The essentials of a good nursery

There are so many nursery equipment options these days, so it's hard to know what we actually need and what are the ‘nice to haves'.

With nearly 30 years' experience in baby care, Dorothy Waide has cast her expert eye over the choices and listed some important places to start.

The essentials:

Out and About

The car seat

You can't leave hospital without one, so unless you have a home birth this is on the top of the list. In New Zealand we're lucky that car seats can be hired from places like Plunket and they also have people who are qualified to install them. If you're borrowing one, make sure you know the history. Has it been in a car that was involved in an accident? What is the expiry date? (yes, they do have an expiry date).

In the nursery

The cot or bassinet

Your baby needs somewhere to sleep and this could either be a bassinet or cot. Some families find that their budget will only allow a cot and that's okay. As long as the baby is swaddled they can feel secure in a cot and many families I have worked for don't use bassinets.

If you are on a budget, look for a well-known brand of cot - it doesn't have to be the most expensive. In fact the important thing is to ensure it meets the correct safety requirements. And look at how adjustable it is - does the side go up and down and does the base have different levels?

The mattress

Make sure you invest in a good quality, well-fitting mattress as it is going to have to last for a minimum of two years. It is important when buying the mattress that it is brand new and fits correctly into your cot.

Ideally the cot should never go on the outside wall as in winter it will be damp and cold. It's also a good idea to place the cot well away from curtains and furniture so they don't get tugged down. I recommend a cotton quilted mattress protector or a basic cotton blanket over the mattress.


I also suggest having four fitted sheets, because I work on the principle of having one on the cot, one in the cupboard, one in the wash and one drying on the line. As they are 100% cotton, I find they shrink if you put them in the dryer. It's better to air dry where possible.


I only use blankets while the baby is swaddled, and I suggest a minimum of two - one merino and the other cotton.


Look for air vent mesh-wrap style bumpers, as the fine mesh allows good ventilation and protects little arms and legs from going between the slats.

The changing area

The reason I call it a changing area is some nurseries don't have room for a change table - and a table is an added expense that some families don't have the budget for.

My recommendation is a set of drawers that is the right height for changing and this will double as storage as well as a changing area. My favourite choice is a set of drawers with a top drawer that divides into three, for bottom products, undershirts, and head products. The remaining drawers are full width. You can then either opt for a removable changing tabletop or a standard changing mat on the tabletop. Then once the baby grows, you still have a useful piece of furniture.

The other alternative is to set up a changing area on the floor or on a bed - I tend to have a basket or bag with all the products in it so that you can put it away or move around the house. This option is great as long as you don't have any back problems and are able to get up and down from the floor.

The nappy bin

This will depend on your budget, but I prefer a regular pedal bin with a lid. There are various other types of bins that are designed for the nursery, but if you choose to a designer nursery bin, remember the cylinders inside the bin can be quite costly.


Make sure you have good thick curtains on your windows. Some other options for blacking out windows are a cassette system with side guides, or roller blackout blinds. However, the second option lets a lot of light in around the edges so it's good to use these with good thick curtains over the top.

You could also buy blackout material so you can make your own blackout blinds with Velcro to fix the material over the windows. It won't be as easy as rolling up a blind, but these can be clipped up during the day. Avoid curtains with tassels because your baby will pull on them when he or she grows older.

Non-essentials - but practical

A chair

You will spend a lot of time holding and feeding your baby, so ensure that somewhere in the house you have a good comfy chair. Trial a few before you buy - you'll need a chair with good arm and back support and your feet need to be able to touch the floor. I always suggest a non-moving chair as one of my important principles is not to do anything with your baby in your arms that you can't replicate in a cot.

A side table

I find having a little table next to the chair is a handy place to put your drink, snacks, bibs and burp clothes within easy reach.

Heating and cooling

A temperature controlled heater is ideal for winter, and a fan is a useful way to help keep a nursery cool on hot summer days.

A laundry basket/bin

Ideally this will be next to the changing table for easy access to put dirty clothes in.


Whether you choose to buy a monitor will depend on the size of your house and how concerned you are with your baby being in another room.

I prefer three in one monitors that note movement and sound, and have a camera.

A room thermometer

There are various brands available.

The non-essentials

Decorating walls

Neutral colours work well, and can be brightened with a colourful wall frieze. This means that you can change the look of the room inexpensively as your child grows, or if you decide to sell your house and move on.


You should have good lighting in your baby's room. A light with a dimmer switch is an advantage as it provides bright light for changing and a softer option for night feeds.


A mirror in a nursery is best placed on the wall behind the change table. This allows your baby to look in the mirror while they're being changed.


I recommend putting these above the change table and not over the cot. Cots are for sleeping, not stimulation. Once a baby can sit up, mobiles need to be removed for safety reasons and, if a baby is used to going off to sleep with one, it can cause sleep issues. Instead, when used over the change table, mobiles act as a welcome distraction for your baby, resulting in an easier nappy changing experience for you both.

White noise

Remember your baby is looking for shushing noises, however there are some good products on the market such as the Baby Shusher.

The baby bath

There are various styles and shapes around - this is a non-essential piece of equipment as all homes have hand basins, kitchen sinks, laundry tubs and baths and showers. And some parents find it easier to shower their babies instead of giving them a bath.

The bouncy chair

There are lots of choices here too and the kind you might choose will depend on your budget.

Front carrier/pack

If you want to purchase a front carrier or pack, Slingbabies is a useful information resource that tells you about the different types and how to wear them.


These are such a personal choice and are very expensive. Do your research and work out what suits you best. For me the key points are the overall weight of the buggy, the ability to lie the baby down, and finding one that's starts from newborn upwards. Other important considerations are how easy it is to move within shopping areas or in the places I'm going to take it most. How easy is it to fold and unfold? Is this something I can do with one hand?

The nappy bag

This isn't essential because a good backpack or a large handbag can work just as well.

Have you checked out the ecostore baby range to add to your baby's essential supplies?



Car seat

Cot or bassinet


Bed linen and bumper for cot or bassinet

Changing area

Nappy bin




Side table


Laundry basket/bin


Room thermometer




Bouncy chair

Baby bath

Nappy bag

Front pack/carrier


Dorothy Waide is a Karitane nurse and a leading sleep consultant who has almost 30 years' baby nursing and sleep-settling experience in homes in New Zealand and abroad. Her consultancy BabyHelp is dedicated to teaching new mums everyday parenting skills and ‘mothercraft' - find it on Facebook here. She has also released the book You Simply Can't Spoil a Newborn - a guide to nurturing your baby in their first three months.

For more baby care advice and resources, visit the ecostore Mother and Baby website.