Whether it’s a boy or girl, a new baby brings more than a series of congratulations and diaper changes. That tiny, sweet bundle will pack a great deal of change into your life.
The change starts well before your baby arrives, often in the home. If the thought of buying furniture, rearranging your home or stockpiling baby supplies seems overwhelming, begin with the basics. “Babies need two things: a place to sleep and a place for diaper-changing,” said Blythe Lipman, president of Baby Instructions and author of “Help! My Baby Came Without Instructions.”
Follow these six guidelines to learn what to do—and what to avoid—when getting ready for the birth of a child.
1. Make Room.
Your baby may weigh less than 20 pounds, but his or her gear will take up plenty of space in your home. To make space, you might turn an office or bedroom into a baby room. Since your son or daughter will need a crib and diaper-changing station, “take a look at your nursery or space where the baby will be sleeping,” Lipman said, “and make sure there will be enough room for these two items.”
In addition, consider adding other essentials, such as a dresser and rocking chair. For a full breakdown of what you’ll need for the baby’s room, read through the nursery checklist at BabyZone.com.
2. Consider Storage.
As you prepare your baby’s area in you home, clear out furniture, such as a bed, a desk or a sofa. Boxes, storage bins and shelving units also might need to be moved out of the way.
If you have big items in the space that you want to set aside for your child that’ll need to be moved or put in a self-storage unit, it’s wise to do this before the baby arrives, Lipman said. When your son or daughter comes, “there will be enough changes without having to worry about moving furniture,” she said.
3. Gather the Essentials.
Stock up on items you will use frequently, such as diapers and wipes, said organization expert Barbara Reich, author of “Secrets of an Organized Mom.”
You’ll also want to buy other supplies ahead of time, like baby-friendly laundry detergent, baby shampoo and onesies. When shopping for these items, be careful not to overbuy. “Your baby will grow quickly,” Reich said, “and you won’t use everything if you buy too much.”
4. Get Organized.
“Designate specific areas in the home that will be used for baby items,” Reich said.
Set aside a space in the kitchen to keep bottles, formula and baby food. Consider putting a basket in the living room or den where small toys and books can be stored. In the bathroom, choose a shelf to hold baby products like lotion and shampoo. Make room in closets and on shelves where larger toys can be kept.
5. Arrange the Nursery.
“When you’re getting baby’s room ready, orient the crib—if possible—so that both sides are accessible,” said Shaun Gallagher, author of“Experimenting With Babies: 50 Amazing Science Projects You Can Perform on Your Kid.” For instance, Gallagher and his wife put the crib in the corner of their baby’s room so that it sits at a 45-degree angle. “This makes it easier to put the baby down, no matter which way you’re holding her,” Gallagher said.
Keep the changing table away from the lamp or light you’ll be using during middle-of-the-night wakeups. “If it’s too close, it can be distracting and might make it harder for baby to go back down,” Gallagher said.
6. Focus on Safety.
“When we go into a home for an inspection, we look for things like fire extinguishers and carbon monoxide detectors,” said Tomasa Dueñas, a home-study worker at the nonprofit Independent Adoption Center.
If you have beautiful—but breakable—pieces of furniture, such as a glass-top coffee table, you might move those items into storage as you baby-proof your home.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers a detailed listof pointers for making your home a safe, baby-ready environment.