaper caddy

You don't need to invest in an expensive changing table or dresser with a top — just find a functional changing pad for diaper time. Most are waterproof, with removable covers that are easy to wash. And, you can use a simple wicker basket with a handle as a portable diaper caddy. That way you always have easy access to diapers and wipes.

White noise

Capitalizing on the fact that babies find white noise soothing, many companies make machines that produce sounds such as a rainstorm, a babbling brook — or even the sounds the baby heard inside the womb. Some look like small radios, while others are tucked inside cute stuffed animals. Be careful not to rely completely on these magic wonders, because some children become addicted to the noise and cannot sleep without it. Use only when needed, and you will understand why these are so popular.

Ceiling fan

Overhead fans have been promoted as helping to prevent SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) when installed in a nursery. You don't have to run it at full speed to keep a nice breeze moving throughout the room.

Trash can

Whether you choose the Diaper Genie or a simple receptacle with scented garbage bags, you will appreciate the proximity of this item to the changing table. When the trash cans nearby, it's easy to toss out diapers, wipes and other items to keep the nursery clean.

Temperature with control

Babies need to sleep at a different temperature than adults, and they're not able to regulate their own body temperatures. A thermostat just for the nursery helps you keep a handle on the situation and ensure that Baby has an optimally healthful environment in which to snooze.

Play mat or rug

Tummy time is very important for newborns. Buy a mat or rug on which your baby can lie in the beginning months while playing with family members. Later on, you can set his toys out on the rug, which the baby will learn is his special spot.

Books

No matter the age of the baby, the benefits of reading to her are incredible. Read often to the baby, and she will learn to cherish and look forward to this time with you. Knowing this, you can never have too many books (you probably received many as shower presents). Find an accessible space to store them, and in doing so, show her that books are an important part of her world.

Calming colors

While many parents want to go wild with bright green or fire-engine red in the nursery, such choices can keep a baby awake or make her anxious. Soft, calming colors are far better for a baby's sleeping area. Paint stores offer low-VOC paints that are almost odorless, are non-toxic and come in a variety of pastels and soothing colors.

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12 Exceptionally Memorable Moments of New Parenthood

You’ve read every baby book cover to cover, but these are the milestones you never saw coming—and you’ll never forget.

1. When you realize the baby in the hospital bassinet is going home…with you.

2. When you can finally distinguish the difference between a ‘hungry’ cry and a ‘poop’ cry.

3. When other moms ask you for advice.

4. When you get what all the fuss over that "new baby smell" is about.

5. When your baby notices himself in the mirror for the first time.

6. When you see yourself in baby for the first time.

7. When the baby squeals with delight as you change his diaper. Who cares if it’s because you were on the wrong end of a surprise spray?

8. When your baby’s cuteness stops a stranger in her tracks.

9. When you make your baby laugh so hard he gets hiccups.

10. When you discover daddy and junior napping together, in identical sleeping positions.

11. When you’re told that you’re a great mom.

12. When you actually believe it.

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