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 cot can fit into a corner of your room if you haven’t the time or space to create a new room. In fact, you can reduce the risk of sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI) by sleeping your baby in a cot in the same room as you for the first 6-12 months.
You might need a fan or a heater to keep the room at a comfortable temperature. The safest place for a plug-in floor fan is on the opposite side of the room, away from your baby. If using a heater, make sure you can keep your door slightly open, so the room doesn’t overheat.
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 your baby 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 your 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.
Where to feed baby
You can feed your baby anywhere that you can relax and hold your baby comfortably. Pillows can give you extra support if you need it. A night light might be handy for night feeds.
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.
Essential baby equipment
The things your baby needs will change all the time, so the best approach might be to buy, borrow or hire things as you need them.
Here’s some essential baby equipment you’ll need to start with.
- If you’re driving home from hospital, you’ll need an approved rear-facing child car seat that meets Australian/New Zealand Standard AS/NZS 1754. It’s a good idea to have the restraint professionally fitted before your baby’s arrival.
- For your baby’s sleep safety, you need an Australian Standards-approved cot, a firm, well-fitting mattress and sheets. The standard for cots is AS/NZS 2172. Some parents use a bassinette or crib for their baby in the first few months, but going straight to 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.
Things for mum
- You need extra-long and extra-thick maternity or sanitary pads. Take plenty 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 3-4 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.
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 decide based on what you think you’ll use, rather than on what advertisers or other people tell you.
Extra baby equipment
Here are some other items that might be helpful:
- a baby bath and some soft towels for wrapping and drying your baby after each bath
- 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 harm.
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 many places, including:
- websites like eBay, Gumtree or Facebook Marketplace
- 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. It's a good idea to talk to other parents about what they’ve found useful.
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).
Many public libraries lend toys as well as books, but borrowed toys should still comply with Australian Standards.
Safety and second-hand baby equipment
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission recommends that you buy, borrow or accept only second-hand products that have mandatory labels and safety features. If you use products with the Australian Standards label, you help to protect your baby from serious injury and possibly death.
When you’re choosing a cot, mattress, child car seat or booster seat, always look for an item with a good safety history. If an item has been in an accident or is damaged or you’re not sure about its safety history, it’s best not to accept or buy it. It’s also a good idea to check the item physically before you buy it. It can be difficult to judge the condition of a second-hand product from a photo on a website.