Baby checklist: preparing your home

Getting your home ready can be a good way to help you, your partner and your other children prepare for your new baby’s arrival.

Where baby sleeps
A baby can fit into a corner of your room if you haven’t the time or space to create a new room. In fact, research into sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI) suggests the safest place for your baby is in a cot in the same room as you for the first 6-12 months.

Where to change nappies
Many parents buy change tables, but at home it’s safer to change your baby on a mat on the floor, so he can’t fall.

You can also change your baby on a bed. And some parents do find it’s easier on their backs to change baby on a change table. If you’re changing baby on a bed or change table, keep your hands on your baby at all times so that baby can’t roll off.

Where to bath baby
You don’t need to do anything special to get a bathing area ready for your baby. In fact, you can bath a newborn in the kitchen sink or laundry tub, so long as it’s safe and clean.

Most of the things you need to do to make your home safe for your newborn are about knowing what to expect, rather than making major changes.

Baby checklist: baby equipment

The things your baby needs will change all the time, so the best approach might be to buy or borrow things as you need them.

Here’s some essential baby equipment you’ll need to start with:

General equipment

  • If you’re driving home from hospital, you’ll need an approved rear-facing child restraint that meets Australian/New Zealand Standard AS/NZS 1754. It’s a good idea to have the restraint professionally fitted ahead of your baby’s arrival.
  • For your baby’s sleep safety, you need an Australian Standards-approved cot and a firm, well-fitting mattress, and sheets. The standard for cots is AS/NZS 2172:2003. Some parents use a bassinette or crib for their baby in the first few months, but going straight to using a full-size cot is a safe and cost-effective option.
  • Nappies: even if you plan to use reusable nappies, it’s a good idea to have a few disposables on hand just in case.
  • If you’re bottle-feeding, you’ll need bottles, teats and bottle-washing items. If you’re breastfeeding, you might want to think about a breast pump if you plan to express milk or return to work soon.

Things for mum

  • Mum needs extra-long and extra-thick – or maternity – sanitary pads. Take lots to the hospital and have more ready for when you get home.
  • If you’re breastfeeding, you’ll need nursing bras and breast pads.

Things for baby

  • For dressing your newborn, it’s good to have three or four baby jumpsuits and a selection of singlets or vests for underneath. You might also need cardigans or jumpers, depending on the time of year and where you live.
  • A few baby wraps: muslin wraps are lighter and better for summer.

If you’re looking for advice about baby equipment, you could talk to the educator at your birth classes.

After you have these essentials, you might decide to do without or hold off on buying a lot of extras. Some equipment can be quite expensive, so it makes sense to base your decisions on what you think you’ll use, rather than on what advertisers or other people tell you.

Other baby equipment

Here are some other items you might find helpful:

  • a baby bath and some soft towels for wrapping and drying your baby after each bath
  • a musical mobile to help your baby settle and give him something colourful to look at
  • a nappy bin with lid
  • individual disposable nappy bags (or old plastic bags) – handy for when you’re out with your baby.

Talcum powder isn’t recommended because it has fine particles that your baby might breathe in. It can also get into your baby’s genitals and cause damage to internal structures.

Researchers advise against buying a ‘baby walker’. There are dangers associated with baby walkers, and children left unattended have been hurt.

Saving money on baby equipment

You can save money by buying or accepting second-hand or pre-loved toys, clothes and some furniture like dressers.

You can find these items in lots of places, including:

  • websites like eBay or Gumtree
  • trading papers
  • parents’ groups
  • local community advertisements and garage sales
  • local markets
  • second-hand shops.

Other ways to save include buying only what you really need. Some new baby products are based on gimmicks. Talking to other parents about what they’ve found useful can be a good guide.

You can look out for sales and special offers on items like nappies and wipes, and stock up when they’re cheap (taking care to check use-by dates).

Safety and second-hand furniture
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission recommends that you avoid buying, borrowing or accepting second-hand products that don’t have an Australian Standards label and safety features. Using products without the Australian Standards label increases your baby’s risk of serious injury and possibly death.

This is particularly important when choosing cots, mattresses, child restraints and booster seats. If you’re not sure about the safety history of a second-hand item, it’s best that you don’t accept or buy it.

Instead, look for one that comes with a good safety history.

Many public libraries lend toys as well as books, but borrowed toys should still comply with Australian Standards.