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The ultimate nursery checklist of everything you need (and nothing you don’t)

The nursery must-haves baby can't do without

One of the most exciting parts of getting ready for a new baby is planning what your little one’s nursery will look like. What color will it be? Will it have a certain theme? Preparing for the arrival of your baby is so much fun, but what are the essentials you need to have in the nursery? Before heading out or online to outfit your baby’s nursery, it’s important to have a nursery checklist. Doing so will help ensure you have everything you need for when baby comes home.

Our nursery checklist will spell out exactly what’s necessary to have before baby arrives. Some common nursery items aren’t necessarily must-haves and are OK to skip because you won’t need them until baby is a bit older. So, let’s start getting your nursery ready for your little bundle of joy.

Nursery with Winnie the Pooh decorations
Disney Store/Amazon

Nursery essentials

With so many adorable baby items available online or in baby stores, it’s easy to get carried away and distracted from the essentials you need to have. A nursery checklist helps to keep parents-to-be focused when getting prepared for baby’s arrival. These are the essentials that are important to have in your nursery.

Crib or bassinet

Your baby needs a safe, flat firm sleeping space. A crib or a bassinet both fit the bill. Do not put any blankets, pillows, stuffed animals, crib bumpers, or decorations in the crib with your baby. Only use a fitted sheet in your baby’s crib. However, under the crib is another story. Underneath is a great spot for storage as well as a couple of cute, cuddly items.

Crib mattress

Remember, you’ll also need to buy a crib mattress to go with the crib. Don’t register for just the crib and then forget you need the mattress, too. Waterproof mattress protectors are also good to have when those diapers leak. Have at least two on hand so you can change them out when needed.

Crib sheets

When it comes to sheets, it’s better to have too many than not enough. Between spit-up and diaper leaks, you may need to change the sheets more than once a night. It’s best to have at least three fitted sheets.

Changing table and diaper items

If you have space for a changing table, try to find one that can do double duty as a dresser later on. Don’t worry if you don’t have the space for a changing table. You can easily place a changing pad on top of a dresser or other storage. Outfit your changing area with a caddy to keep diapers, wipes, and diaper cream close. If you don’t have space for a diaper caddy, you can use a drawer in a pinch. Two changing pads are a huge help because diaper changes will get messy.

Rocking chair or glider

Having a comfy chair to rock in is necessary for feedings (either breastfeeding or bottle feeding) and for rocking baby to sleep, especially in the middle of the night. The matching footstool isn’t essential, though. A nursing pillow (helpful for formula feeding, too) is very good to have on hand too.


When you’re changing your baby’s outfit on the changing table, you’ll want to be able to drop the dirty clothes right into a hamper. You’ll want one that doesn’t take up too much floor space. A tall narrow hamper takes up less space then a wide, short one. Try and pick one that’s easy to carry to the washer. A hamper with a removable bag is a great pick.

Diaper pail

Next to the changing station, you’ll need somewhere to dispose of the dirty diapers. Ideally, a trashcan that is covered and sealed, like a Diaper Genie, to keep the smells contained is the best choice.

Baby monitor

Unless you are sleeping right next door or in the room and feel confident, you’ll be awakened by your baby’s cries, so get a baby monitor so you can be alerted when it’s time to go into the nursery for whatever your baby needs. A video monitor isn’t essential, but it is definitely very helpful.

Clothing storage

You’ll need either a dresser, closet, or both for your baby’s clothes. If space is limited, you can always choose a changing table that doubles as a dresser. Consider organizing your baby clothes in bins by size to keep track of your baby’s wardrobe.

A baby and a crib

What’s nice to have in a nursery

Once you have the nursery essentials, of course there are baby items you’d like to have in the nursery. These items you can purchase yourself or put on your baby shower registry.


You may not need this, and plenty of babies do fine without one. If you live in a dryer climate, or if your baby struggles with congestion, you may find a humidifier helpful addition to the nursery.

Babyproofing items

Of course, these are essential months down the line, but for now, you don’t need to worry about any latches or doorknob covers because baby isn’t mobile. If you are struggling to think of things to add to your baby registry, babyproofing items are ideal since they’re must-haves you’ll need within baby’s first year.

Extra diapers

Register for some size one, two, and three diapers to get a head start. They’ll definitely get used, and you never know how big your baby will be when they’re born. Diapers are a nursery essential you always seem to run out of at the most inopportune times.

Blackout curtains

Any window dressings will do in a nursery, but blackout curtains will help to make sure your baby isn’t woken up by the sun during nap times and in the early morning hours in the summer.


Your baby will do just fine without a mobile, though they are really nice to help put them to sleep. This is another item to place on the baby shower registry.

Decor items

Decorative baby items like crib skirts, canopies, or bright blankets and pillows are not necessary, but they certainly do dress up the nursery and give it a cozy, warm feel. Let family and friends know your color scheme or theme. Decor items are earmarked for a baby shower registry.

Baby in swing

What you don’t need

You really don’t have to overstock the nursery for your little one. As long as you have the essentials, baby has everything he or she needs to get settled in. If you’re limited on space and on a budget, try to avoid impulse buys for baby items that aren’t a necessity.

Wipe warmer

This is a non-essential item that will just get your baby used to warm wipes and make diaper changes on the go with cold ones tougher.

Baby swing

Babies should only sleep flat on their backs on a surface like a crib. While you can use a swing to get them to fall asleep, you’ll need to transfer them out of it once they are asleep. A baby swing is an item you can skip since it’s used for such a short number of weeks and takes up a lot of space.

Crib bumpers

These are not safe, so skip any bumpers decorating the inside of a crib.

Limited space and budget all come to mind when planning a nursery for your little one. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and off track when confronted with all the adorable and inviting items available online and in-person when setting up a nursery. Ultimately, what baby actually needs is a safe sleeping space and diapers of course. Using this nursery checklist will help you stay focused on purchasing the items you need for when the baby comes home from the hospital. The rest can come later or as gifts from family and friends.

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Sarah Prager
Sarah is a writer and mom who lives in Massachusetts. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, National…
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