Walking into a baby furniture store can be completely mind blowing - there's so much stuff! Most of us don't have an unlimited amount of money to spend, and if you've never had a baby before, it can be really hard to work out what's really necessary, useful, or basically a waste of time. If you're planning to set up a gift register at the store, you want to make sure the things you put on it are useful and practical. It's can all be incredibly confusing.Let's take a look at some of the main items you're going to find in the baby store, so that you can have some idea of what baby furniture you really want or need before you even get to the store. That way you can focus on picking exactly which one you want, rather than messing about deciding whether you actually want or need it.Baby Bassinet or CradleA bassinet or cradle is used from birth until around 4 months. Basically, if the baby can roll from side to side, it's time for baby to move up into a crib. Make sure the mattress fits snugly against the sides. You may even find that a padded bumper, sheets and quilt are included.
The bassinet probably falls somewhere in the middle between necessary and unnecessary. If you're on a budget, you can certainly go without one. Having said that, I loved my bassinet and wouldn't have been without it. It's so convenient to be able to move baby around. I generally let baby sleep in his own room during the day, and used a baby monitor, then at night wheeled baby's bassinet into my room. Mine could be rocked gently to help baby fall asleep, and because it was up on a stand, it was easy to life baby in and out - I was recovering from a caesarean.So my advice would be - if you can fit a bassinet into your budget, do it. Perhaps it's an item that a few friends or family could buy for your baby shower.Baby Crib or CotSome sort of secure bed for baby is definitely required. Spending a fortune buying one isn't required! You can buy cribs in a massive range of styles - with a huge range of price tags to match. Probably the main thing to look for is to make sure the crib adheres to the required safety standards. Check that the mattress fits snugly against the sides of the crib. Some other helpful features are: an adjustable base height, a couple of release mechanisms (not just one, in case baby learns how to do it!), lockable wheels, and no stickers that can be peeled off easily.Crib MattressMany cribs include their own mattress, and that's probably the best option because it should fit the crib snugly. There are two types of mattress - inner spring/coil or foam. Generally, the innerspring style of mattress will last much longer, but is usually a little more expensive. It's worth buying some sort of waterproof mattress pad, to protect the mattress, but make sure it doesn't have any plastic on the side the baby will be sleeping on.Bedding AccessoriesThis is an area where you can start to spend some serious dollars! It's very easy to get carried away with all the cute and gorgeous designs for baby bedding. Thankfully most cribs and bassinets use standard sizes, which makes things a little easier. One good strategy is to buy the necessary basics yourself, then put all the less necessary accessories on your baby shower gift register. Apart from the basic sheets, I've always liked to have a bumper for the top end of baby's bed - and make sure it ties on in multiple places, so more than one tie has to break before it can fall down. You should never use a pillow for baby, and even quilts or comforters aren't recommended - stick to ordinary blankets. You can also often get added extras, such as diaper stackers. Personally I've never found them of much use, but again, some of the extra might make good baby shower gifts.Changing TableIf you're really strapped for cash, then you can probably make do with using your bed as a changing table, but if you can, this is something I highly recommend. Your back will certainly prefer it! My changing table was actually more like a set of dresser drawers, and nowadays, with the changing table part removed, it's still being used as drawers for my daughter's clothes. So it pays to think ahead and buy a changing table that's practical. Also look for safety features, such as guardrails and perhaps even safety straps. And of course it needs to be well padded! It's handy to have some sort of shelf where you can put items you're using, but personally I just put them down one end of the changing table and changed baby at the other end. Once baby got bigger, I used the top drawer.Rocking ChairThis is definitely on the "maybe" list. A lot of women swear by them, but personally I never had one and it never bothered me in the slightest. So this is going to come down to personal preference and your budget. Having said that, you will need a comfortable chair to sit in, particularly if you're nursing your baby.Portable CribThis is one piece of baby furniture that got used a lot in my household! My son used to come to work with me when he was little, and I used a portable crib for his naps. It was great when I went to visit family and friends, because baby was familiar with it and happy to have a nap when the time came. I also didn't have to worry about baby rolling off someone's bed. It meant that we could go on holidays and know that baby had somewhere safe and familiar to sleep. I used mine so much that I ended up having to buy a second one when my daughter came along! It's important, though, to spend some time making sure the portable crib you choose is well constructed and safe. Make sure it can't collapse easily, particularly if baby tries to climb out. Check there are no small spaces where fingers could get trapped, and a collapsible padded base is very helpful.High ChairA high chair rates very close to the essential end of the scale. The good news is that you don't need one straight away, so you can put off buying it until quite a few months after baby is born. Look for an adjustable tray, restraints of some kind and perhaps even lockable rolling casters. Some models also have a reclining seat, so you can use it even when baby is still bottle feeding.Car SeatThis is definitely essential - apart from ensuring your baby's safety, you're breaking the law in most places if you don't have one. Newborns must travel in the back seat of the car, facing the rear. Once baby is older, usually closer to 1 year old, you can place baby in a forward facing car seat. When your child is older again, anywhere from 2 years upwards depending on their size, you can change over to a booster seat.
The major decision you'll have here is whether to buy separate, specially designed car seats for baby and then your toddler, or whether to buy a convertible model. Personally I always had 2 separate car seats, mostly because all the consumer safety research I'd seen suggested that a specifically designed car seat was more effective in an accident. Thankfully I never tested that theory out! Construction and safety levels are constantly improving, however, so if buying a convertible model is where your budget is, that's okay too.StrollersThis is another baby item where there seems to be too many choices. First you have to decide which style of stroller you want, before even looking at individual brands. At some point you are going to want to transport your baby, so you will need to buy something. You need to start by having a long, hard think about what you expect your movements to be with your baby. Do you plan to take baby jogging with you? Go over rougher terrain regularly? Or will you probably only put baby in a stroller at the shops? Do you want a pram that can later be converted into a stroller?
Once you have an idea what type of things you'll need to use your stroller for, a salesperson at the baby store should be able to guide you in the right direction. You then need to think about what added features you might like - accessory bars, toy and activity bars, headrests, adjustable height, rain shields etc.
Choosing the right stroller is probably going to take you a while!Baby MonitorA baby monitor probably isn't necessary, but I always found it was great for peace of mind. It meant I could be off in another part of the house doing something, but still be monitoring my baby's nap. Prices vary a lot, but it's probably better to choose your monitor based on the features you're going to need, rather than price. If you're going to move around a lot, make sure your monitor is portable. Do you want batteries or mains power? Do you want video monitoring as well?Bouncer SeatAgain, this isn't necessary, but it's very useful! Babies love to watch everything that's going on around them, and it's much easier for them if they're raised slightly from the horizontal. You can buy all sorts of fancy bouncer seats, with everything from toy bars to battery operated bouncing. I only ever had a very basic fabric bouncer, and most of the time the toy bar wasn't even attached. Both my kids loved them, and the good thing was that I always knew where they were! Very handy, particularly when I was cooking dinner. The main thing to remember is that you should NEVER place a bouncer seat on a raised surface, they should always be placed on the floor or ground.