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Baby Furniture: What's Essential?

Decking out a nursery can get pricey, but it doesn’t have to be. This guide tells you what baby furniture is indispensable, and how -- and when -- to shop for discounts.
By Constance Matthiessen
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Roy Benaroch, MD

You're probably looking forward to buying furniture for your baby's nursery, but you may also find the prospect overwhelming. You'll quickly find out that whether you shop at the mall or in cyberspace, there is a dizzying -- and often high-priced -- array of choices in baby nursery decor.

Which furniture items should you have on hand when your baby is born, and which can wait? Is the designer baby crib with all the amenities better for your baby than the run-of-the-mill version? Should you borrow or buy?

WebMD decided to check in with the experts -- including several new moms -- for their best tips and advice on setting up a nursery for baby.

Top Baby Furniture Essential: The Crib

Unless you're planning to co-sleep with your child, you'll probably need a crib at some point, though not necessarily right away.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says that one of the safest places for your baby to sleep to prevent SIDS is in their parents' bedroom. Having your baby nearby also makes night-feeding easier. Of course, you can always move a crib into your bedroom if you have the space, but many parents prefer to put their newborn to sleep in a smaller, more womb-like space -- such as a bassinet, Moses basket, or co-sleeper (a bassinet that attaches to the side of an adult bed) -- for their first few months of life. 

Many parents put off buying a crib until their baby is a few months old, but Ali Wing, who founded the baby store Giggle and wrote the Giggle Guide to Baby Gear, recommends that new parents make the crib their first nursery purchase, even if they won't be using it for a while.

"There are fewer choices in baby cribs than there are in other furniture items," she explains.  "Once you have crib, it will affect how you approach your other purchases." 

"Don't get me wrong:  We love bassinets," she says. "They're beautiful, they're really fun, but it's important for parents -- particularly those on a limited budget -- to differentiate between what they need to have and what's fun to have."

Can Portable Baby Cribs Do Double Duty?

San Francisco parent Lauren Cony says her son Dylan, now 1 year old, slept in his Pack 'n' Play -- a combination portable crib/playpen that can include a bassinet attachment -- until he was 6 months old. "We set it up right next to the bed, and it worked great," Cony says. "He sleeps in a crib in the nursery now, but we still use the Pack 'n' Play without the bassinet attachment when we travel."

Wing recommends that parents buy nursery products that last. All the baby cribs that Giggle carries convert to toddler or day beds, for example. She also urges people to focus less on brand names or what their friends have, and more on what will work for their particular family. 

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