A baby on the way? What could be more exciting! You’ve got to get ready, so we’ve organized some ideas for you as you prepare.
Many parents-to-be visit nursery shops and check out the endless cute ideas on the Internet. But do you really want pink or blue walls with pastel dancing giraffes around for the next four or five years?
A better idea might be to view the nursery with an eye to the future when your child turns three or six or nine. One way to do this is to choose neutral hues (especially if you don’t know the gender of your child-to-be) and colors that flow seamlessly into the rest of the home.
In fact, this might be a time to do some repainting throughout the house. Many paints contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), chemicals that evaporate in a process called off-gassing that can last for weeks. They may cause nausea or dizziness or irritate the eyes and respiratory tract and a baby has no way to tell you this. In addition, some paints contain fungicides to prevent mildew growth, and biocides to extend shelf life. Some pigments used to color paints also contain toxic chemicals.
To be safe, check labels carefully and choose paint with natural pigments plus low VOCs, fungicides and biocides. Actually “low-VOC” just means the paint meets the EPA’s minimum requirements of no more than 250 grams per liter of VOCs in latex paints and no more than 380 in oil-based paints. Some paints, however, are lower with 100 grams per liter or even fewer.
Set up the nursery to be convenient. The basics should include a baby monitor, a crib meeting all the current safety codes, a changing table, and a dresser. Sometimes the changing area is designed atop a dresser for a space-saving single unit.
The last essential piece of furniture is a rocking chair and not just any chair, but one you “test drive” ahead of time. It should be thoroughly comfortable with arms that support your arms while holding a child for feedings. Consider, too, that you might want to move the chair to another part of the house when baby starts eating in a high chair, so avoid ruffles, cute patterns, or those pastel giraffes.
Lighting is also important. A small nightlight in the nursery is a good idea. Locate it in a spot where it doesn’t shine directly into the crib. Indirect lighting is also a good decorating move. One of the smartest ideas we’ve heard lately is to install a dimmer on the nursery’s main lighting so you adjust it to the lowest necessary level when have to go in at night. This way you aren’t as likely to waken the baby (or yourself) so completely it’s hard to go back to sleep.
Babies have a way of accumulating a lot of paraphernalia, so consider reconfiguring a closet for extra storage. Since baby clothes aren’t very long, you can install hanger rods one above the other at one side of the closet. Built-in shelves are nice, but a thrift-shop chest-of-drawers (take closet measurements with you when you shop) can tuck in nicely, whether repainted or simply given a good scrubbing.
If you have pets in the home, prepare ahead of time to keep them apart from the baby unless you are directly supervising, especially at first. In most cases, pets recognize that there is now a human puppy or kitten in the home and they often become protectors. Take, for example, the dog who silently but convincingly showed her teeth to anyone approaching “her” baby without being fully okayed by the parents.
On the other hand, some pets may be jealous or suspicious. It’s also wise to keep pets out of the baby’s sleeping area to protect the infant from dander and fur. In one case, a family installed a screen door on the nursery to keep pets and toddler relatives out when the baby wasn’t directly supervised. Another family got out a saw and devised a Dutch door for the nursery, so the lower half could be closed as needed and the entire door closed at naptime and bedtime.
Be clean, but not too
It’s smart to minimize potential irritants such as fresheners and fragrances, perfumed laundry detergents, and chemical strips in the dryer. In addition, be aware that the average American home has many anti-bacterial products in everything from body soaps to household cleaners and even toys.
We’re learning that most anti-bacterials are not only ineffective, but are believed to foster the development of “superbugs.” These are bacteria that develop a tolerance for anti-bacterials and have a worrisome potential for also developing a tolerance for certain antibiotics. A better idea is to let children develop robust immune systems by simply using soap and water.
Prepping the Parents
Finally, there is a lot of comfort in having a freezer stocked with quick-to-reheat meals when bringing that baby home. Why not use paper plates now and then?
When friends or family say, “If there’s anything I can do…..” have a list ready whether it’s taking a package to the post office, doing a load of laundry, or watching the baby while you go to your book club.
Marilyn Pribus kept the rocking chair from her boys’ nursery for many years. When she offered it free before moving, she was delighted that a very pregnant woman and her partner hauled it away in an old station wagon.