Newborn nursery checklist -- essential gear and furniture

by Julie Snyder NurseryIt's almost become a rite of passage -- scrambling to finish the baby's room before the first contraction kicks in. The baby usually wins.

Decorating and outfitting the nursery doesn't have to be an exercise in endurance or an expensive extravagance. It can be a fun, early-parenthood task. You can even create a baby registry to get what you need.

Before you head out to shop, decide what your baby needs. This means separating the frills from the necessities. While the core list varies subtly from family to family, your baby really needs just four basic pieces of equipment:

✓ A car seat

✓ A baby carrier

✓ A stroller

✓ A safe place to sleep

Unless your baby co-sleeps, a crib, bassinet or cradle will be part of your nursery. You'll probably want to include other items, like a place to store clean clothing, a hamper and diaper pail for soiled things.

Add a bit of color to the walls and softness to the floor, a shelf for books and toys, and your personalized touch. You'll have a friendly room, perfect for your child.

Your newborn nursery checklist

Shopping for your baby can be overwhelming. There's so much to choose from. Safety definitely takes a front and center place as you're planning the nursery. Your budget probably has the next seat.

To help you stay on track, we've made a basic "must-have" list, tapping into our experienced moms. Just tick off the items you prefer. You'll have everything you need to see you through those first weeks and beyond.

For sleeping

❑ Crib, bassinet or co-sleeper

❑ Crib mattress and pad

❑ Bedding -- at least 3 fitted bottom sheets (one for now, one for in the laundry and one for "emergencies")

❑ Mobile

❑ Cool mist humidifier

Maria says, "I hung a shoe bag in the closet to keep sheets and baby towels out of view but right in reach."

For storage

❑ Dresser or armoire

❑ Closet organizer

Dawn says, "I chose a small chest of drawers to keep my baby's clothing and accessories in one place. Since it's big enough to store toddler and preschooler clothes, she can use it for years to come."

For changing

❑ Changing table or mat

❑ Shelves or space for diapering essentials

❑ Diaper stacker

❑ Diaper pail

❑ Clothes hamper

"I found it easy to change her in the crib when she was tiny and then the floor later on. I didn't worry about her falling off the changing table," Deb says.

Safety features

❑ Outlet covers

❑ Cord winders

❑ Baby monitor

Other nursery furnishing

❑ Rocker or glider

❑ Fun, colorful throw rug

❑ Lamp or nightlight

❑ Bright artwork

❑ Washable curtains

❑ Shelves and bins for books and toys

❑ Toys

Kara says, "Babies don't need a lot of toys right away, so I went with a colorful, quiet mobile and some good-quality toys that are going to last. Our favorites are the cloth books and the wooden blocks."

What's in or will be in your baby's nursery? Why not register for your own FREE universal baby registry right now?

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.