Baby Furniture Buying Guide

So you’re expecting? Congratulations! Besides getting your life ready for your new addition, you’ve got to get your world ready, too! From cribs to car seats and everything in between we’ve got you covered.

Let’s start with Furniture. As with many things in life, there are the essential pieces, and the “nice-to-have” pieces. Based on your budget and the size and layout of your home, you may want to invest in several pieces of furniture to meet your needs and the needs of your growing little one. Here are the basics!

The crib is usually the first piece of furniture that parents purchase, and the rest of the nursery is chosen to complement it. Many furniture manufacturers market nursery sets that provide a nice coordinated look. Basically, there are two different styles of cribs: single or convertible. A single crib functions only as a crib, and once your child outgrows it, you will need to purchase a bed. A convertible crib, sometimes called a 3-in-1 or lifetime crib, can transform from a crib into a daybed/toddler bed and even a full size bed for long-term use. Regardless of the crib style, be sure that it includes a four-position mattress spring so that the mattress can be lowered to different positions as your baby grows.-- the highest setting is for when the baby is newborn and gradually as the baby grows you lower the mattress height to prevent the baby from climbing or falling out. Many styles have mechanisms that allow you to lower or raise the side with one hand, while cradling your baby with the other. Cribs with one drop-side or a ‘static’ drop-side tend to be sturdier than cribs with two drop-sides. The crib is one place your baby will be spending a lot of time unattended. There are many safety issues to take into consideration so that you baby can rest comfortably and safely in a crib. In a nutshell, all new cribs in the United States must meet U. S. Consumer Products Safety Standards. Also, The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association, Inc. (JPMA) has developed a certification system to identify which products have been manufactured with safety in mind. Look for the JPMA seal while you're shopping for a crib. It's an easy way to make sure the crib you choose meets the highest standards for safety. And finally, be cautious when using an antique or second-hand crib as older cribs. While they may be beautiful or sentimental, they were not subject to the strict safety standards we have today. In particular, the slats on the side of these cribs are often too far apart which may allow a baby to stick its head through the slats which is a strangulation hazard.

Once you’ve settled on a crib, additional nursery furniture to consider is a dresser or wardrobe to store baby's clothing and accessories and a changing table to keep all those diapering necessities close at hand. Often, these come as one piece with a changing area on top and drawers underneath. These pieces of furniture are often called combo towers. If manufactured in recent years, these pieces can also often convert into a dresser and bedside table or even a bookshelf as your baby grows.

You may also wish to have a specially designed changing table for your living area, particularly if you have more than one floor in your home. Initially, it may not appear to be an essential purchase, as a simple changing mat may serve you just fine, but it is very nice to have a specific area for storing diapers and diaper products and for being able to stand and change your baby. The changing table often includes a storage area for diapers, wipes and creams, while those that combine a chest of drawers offer even better storage facilities. Look for changing tables with guard rails for extra security. You'll probably find that open shelves running under the length of the top will be the most convenient arrangement.

Regardless of the type of changing table you choose, you’ll also need a changing pad if it’s not included. The changing pad is usually made of vinyl or cloth. It can be contoured or straight. A contoured pad (usually concave is shape) can help keep a wiggly little one in the center of the pad. Once your baby can roll over, you will also want to get a safety belt to keep him or her from toppling to the floor. If you choose a vinyl pad you may want to consider a changing pad cover for your baby’s comfort.

Also if your home has multiple floors you may you may want to consider a bassinette, Moses basket, or a portable folding crib. A Moses basket is a woven basket with handles while the bassinet is typically a plastic woven basket on a stand. These are not an essential buy, but they certainly can make life easier in the first few months. You can use a crib from day one but both a Moses basket and bassinet are portable between rooms and both items fit easily into your own bedroom if this is where you want your baby to sleep during the early days. These are best for babies up to 3-4 months or until your baby is moving around on its own. Portable folding cribs are perfect for traveling - some also double as a playpen. Some even have a bassinet feature that creates a hanging platform for use when your baby first arrives. Before traveling with the portable crib it's a good idea to get your baby used to sleeping in the crib for a few nights at home. Most portable cribs have removable, washable covers and fold away into a travel bag. As with all your nursery furniture, there are many styles to choose from.

Rocking chairs have long been a fixture in the nursery because babies and parents alike find the gentle back-and-forth motion soothing and sleep inducing. A glider is simply an updated rocking chair that most parents find much more comfortable – if you've never sat in one, once you do, you’ll love it! Often coming with a matching, gliding ottoman, the smooth and quiet gliding motion requires almost no effort. Also, gliders tend to be safer than rockers because they sit flat on the floor instead of on rounded rockers that can pinch your child's toes, or yours. Regardless of which style you choose, a rocking chair or glider can be invaluable for rocking your baby to sleep. One word of caution when using a glider or rocker-- as tempting as it may be, try not to fall asleep while holding your baby! You could easily drop your baby while sleeping.

Keeping the nursery or the playroom clutter-free is simple with a toy box. Before you know it you will have toys both soft and hard that you can stow in here. Look for toy boxes with a ‘safety latch’ that keeps the lid from shutting on little fingers. Some toy boxes also serve as a bench seat and are a great place for pretend play and for sitting on while putting on shoes. In lieu of a toy “box” you may want to consider a series of bins and a bin storage unit. For those super-organized parents out there, these are great for keeping different types toy separated. Bins and bin storage units also come in a variety of configurations and the bins are available in a fairly large variety of styles and patterns. Mix and match!

Still not sure what is and is not essential for your baby's nursery? There are many great books on the market that help you prioritize the essential from the non-essential. One example is, “The Girlfriend's Guide to Babygear". You’re also sure to get lots of advice from friends, family, magazines, etc. Take advantage of this! Ask veteran parents about their experiences with different pieces of furniture to help determine what may be right for you!