You and your little one will be spending plenty of time in the nursery – so before birth, it's best to make sure it's a danger-free, calm and well-organised haven.
Don't be alarmed if you don't have every item or suggestion on this list!
This is a guideline to help you prepare the perfect spot for baby to spend their first years, but the most important item of all is the presence of a close and loving parent.
So, here are some top tips to get you started:
Choose a room
The room can be close or far from your room. Some parents like to know the nursery is near, while others prefer that it's far enough not to have to hear every little noise baby makes.
The direction the windows face is however more important than the distance from your room.
In South Africa, a room with big windows on the southern side of your house can become too cold. The ideal is a room with north-facing windows. Also don't forget about the neighbours' braai pit or, even worse, their kennel.
Your baby will be clocking many hours of sleep in those first few months, and an incessant barking or sudden loud music can keep him up. Also, be on the lookout for a possible draft in the room.
In front of the windows
Lined curtains that will keep the light out will make the room darker and remind your baby of the womb, which can ease his transition into his new world a little.
Curtains that keep out the light will also make those all-important daytime naps easier.
On the floor
What does the carpet look like?
Perhaps it should be replaced? Carpets gather dust, and dust is a common allergen.
If you want to put in a new kind of floor, consider wooden floors with loose carpets.
It's easier to keep this kind of flooring clean, and loose carpets can be replaced or exchanged more often.
The best cot
The cot is perhaps the most important piece of furniture you'll be buying for your little bundle of joy.
Forget about appearance and function for a moment – safety is more important.
Here are a couple of tips for choosing the right cot:
Ask about or be on the lookout for safety codes (they are the numbers that start with EN). Cots with a safety code should be deep enough to prevent your baby from climbing out at a later stage.
The openings between bars should be narrow enough that your baby cannot fall through them.
One of the sides of the cot should preferably be able to open (it usually slides up and down) so that you can easily lift baby out of the cot and place him back again. Make sure the mechanism is of a kind that cannot easily be opened by an older child.
Make sure the bed has been painted with a lead-free product. Most of the new beds will conform to this prerequisite, but an old or antique bed may not.
If you want to buy a collapsible or camping cot, make sure it has a strong base, and only use a mattress that has been recommended especially for the bed. Baby hammocks aren't wrong, as long as you hang it according to instructions and always place baby on his back.
Also don't cover him with blankets when he's in a hammock. As soon as your baby starts rolling over, he should rather no longer sleep in a hammock.
Toys should remain outside of the cot, even soft toys, as the baby can easily suffocate. But if it has to, rather put teddy at the foot end of the bed and not close to his head.
Keep the cot away from:
- curtains or blinds, because your baby can later get hold either of these and might become entangled
- wall-mounted heaters
- windows that can open
- mirrors or anything heavy and hanging above the bed that could potentially fall onto your baby.
How does the sun fall into the room during the day? Is it too bright?
This will influence the curtain or blind you choose, as well as the positioning of the cot. A night light or light with a dimmer switch is also a good idea.
These will allow you to come in and feed your baby in the dark without tripping over anything while keeping the environment calm while he's nursing.
Be careful of a lamp on his changing station, because depending on how he lies while getting his nappy changed, the light might shine into his eyes.
Tip: Rather choose a nursery that's north-facing so that it doesn't become too cold. Hang curtains that keep out the light.
Against the walls
The colour of a nursery is very important.
Although babies like bright colours, one should not go too wild when decorating their rooms, especially not at the very beginning. A nursery should have a calming influence on your baby.
Rather opt for muted colours with little contrast.
The decision about the cot is one thing. Then you have to buy the right linen.
Be sure that:
The mattress is new and fits snugly into the bed you bought (and remember to remove the plastic packaging).
The mattress is firm and has holes on the one side. A baby pillow is unnecessary.
There shouldn't be a hole or slit anywhere in which a baby arm, leg or head can get stuck.
The bed linen is thin and made of stretchable cotton. Knitted or crocheted blankets like those your granny make are wonderful as they keep your baby warm without overheating.
Cot bumpers help protect your baby against hard bars. Choose one with pretty pictures, but keep in mind that a safe one has enough ribbons to tie it securely to the bars and that it should fit the cot like a glove.
If you have mosquitoes in summer, a mosquito net is a good idea. The kind that hangs from the ceiling works well but you also get a special one that's mounted on baby beds.
Special baby sleeping bags are a good plan, as babies cannot worm themselves in too deep and risk getting a piece of fabric over their heads. You also don't have to take them out of the bag for night feeds or nappy changes.
Choose a sleeping bag that's suitable for baby's age, and make sure it doesn't have a hood.
Stay away from:
- Soft bedding such as duvets, as these are associated with cot death.
- Waterbeds, sheepskin cushions, bean bags and ring cushions. These aren't suitable places for the baby to sleep.
- Electric blankets.
The right temperature
Babies that are unsettled all night long can be too hot or too cold. But how to know what the right temperature is?
Follow these temperature guidelines:
What's right for you is generally also right for baby. About 20 to 23 degrees C is the ideal. Get a wall thermometer if you want to be sure.
Don't dress your baby too warmly for bedtime. Babies easily overheat.
Make sure the room is well ventilated, which means it should get enough fresh air day and night.
How about a fan?
A fan can cool down a hot room, but don't have it blowing straight onto your baby.
Recent research has shown that babies that sleep in rooms with turning fans have a slimmer chance of succumbing to cot death.
It's apparently because fans circulate air and thus drastically reduce the risk of re-inhalation.
For their ears
White noise and womb sound calm very small babies.
It can help them sleep easier because the sounds are familiar. Buy a small CD player and buy discs with womb sounds or Baroque music, which also apparently has a calming influence on babies.
Monitor your baby
Most modern nurseries have a baby monitor.
It makes moms and dads' life a lot easier, as you know exactly what's happening in that cot.
Sensor pads (placed between the base of the bed and the mattress) trigger an alarm when your baby does not move for a set period, usually about 20 seconds.
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