What Makes a Perfect Nursery? Advice From Professionals Who Know

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This post was sponsored and written by our partners at Nightingale Night Nurses!

What makes a perfect nursery? Karina from Nightingale Night Nurses has some very helpful advice!

We see these adorable aesthetic nurseries on Instagram with the wicker baskets and the giant giraffes and the flowy curtains. But in actuality, what are the real factors that go into making a perfect nursery?

Let’s go through them:

  • Longevity
  • Light 
  • Sound
  • Safety
  • Furniture
  • Practicality
  • Pinterest factor
  • Green factor

Longevity

Every time I look at a nursery I think about how it will be functional in six months, but also in six years. (If you are planning to have multiple children you can have each baby stay in the nursery and then “graduate” to a bigger kid room until you’re done having babies.)

Throughout all the other functions of the room, I’m always thinking about how this room will work long term. 

Light

Light is more important in a nursery than most parents realize. Newborns, toddlers, and young children are so sensitive to small changes in their environment. The early morning light tells your little one it’s time to be up for the day… even if it’s hours away from a reasonable wake-up time. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone into a home and have had to tell parents that their beautiful $2,000 blinds are, in fact, not as room darkening as their decorator promised them. 

Ideally, you should be able to turn your nursery pitch black during the brightest summer day. That means you look down at your baby… and you see no baby. To achieve this you have to make sure the entire window is covered, with no gaps. The cheapest way to get total darkness is Redi Shades. They’re black folded paper shades that you cut exactly to the size of your window. 

A bonus of blackout shades and curtains is that they prevent your baby from overheating, which can be a SIDS reducer.

In addition to light from the outside, there are also indoor lights to consider. You want your nursery to have three moods. 

  1. Cave (we talked about this)
  2. Bright, regular light for daytime
  3. Transitional, dim light for getting ready for nap/night

If you can have a dimming switch installed it can be a real game changer for easily switching between moods two and three during your nap and nighttime routines. Some products we love as options for transitional light are:

  • Hatch: A sound machine and light with almost limitless options that can be preset from your phone. I like a bright red light for transitional.
  • Lumipet: A cute little animal that your child can utilize as a nightlight when they get older.
  • Himalayan salt lamp: This is my product of choice. It looks adorable and provides a range of dim to bright red spectrum light.

Sound

If your home has more than one option for a nursery, you want to consider the placement of the room. (Some parents end up swapping their master with their baby!) Things to consider:

  • Is it near an entryway where loud doors are going to be banging and you’re going to be greeting guests?
  • Does it share a wall with a room that gets a lot of use in the evenings? 
  • Is it under a staircase? (I’ve made that mistake before.)

Not everyone has options for what room their nursery will be in. (More tips on how to efficiently work within your space will be discussed under furniture and practicality!) Things to consider within your room:

  • Crib placement. Is the crib sharing a wall with anything? (I recently had a client who accidentally set up her nursery with her bed sharing a wall with her baby’s crib on the other side. They both heard every peep!)
  • Sound machine placement. I’m big on sound machines. If you feel you’re against them for some reason, please read more about why they are amazing here. Make sure the sound machine is in between your baby and any point of potential disruption. 

Safety

This could be an entire novel in itself. I highly recommend you do thorough research on the products you are purchasing to consider their safety. Let me list a few things that are NOT considered safe as of 2021.

  • Blinds with cords
  • Anything in the crib aside from your baby and a pacifier
    • Includes DocATot
    • Includes crib bumpers
  • Any furniture not mounted to the wall (think longevity — toddlers climb; get it done now in preparation)
  • The Rock ‘n Play and any other contraption that is not flat to be used for sleep
  • Cover all outlets
  • Make sure your crib/bassinet meets safety requirements

*And a bonus YES. Add a ceiling fan or a floor fan to use during the first six months of your baby’s life. Air circulation reduces the risk of SIDS.

Want professional help? Safe Beginnings serves the greater Boston area and will do an in-home consultation. 

Furniture

There are many things to think about when you are purchasing furniture for a nursery.First off, what items do you even NEED? For every nursery I recommend four major items:

  1. A crib. It doesn’t have to convert into a bed or do anything fancy. It just has to meet safety requirements (bars close together, no drop side, no gaps in the mattress). We love furniture from Milk Street Baby
  2. Something to sit in with your baby. I prefer a La-Z-Boy or comfortable armchair, but many prefer a glider or a classic rocking chair. Some of the newer models have built-in chargers for your phone which can really come in handy on long nights.
  3. Somewhere to change your baby/store things. You can go with the classic changing table with bins underneath. I prefer a sturdy dresser with a removable changing topper (again, longevity).
  4. A bookshelf. Nurseries are the best place for reading! This can be as big or as small as you would like it to be.

Practicality/Pinterest factor:

I put these two together for a reason. If you’re looking at decorations, make sure they are newborn/toddler appropriate.

  • A large mirror hanging over the changing table looks cute until your baby kicks it during a tantrum. 
  • Decorative stuffed animals look cute in the crib as long as your baby isn’t in there with them! 
  • That heavy handmade wooden wall art pulls the whole room together until it falls off the wall in the night. 
  • Those outfits hung up look so sweet, but do you REALLY want to spend the time matching and hanging clothes every day?
  • Those first-edition paperbacks are adorable, but you know your newborn is going to eat them, right?

Thankfully, neutrals are all the rage right now. And it’s important to note that busy patterns and bright colors make for a stimulating environment that is not ideal for sleep!

Green factor

I’m aware that this isn’t important to everyone. But for those who are concerned about toxins, here are some things to consider when putting together a nursery.

  • Use a low/no VOC paint and paint as EARLY as possible. The majority of toxins will be released in the first six months.
  • Look for a mattress that is organic/nontoxic or, for a cheaper option, consider a safe mattress cover. Mattress wrapping is all the rage in Europe, and they claim it reduces SIDS to almost nonexistent rates. 
  • It’s expensive to go all organic when it comes to cotton. Focus on the things your baby will be spending the most time in. Sheets will last you at least two years (longer if you utilize a toddler bed), so it’s worth the extra splurge. 
  • Look at what your crib is made of. Is it solid wood? Or wood that has been glued together? Babies love to suck and chew on their crib bars. Greenguard Gold Certified products are the gold standard.
  • Above all else, always focus on air circulation. Whenever I leave the room with a baby I turn on a fan, open the doors, and, if possible, open the windows. Keep that air moving!

Have more questions about how to make a perfect nursery? Or how to put together a baby registry? Or just anything baby in general? Let’s connect.

Karina is the lead sleep consultant at Nightingale Night Nurses. She has spent the past 13 years working as a newborn care specialist and nanny, specializing with children ages 0-3. She has trained in the RIE method, where infants are spoken to and treated respectfully and intentionally, and she holds a BA in child development. She is formally trained as a newborn care specialist, postpartum doula, lactation educator, and sleep consultant.

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