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Five Additions to Your Baby's Nursery That Will Save Your Sanity

Updated on September 10, 2014

Basic Baby Nursery Essentials

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Homemade mobile - check.

White noise machine - check.

Rocking chair - check.

Chest of drawers for all those adorable onesies and swaddling cloths - check.

Pack 'N Play (that I use as both a crib and changing table) - check.

Baby-safe toy box and storage baskets - check.

When I first got started setting up my baby's nursery, I was sure I had it all. I did a ton of research throughout my pregnancy and outfitted my baby's room with all the items I knew would make it functional, comfortable, and safe. I read dozens of lists put together by parents about which items were essential for an effective nursery, and I felt confident that my baby's nursery was perfect. (Of course, I should know by now that there's no such thing as "perfect," but I think you get my drift.)

Throughout my baby's first year of life, I found that I did not in fact have all the little things I needed in place when I needed them.

From one parent to another, I would like to share with you five items I wish I had included in my baby's nursery from the very beginning. Had I known about them earlier in my little one's life, they would have saved me a ton of hassle and even some precious sanity! I hope these tips will be helpful to you!

1. A spare charger

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In the early days of parenting, my usage of electronic devices absolutely skyrocketed. Whether they're nursing, taking bottles, sleeping on you, whatever, these young babies have ways of trapping parents in their chairs for hours at a time. For that reason, I had my smart phone and Nook e-reader by my side at all times. Whenever I had a free hand, I was constantly texting friends for advice, looking up every little question that popped up (and there were hundreds!) on the internet, or reading one of the many parenting books I had downloaded.

Of course, all that use saps a battery fast. I remember one night, I was up at 2:00am nursing my tiny baby, frantically Googling--yet again--how to tell whether she was getting enough to eat. Just as I was about to read another article about it, my device died. It was crushing to me, and even felt a little dangerous to not have a screen keeping me me alert and awake while feeding my little one. I was so scared of falling asleep and harming her! Man, there is so much fear in those first months of motherhood.

As soon as I could, I ordered extra chargers for both my phone and Nook and plugged them in behind my rocking chair (and well out of reach when she started crawling). That way, I could easily charge my devices anytime during the day or night when I needed that extra juice-- and early on, I needed it often!

2. A paper towel holder

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... with plenty of paper towels of course!

Readers beware: this section is not for those whose stomachs are easily turned by matters pertaining to the diaper.

Okay, now that it's just us non-queasy folks, let's face it, there are certain diaper-changing situations when those weak little baby wipes just don't do the job. Whether it's a particularly full diaper, or maybe your baby has the propensity to do their business while you're changing the diaper, or even if-- as ours did-- the baby has bad reflux and spits up all the time, sometimes you need a bigger, faster, and simpler disposable cloth for wiping up the mess.

In the first weeks home with the baby, I can't tell you how many times I yelled out to my husband, "grab me a paper towel," while I was in the middle of changing a diaper. At some point, I decided I needed to keep some paper towels in the baby's nursery.

I installed a paper towel holder with Command hooks, which I explain further here, and I made sure to place it within arm's reach of the changing station. The key here is to place it close enough that you can reach it, but your baby can't.

Even though it doesn't exactly fit with the decor of the nursery, I have never once regretted hanging up a paper towel holder. Personally, I recommend using Viva brand paper towels because they are both soft and strong. They even hold up well if you need to wet them and wipe up particularly sticky messes like meconium.

3. A sleeping bag

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It was a dark and stormy night, and the baby was up every hour or two screaming her head off for who-knows-what-reason. Mind you, this was long after the phase when she needed nighttime feedings; she had been sleeping for nice, long, seven-hour stretches for weeks by this point. As explained in the extremely informative and well-researched Wonder Weeks book, there are simply some stages in an infant's brain development when they are going to feel insecure and clingy. The Wonder Weeks authors call these stages "rainy periods" and often predict when they will happen quite accurately. During some of my baby's "rainy periods" that corresponded to her "wonder weeks," she would sleep fitfully, rouse herself awake, start crying, and could only be soothed by me picking her up and cuddling her. After I felt like she had fallen back to sleep, I would slowly and carefully place her back in her Pack 'N Play. The second she even sensed she was getting NEAR the mattress, she would start screaming again for me to pick her up. Sound familiar yet, parents?

After about ten or so failed attempts to return a baby to her crib at 3:30am, your hope of returning to bed dissolves. It is in these moments that parents who had not planned on bed-sharing with their baby start seriously considering this option; you need sleep, your baby needs sleep, and unfortunately, sometimes your baby needs to sleep on you. For this and a variety of other reasons, some parents choose to take their child into the bed in hopes that everyone can get a little shut-eye. For my family, that wasn't an option, so there were a number of nights when I was stuck in the nursery hours on end, baby happily asleep in my arms, my head throbbing from a lack of sleep and an excess of stress.

One morning after one of these sleepless (for me) nights, I dug out a sleeping bag from my closet and laid it down on the floor of the nursery. I threw a pillow or two on the floor, added a light blanket to the top, and voilĂ : a makeshift bed for me on the floor near baby's Pack 'N Play. The next time we experienced one of those rainy nights ...

  • I arranged my pillow and blanket so they would be of no danger to a sleeping baby. (In other words, I ensured that they were nowhere near her face. As you probably know, extra cushioning can be a risk factor for SIDS, every parent's worst nightmare)
  • I cuddled her while lying on the floor comfortably.
  • We both slept.
  • Granted, it wasn't a deep sleep for mom, but sleep nonetheless. A few hours later, I woke up, gently picked baby up off the sleeping bag, and placed her back into her Pack 'N Play without so much as a peep.
  • I went back to my own bed and slept like a rock until morning.

Now, I've only actually used my sleeping bag a handful of times, but every time I had to, I was so thankful I had set it up ahead of time. This is not something you can just throw together at 1:00am with a baby screaming at you.

As I've visited friends' nurseries this year, I've noticed various other versions of the floor bed. One of my friends just has a comforter on the floor as a makeshift mattress-- the same idea as the sleeping bag, really-- and cuddles her baby on that during the rough nights. Other friends have a full-on spare mattress on the floor with a body pillow for added back support. I'd be afraid of my little one rolling off of it and hurting herself, but we all know our own babies best and what will work for us.

This idea might not be for everyone, but it has saved my sanity on a number of occasions. If you have noticed that sometimes your baby insists on sleeping on you, but you're not bed-sharing, I highly recommend creating a safe, comfortable place for you to camp out on the floor of your baby's nursery for those nights when the need arises.

4. An elastic

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Speaking of sleepless nights, there's nothing worse than finally getting your baby back down to sleep, only to accidentally wake her up again with the click of the door as you exit the nursery. I can't tell you how many agonizing times this has happened to me.

Back when I was a full-time teacher, I had a colleague whose classroom door automatically locked every time it shut. This was incredibly annoying for students who left to use the restroom and had to knock to reenter the room. The worst was when my poor teacher friend's keys got locked in her classroom while she was in the copy room; she had to call a custodian during his break to come back and open her room! After that incident, she came up with a trick to keep her door from locking:

You take a rubber band, string, or other elastic, wrap it around one of the doorknobs, twist it in the middle to make a pressure point that will hold down the dead-latch, and then wrap it around the doorknob on the other side. The photo above is from my baby's nursery and should serve as a good illustration for this little trick.

Now, I sneak out of my sleeping baby's room like a silent ninja, without even the sound of a door closing to signal my escape.

5. A nasal aspirator

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Now that my baby has reached toddlerhood, she is unfortunately getting more colds here and there. Stuffy or runny noses are no fun for a little one who doesn't know how to blow her nose yet, and they're practically catastrophic if your baby is a thumb-sucker like mine.

Caring for her at night during her first colds, I often had to set her back down in her Pack 'N Play angry and uncomfortable while I rummaged through the bathroom medicine cabinet to find her nasal aspirator. It seems a little weird at first (repulsive, for some parents), but I have grown to love the Nose Frida Snot Sucker nasal aspirator. The problem was, I didn't have a place to store it in my baby's nursery because I had read that all medicines and the like should be kept up high out of a child's eventual reach, and preferably in a separate room. Thinking logically, I stored the aspirator next to the infant ibuprofen and other sick-baby needs high up in the medicine cabinet, but that was a mistake. It was too far away when I needed it the most! All that time it took me to retrieve the aspirator made baby even more angry and awake, which of course led to more time spent soothing her back to sleep.

I eventually decided to store the aspirator in a basket on top of her dresser. That way, when she would wake up frustrated about her stuffy nose, I could attend to it fast enough that she wouldn't wake up all the way. After quickly clearing out her nose, she goes right back to sleep now. I then sneak out of her room (silently, thanks to the elastic described above) with the Nose Frida, wash it, and keep it handy in case I have to use it again that night.

What else would you add to this list?

I hope these tips and tricks save you some precious time and sanity!

What items have you found especially helpful in your baby's nursery? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below!

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