nursery checklist for newborn baby and parent

Nursery checklist: 20 must-have newborn essentials

In many ways, preparing for your new bundle of joy is the calm before the storm—but it can also be tricky since first-time parents are, well, new at the whole parenting thing. Having everything ready before their arrival is one of the most important steps you can take, so we’re here to help you with a reliable list of key items you need (and trust us, many newborn items are used for such a short time, you need a trustworthy list!). One of the main tasks to focus on before your little one arrives is designing and decorating their nursery. This nursery checklist ensures everything you need for your newborn is lined up and ready to go.

1. Crib

A crib is the centerpiece of your child’s nursery and is arguably the most important piece of furniture you can have in a nursery. Cribs come in many styles, with some that convert into a small bed as your child grows (ideal for saving money and time later!). You may also opt for a bassinet for your newborn’s first few months to keep baby close for peace of mind and ease of feeding.

2. Sheets and bedding

Alongside a crib for your little one, you’ll need bedding like crib sheets and blankets so they can enjoy a peaceful sleep – and you hopefully can, too. Sheets from Rookie Humans offer soft and cozy bedding in kid-friendly prints and colors.

Sheets can be so much more than a cozy place to sleep, and with the right set, you can also document your baby’s measurements in real time. Nanit’s Smart Sheets, when paired with Nanit’s Pro Camera, estimates your newborn’s growth and delivers that information to the accompanying app.

Note: The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that parents don’t put anything in baby’s crib other than a flat, firm sleep surface and a properly-sized fitted bedsheet in the crib. Items such as blankets, pillows, and stuffed animals should not be in the crib. A wearable blanket, such as a sleeping bag, is a great alternative to provide warmth.

3. Night light

A night light is a true lifesaver (and eye-saver) during late-night feedings or diaper changes. Navigate through the baby nursery without stubbing your toes or tripping over a toy – all without harsh overhead lights that can jolt you awake or startle the baby. Consider getting a night light that can be adjusted via app or on the device itself, or a baby monitor that includes a built-in night light. 

4. White noise machine

White noise machines mimic womb noises, and the comfort of those sounds gently lulls little ones to sleep while blocking out abrupt ones that could wake baby up (the horror!). You can add a standalone white noise machine to your nursery setup, or utilize the white noise feature on the Nanit Pro Camera for a two-in-one solution.

5. Rocking chair or glider

A rocking chair or glider triggers a calming reflex in your baby that soothes them and helps them fall asleep. Expect to spend a lot of time in the nursery, so make sure it’s a chair that’s comfortable, too. You can opt for a classic wood design with cushions, or try one that has all the full cushioning of a recliner.

6. Changing table

A changing table is an essential piece of baby furniture you’ll revisit several times a day. Changing tables are much more than just a platform for diaper changes, though. Many models have drawers to easily store baby diapers, wipes, onesies, sinus-clearing miracle workers – you name it. This way, you can easily grab all the essentials you need without taking your eye (and hands) off your little one.

7. Changing pad

Adding a changing pad to your changing table will make your baby more comfortable (and less squirmy) while keeping the table clean. Whether you opt for a machine-washable model or one that can be wiped clean, it’ll make changing your baby easier and more convenient—while preserving your furniture, too.

8. Diapers and wipes

You can never have enough diapers and wipes in your baby’s nursery. Choose a diaper brand that’s soft, comfortable, and minimizes leaks and blowouts. Coterie is a great option to try: This soft, heralded diaper line is designed to hold more liquid than drugstore brands, so your baby is less likely to wake up and fuss during the night.

9. Diaper pail

A diaper pail essential for a baby’s nursery. These receptacles are made for dirty diaper disposal, designed to cover up any unpleasant smells. Many models are hands-free, too, so you can keep your hands on the baby while finishing up changing time. Trust us, you’ll be changing so man diapers, you need somewhere easy to store them until you can take them out. Even if you use cloth diapers or inserts, you need a system for sanitary storage.

10. Baby’s first clothing

Don’t hesitate to stock up on onesies and other baby clothes – you’ll be surprised just how often you’re changing your newborn throughout the day. Although your baby will outgrow them quickly, you won’t regret stowing multiple sizes of each outfit type in baby’s nursery. Stock up on all your baby essentials such as footie pajamas, socks, and adorable matching sets from Miles and Milan.

11. Baby bottles

Even if you breastfeed, baby bottles are still necessary for others to help with feeding and to deliver pumped milk. Whether glass or plastic, ergonomic or traditional, a well-stocked nursery ensures one is always on hand for late-night feedings during someone else’s nighttime shift. Keep a few nipple sizes on hand as well to see which one your newborn likes best — or may shift in preference as they grow bigger and hungrier.

12. Breast pump

Many moms are no stranger to pumping. Manual, battery-powered, and plug-in models all provide a wealth of options for nursing parents. While breast pumps are small, portable, and can be used almost anywhere, you can start off in the nursery and then move around as you see fit. The choice of breast pump model is yours – go with whichever is best for your family and schedule.

13. Burp cloths

New parents encounter quite a lot of spit up (or just simple spills) each day. Save yourself from changing your own clothing several times a day by tossing a burp cloth on your shoulder.

14. Pacifiers

Pacifiers can help calm your baby as they self-soothe and (hopefully) give you a break! Make sure to keep a couple of different varieties and spares on hand – it’s likely that a pacifier will get lost during a late-night wakeup, and you don’t want to go digging when your baby truly needs it.

15. Play mat

A play mat is an essential for tummy time, giving your baby space to explore, play, and learn to roll over. Plus, as much as it benefits a baby, it gives you a break from holding or carrying your newborn for a bit. Just make sure to stay with them while they’re kicking their little legs and stretching out their tiny arms. Bonus: You can use these well into the toddler years, so get a quality play mat for maximum value (and knee-saving moments)!

16. Wall art and hanging decor

Bring your nursery to life and make it truly your own. Place a few frames of family photos along your walls, or follow a theme and hang prints of zoo animals, butterflies, and happy sayings – you name it! Add a few floating shelves and fill them with books and stuffed animals for your little one to enjoy.

17. Dresser

You’ll need a place to store small baby clothes that don’t need to be – and probably shouldn’t be – hung up. A dresser gives you extra storage space away from the changing table, so everything for the baby from sheets to onesies is in one organized place.

18. Toys

There are all the necessities for daily care of your newborn, and then there are the fun items for play. While they’re not doing much playing in their first few weeks, newborn-friendly toys are a great idea to have around. Age-appropriate books for story time, stuffed animals (for looking, not for snuggling!), and basic toys for very young children are all great first toys to have in your nursery.

Note: Be sure to pay attention to age ranges and warning labels on any toy you buy for baby. Read the AAP’s Parent’s Guide to Toy Safety for more information.

19. Toy storage

The arrival of your little one means well wishes and lots of presents from friends and family. To ensure you have enough storage space for all the gifts you’ll receive, you might want to add a toy chest or storage ottoman to your baby’s nursery. This way, you can keep your baby’s room neat and tidy while storing all the goodies for the day they’re ready to start playing with them.

20. Car seat

Car seats are so important that you quite literally can’t leave the hospital with your newborn without a properly-installed car seat. When looking for a car seat, make sure you choose one that’s up-to-date with all the latest safety features. While it obviously has to be optimal for your baby’s size, there are plenty of options that can grow along with your newborn.

Note: The AAP recommends that babies be placed on their backs for sleep, rather than in a seating device like a car seat (except while riding in the car). Read the AAP Safe Sleep guide for more details.

Key takeaways

A nursery checklist helps you prioritize all the essentials before you begin designing the space and populating a registry. From must-have daily care items to nice-to-haves that bring the baby (and parents!) joy, the main prerogative is to prepare well in advance. This way, everything you need is ready to go the moment your much-awaited baby arrives.

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Natalie Barnett, PhD serves as VP of Clinical Research at Nanit. Natalie initiated sleep research collaborations at Nanit and in her current role, Natalie oversees collaborations with researchers at hospitals and universities around the world who use the Nanit camera to better understand pediatric sleep and leads the internal sleep and development research programs at Nanit. Natalie holds a Ph.D. in Genetics from the University of New England in Australia and a Postgraduate Certificate in Pediatric Sleep Science from the University of Western Australia. Natalie was an Assistant Professor in the Neurogenetics Unit at NYU School of Medicine prior to joining Nanit. Natalie is also the voice of Nanit's science-backed, personalized sleep tips delivered to users throughout their baby's first few years.

Kristy Ojala is Nanit’s Digital Content Director. She spends way too much time looking at maps and weather forecasts and pictures of Devon Rex cats and no-cook dinners. A former sleep champion, she strives to share trustworthy somnabulism tips with other parents—praying for that one fine day when no tiny humans wake her up while it’s still dark out. Her kids highly recommend 3 books, approximately 600 stuffies, Chopin’s “Nocturnes,” and the Nanit Sound + Light for bedtime success.

Mackenzie Sangster is on the Brand and Community team at Nanit. She supports content development and editing for Nanit’s Parent Confidently blog as well as other marketing initiatives. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her friends, cooking, being active, and using the Pro + Flex Duo to keep an eye on her fur-baby, Poppy!

Holly Hays is a contributor and writer for Nanit, channeling her years as a mama and former magazine editor to create fun, useful content for fellow busy, trying-to-do-their-best parents and caregivers. Holly has written for a wide range of brands and media outlets (Ergobaby, HGTV, Manhattan Toy Company, OXO), loves to cook and read mystery novels, and leans heavily on her two daughters to keep her up to date on all the latest slang.