How to Set Up a Functional Nursery


Designing a nursery is one of the highlights of having a baby, especially as a first-time parent. But too many parents hyper-focus on decorations, neglecting functionality. Learn the basics of setting up a functional nursery that makes your day-to-day life with baby smooth and efficient.

Setting Up a Functional Nursery
Setting Up a Functional Nursery
Setting Up a Functional Nursery

Step 1: Everything in it's Place

Where furniture and items are placed in your nursery determines how functional your nursery will be.  Diapers, wipes, spare baby clothes, a laundry basket, and swaddling blankets should all be within arm’s reach of the changing table. This set up ensures you will never have to leave baby unattended during a diaper change—a definite no-no.   An organized changing station is invaluable.


Cribs are best placed away from windows and doors. This keeps drafts, distractions, and light to a minimum and is also safest. Make sure there is nothing hanging nearby that baby can grab and pull—when they get older, it can present a choking hazard or danger of falling on them.


Step 2: Know What You Need

It may be tempting to cram all of your baby shower goodies into the nursery, consolidating baby gear to one location, but it isn’t functional.  You probably don’t need bouncy chairs, toys, or strollers in the nursery.  Even swings, playmats, and bath tubs can be kept elsewhere.

Why keep items to a minimum?
One answer: sleep.  Getting a baby to sleep can be challenging, so the last thing you need is something to stimulate your baby or things for you to trip over while pacing the floor at 2 a.m.  Decide what you need for the baby in that specific space based on what you’ll use the space to accomplish; that is, if the nursery is for sleeping, keep only what you need for sleeping in there.

What you do need in your nursery is a crib, a rocking chair, a changing table, and a diaper pail.


Step 3: Essentials for Sleep

The cornerstone of a functional nursery is in how well your baby is able to sleep there.

For example, babies are sensitive to temperature. So a fan for warmer weather and blankets for colder weather are essential.  If your baby is young and not yet able to roll over, sticking to swaddling blankets and sleep sacks is safest.

A white noise machine helps babies and parents alike achieve a restful night’s sleep.  Invest in one with a remote control or keep it close to the crib for easy adjustment.  White noise blocks out sound that may wake your baby, and it also helps your baby sleep for longer periods at a time.

Blackout curtains on your nursery windows are extremely functional.  High-quality ones will block out a good amount of sunlight during naps and all light at night.  This is especially helpful if you live near a street light or busy road and makes time changes easier as well.  Dark rooms encourage longer sleep, a must for new baby and parents.

And while you want the room dark for baby to sleep, you don’t want to trip in the night.  A nightlight is another functional item for your nursery.  Aim for soft yellow, green, or blue light that isn’t too bright.

Rocking chairs are useful for all nurseries, whether your baby likes rocking or not.  You can use it for feeding or simply as a chair when needed.  But most babies do enjoy rocking to sleep.

Open floor space also makes for a functional nursery.  A clear floor gives baby another place to learn how to crawl and it will minimize mishaps in the middle of the night.  Some babies prefer floor pacing to rocking, leaving you plenty of space to walk them to sleep.


Step 4: Consider the "Extras"

These are all of the elements for a functional nursery.  Your baby is likely to have their own preferences for specific items, like pacifiers or a swing.  If that’s the case, add it to the nursery.  If your baby can’t sleep without a pacifier, having a small basket of clean ones near the crib adds another layer of functionality.

For breastfeeding moms, an organized feeding station in the nursery is also helpful.  A chair (rocking chair works well), breastfeeding pillow, small towels or burp cloths, a place to set water or magazines, and a foot stool are ideal.

Now that your nursery is functional, you’re ready to decorate.  That’s where the real fun begins!


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