Babies' needs are crucial but simple: a safe nest to sleep in, a safe place to have diapers changed, and a comfortable spot for you to sit while feeding, cuddling, and rocking him or her. In fact, a comfy rocking or gliding chair is as important as a bed and changing table. Scientific research has shown that babies actually need a lot of cuddling in order to thrive, physically as well as mentally. If you are a new parent, you'll probably be tired and stressed, so make it as easy as possible to spend cheek-to-cheek time with your baby. You'll both be healthier!
Babies sleep most of the time, so a comfortable bed is a must. A bassinet or cradle may be charming, but it's only safe for a few months before babies start moving and rolling. If you do use a bassinet, be sure it's on a sturdy base that won't move. If you're using a cradle, make sure the cradle won't rock more than a few inches either way so that baby and all don't fall. A more practical solution may be a well-made crib; you can swaddle a young infant to give him or her the comforting sense of being in a smaller enclosure. (Don't fill the bed with stuffed animals and pillows, though. Except at playtime, confine the soft stuff to securely tied bumper pads and relatively thin blankets that won't pose a smothering hazard. Babies can often get themselves into situations they can't get out of!)
A changing table will get a lot of use, so be sure to get a good one. You can make a changing table out of a waist-high chest of drawers, but be sure you add a top with a low guardrail as well as a waterproof pad. A chest may be more versatile later, but it generally is not as safe and, therefore, not recommended. In addition, diapers and clothes will be easier to reach if you opt for a changing table with open shelves below. Choose a unit with a safety strap to go across baby's middle, or make sure you can get at things you need with one hand while keeping the other on your little wiggly worm at all times.
To aid with midnight feedings and diaper changing, use an overhead light on a dimmer that you can switch on from the door for your safety's sake. Choose a room-darkening shade to facilitate daytime naps.
When it's time to decorate walls, remember that, until they're between six and nine months old, babies can't see subtle colors and details. Black-and-white and other strongly contrasting colors work better as do simple patterns. A proven favorite is two dots and a curve within a circle that suggests human eyes and smiling mouth.
If you don't care for vivid color schemes, choose a pastel you'd like to use longer term and pair it with a dark or bright accent hue you can change when your child gets a bit older. Another option is simply to stick with more restful pastel hues throughout the room and provide visual stimulation with age-appropriate toys.
Although newborn babies' sight may be lacking, their hearing and sense of touch are almost fully developed at birth. Indulge them with safe toys in a variety of textures and soft melodic sounds. Crib toys and mobiles that move or play music will appeal to most babies as well as add attractive color and pattern to the room. Just make sure that any hanging toys your baby can reach are safe and that they do not have small detachable parts.
At toddler age, your child's reach will have increased a great deal. The next page explains decorating ideas that keep your toddler safe.