baby nursery room changing table
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7 Essential Nursery Room Do’s & Don’ts

Setting up a nursery room can be an exciting yet overwhelming task for new parents. With so many options and opinions out there, it’s important to know the essential nursery room do’s and don’ts to create a safe and comforting space for your little one — things that aren’t usually shared. Creating a nursery room that is practical, functional, and aesthetically pleasing is the key to ensuring your baby’s comfort and well-being. By following these do’s and don’ts, you will be able to create a nurturing environment that promotes good sleep, healthy development, and happy moments with your little bundle of joy.

Get ready to transform your nursery room — or space within your own room, wherever your little one may sleep — into a haven for your baby with our essential tips and advice. Let’s dive in!

This post was originally published on 7/11/2016. Not everyone has the space to make a dedicated nursery room, so this post is also about nursery areas, wherever that might be in your home.

Do paint ahead of time

No one wants to be inhaling paint while trying to soothe an upset newborn, so it’s important to not only paint the room ahead of time but use zero-VOC paint with calming colors. Most paints off-gas even years after painting but paints free of volatile organic compounds won’t. In fact, they even smell better while painting! Be sure the paint is really zero-VOC, though, because some paints claim zero-VOC, but that’s before adding the pigment for the color. I ordered all of my zero-VOC paint from Paints. Local eco-friendly home stores also offer zero-VOC paints.

Don’t put loose items above the crib

Decorating a nursery room with loose items above the crib is a common mistake in a lot of the pretty nursery pictures I’ve seen online. Not only will your kiddo try to grab the objects above them, but if there’s ever an earthquake, all those sharp cutesy decorations on the geometric wooden shelf are going to fall on him. Opt for decorating the wall with fun painted patterns, and decals, or with flat well-mounted letters instead. Think about other ways you may need to baby-proof the room (and your whole house) in a way that keeps your little one safe without making the whole house a “No” space that’s sectioned off.

Do hold off on the crib

Most people use bassinets or cribs so I thought I’d use both with my kids too. I never used them… well, except to hold my clean laundry. The U.S. media tends to focus on buying a crib and putting it together in a nursery “for the baby” but you might not use that crib for at least a month (if ever). Most bassinets last the first few months and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies room share with their caregivers for the first year. I ended up bedsharing with my kiddos — the first because of reflux (and we didn’t have a separate room for her) and the rest of the babies as a matter of choice since I also breastfed them. Their rooms have been used as a space for toys, clothes, diaper changes, and future beds. Save your money and buy a sidecar sort of arrangement that can turn into a crib later, or just wait on the crib until you know for sure your baby will sleep in one. Not everything needs to be bought at once and before your baby is home.

Photo of baby clothes hanging in a closet

Don’t wash all the clothes yet

You’ll also want to wait on washing all the baby clothes you have ahead of time so you can return the ones you end up not using for store credit. Wash about four Newborn and six 0-6 months outfits and organize them in the closet (try our printable baby closet organizers) then leave the rest with tags intact. Babies typically outgrow or skip a size fairly quickly so it’s best to wait and see whether or not you’ll need more of a certain size before taking the tags off. Babies also get all kinds of things on their outfits — You know, like poop — so you’ll probably end up washing an outfit then grabbing it from the clean clothes hamper for baby to wear again more often than reaching for a new outfit from the closet. Keep in mind the weather, too. You might have several long-sleeve onesies in sizes 3-6 months and it will be extremely warm weather by the time your baby fits in them. You’ll want to return or regift those.

baby nursery room changing table

Tip: Organize your baby’s clothes by size (with tags on) so that you can see what you have in each of the sizes. Using clothing dividers makes this a lot easier — Check out our free printable for some mountain-themed baby clothing organizers. here!

Do incorporate sensory elements

Creating a stimulating and engaging environment is important for your baby’s development. Incorporating sensory elements into the room can help promote their cognitive and physical development. Consider adding a mirror on the wall in their room to provide visual stimulation — something like a toddler-height Montessori mirror is great for tummy time and learning facial expressions with parents. Soft toys and textured teethers provide tactile stimulation, while music and white noise machines can provide auditory stimulation.

You can also decorate the room with removable art that is high contrast for the early months and then slowly more colorful later on — visually interesting items that are also useful such as nursery room area rugs and curtains are great visual tools, too. You could also use an essential oils diffuser to provide a calming and relaxing scent.

Don’t waste your money on a changing table

I bought a dedicated changing table for my oldest daughter when she was a baby that I thought would be perfect as a dresser or something for her later as she got older . . . but it had a permanent changing portion attached so it just didn’t work out the way I thought it would. Choosing to use a sturdy removable changing station that you can rest on top of a long dresser is best for saving space and money. Honestly, I did a bulk of the diaper changes on my lap out at a restaurant (no changing table in the bathroom), in her stroller while out, or on the floor. You’re not going to want to turn your back on the kiddo while changing her diaper anyway, so this slimmer option is safe and so much more versatile.

Liz Dean shared nursery room
Photo: lizdean

Do stick to essentials

Keep the nursery room simple — Items baby needs and items you need for feeding/changing baby. This means no extra gadgets and especially no computers or TVs if you can help it (our electronics emit a bit of radiation that newborns just don’t need). Be sure to have a soothing music player/toy, a chair for feeding or rocking, and enough space for all the diapers and clothes. The layout of the baby’s space should be open enough for you to easily move in and out of the space — a functional and organized layout.

Have some do’s and don’ts to add to the list? Please share them in the comments below!

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  1. Changing pad on dresser slid around while changing baby diaper ( mI learned from my in laws). now I’m pregnant and we use desk with a lot storage bins for changing table and I brought the pad that grip on the bottom but it still slid a-little so I use the Velcro command on changing pad and on desk and it well secured not let is slid while changing diaper!

    1. Glad you were able to secure it! It’s definitely good to use the securing straps or similar to ensure the changing pads stay on for safety (while also never leaving baby unattended).

  2. Can I get the info on the crib used on the cover

    1. Hi, Ana, the crib used in the Pinterest image? I’m not sure about the green crib or the one showing a mom next to it but the two other white cribs shown in the pictures (floral room and geo painted wall room) are from Babyletto.

  3. Question: We got the cute cut out letters to secure about our crib. That’s not what I’m worried about. My wife wants to put LED lights behind the letters to make them glow. Is this okay to do for a baby’s eye development with no negative side effects? Thank you.

    1. That’s a great question! The type of lights you use are a huge factor in this. I don’t recommend lights above a crib because it can disrupt proper sleep patterns and depending on the lights used may be hot to touch, could be a fire concern, or could have a cord that baby might chew on or get tangled in. If you encase small battery-operated lights that connect to a remote in the letters so that they won’t fall out and baby can’t touch them then it would be safer, but I wouldn’t leave the light on at night when your little one is going to sleep or is already asleep.

  4. We had a pack & play with a bassinet, that also had a separate, but easy to access storage area for diapers, wipes, etc. Brillant!

  5. These are great tips. We bought a changing table/dresser and it was great and didn’t take up all the space of having them separate!

  6. Yes!! Great post! We had a changing table with Oakland but NOT with Ainsley, it takes up too much space!!

  7. One thing we did to all of the frames above the crib/dressers was securing it with 3m sticky tab things. They do not budge and now I don’t have to worry about anything crashing if we have an earthquake.

  8. So many great tips that I agree with! Hanging stuff above the crib or on the crib drives me crazy! It looks cute but isn’t safe whatsoever! Thanks for sharing. Hopefully this helps some expectant moms! XOXO

  9. I totally agree with these! Especially the one about not hanging loose items over the crib. My babies are wild and I don’t trust them.

    1. Thanks, let me know if you’d add anything! Yes, kids wiggle so much and grab at things more and more so it’s not worth the safety concern.