When to Start Working on the Baby Nursery (10 Steps & Timeline)

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Preparing the nursery for the arrival of your new baby is such a fun task, but it can also be pretty stressful.

You’ll need to come up with a list of things to buy for the nursery, as well as tasks that you need to do, like painting and assembling furniture.

All in all, from planning to final touches, it can take a long time to get everything done.

So, when is the best time to start working on, designing, and decorating your baby’s nursery? And when should the nursery be ready?

Most parents choose to start setting up and decorating the nursery during the second trimester — that should give you time to pick out and order furniture, repair the room, paint, and assemble/decorate.

All in all it takes at least a few weeks to fully decorate a nursery for most people.

However, if you’re a little late getting started, don’t worry! The nursery doesn’t need to be ready before baby comes home. The baby will likely spend the first few months sleeping in your bedroom anyway — and they’ll nap like crazy their first few weeks home from the hospital, giving you the time you need to finish their room up.

Read on for a checklist of tasks to prepare your baby’s nursery, as well as an idea of how long the whole thing might take, to help you stay on track.

How to design and prepare a baby nursery (basic checklist)

It’s common to feel overwhelmed by how much there is to do when you’re preparing your baby’s nursery.

To ease the stress, here’s a basic checklist of tasks in the best order to complete them.

By completing this list in order, you can be sure that you’re doing things in an efficient manner.

Because trust me, you really don’t want to paint the walls, buy the furniture and then start checking out Pinterest for inspiration.

Here’s a basic step-by-step list to get you started:

1. Make a list of furniture

The first step when planning a nursery is to make a list of the furniture that you need.

Think about what you own already, what you may be able to acquire from friends and relatives, and what you’ll need to buy.

There are some essentials that (almost) every nursery needs:

  • Crib
  • Changing table
  • Wardrobe or chest of drawers
  • Nursing chair, rocker, or glider
  • Storage

There are also some non-essential things that you may wish to include:

If you’re short on space, look out for clever storage solutions like boxes under the crib or a changing table that doubles as a dresser.

You could even look into using a mini crib instead of a regular crib, or skipping the chair in favor of just using a daybed that doubles as a sleeping space.

2. Set a budget

The next thing you’ll need to do when planning your nursery is to set a budget.

Because there’s no point falling in love with furniture from Pottery Barn if you only have the budget for IKEA and thrift stores.

If you’re short on cash, you’ll find lots of used nursery furniture on eBay, NextDoor, Craigslist, and local Facebook groups.

Re-using or upcycling old nursery furniture can help to save the planet as well as your pennies.

3. Choose a theme

One of the most exciting steps of planning the nursery is the research stage.

You’ll find lots of blog posts listing creative baby room themes and Pinterest is full of inspirational photos to give you ideas.

Many nursery themes are gender-neutral, like jungle, mountains, stripes, ocean, or rainbow.

However, if you plan to find out your baby’s sex and you’d love a gender-specific theme, then you’ll have to save some of your decor planning until after your 20-week scan.

4. Plan the room layout

Even if you haven’t made up your mind about a theme or color scheme, you can start to plan the layout. 

I find that the best way to do this is to draw out the room on graph paper, including the placement of the doors and windows to scale.

You could also use an online tool like Room Styler.

The placement of the crib is the most important of all.

Ideally, you’ll want to position it away from the window so that your baby can’t grab at the curtains or blind.

If you have a radiator, air conditioning unit, or a ceiling fan in the nursery, you’ll want to keep the crib away from these too to keep your baby from getting too hot or cold.

5. Buy furniture

Once you know what you want to buy and that it will fit in the room, it’s time to go shopping! 

Bear in mind that some nursery furniture can take up to three months to arrive, especially if it’s coming from overseas.

If you aim to order all of your furniture by the fifth or sixth month of your pregnancy, you can be sure it will arrive in time.

Don’t worry if you’re already past this point in your pregnancy, just be mindful of the delivery dates of both the furniture and your baby to make sure that you don’t have a wardrobe arriving on the day you go into labor.

(Factor in that it might take some time to assemble all this furniture.)

6. Make any repairs

Now’s the time to take a good look at the room and make any repairs that are needed.

If you need to remove peeling paint, patch the walls, or fix broken door handles, do it now because jobs like this will always be far from the top of your to-do list once the baby arrives.

In our nurseries, we also swapped out the electrical outlets for new, clean, and modern units.

7. Paint the walls

Ideally, you’ll want to paint the nursery walls at least two months before your due date.

Paint fumes can be hazardous to babies, so you’ll want to make sure that the room is smelling fresh long before your little one arrives. 

Again, this step comes AFTER you’ve patched and fixed up the room.

8. Assemble furniture

Once the paint is dry you can begin to assemble the furniture.

If you’re building flat-pack furniture, always get someone (usually, your partner) to help as it’s so easy to pull muscles that you didn’t even know you had when you’re pregnant, especially during the later stages.

9. Add the extra touches

Once the big things are in place, you can hang pictures and add decorative touches like cushions, ornaments, and light shades.

You’ll want to avoid adding too much clutter or anything that can gather dust or is hard to clean.

10. Babyproofing

Covering sockets, hiding wires, and securing the dresser to the wall are all very important tasks for your nursery to-do list.

That said, if you’re short on time, it’s not something that you need to worry about right away.

You have until your baby is at least six months old before they start exploring the room, so you can always set a reminder to do these things later.

The best time to get the nursery done

Photo by ajay_suresh/Flickr

Many parents-to-be like to decorate the nursery during the second trimester.

During the first twelve weeks of pregnancy, you may be too sick and exhausted to do anything except browse the internet for inspiration.

You may also want to steer clear of toxic paints during this period to prevent harm to your baby while he or she is at a critical point in their development.

If you’re nearing the end of your pregnancy and the nursery isn’t complete, that’s totally normal.

What many news parents fail to realize is that they may barely ever step foot in the nursery during the first six to twelve months of their baby’s life.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants sleep in their parents’ room in a bassinet or portable crib for at least six months but preferably a year.

So, while it would be nice to have the nursery done before the baby arrives, it’s really not necessary.

When is too early to set up a nursery?

I’m not sure if there’s a downside to getting an early jump on all this work, but you might want to keep a few things in mind.

For starters, miscarriage is a heartbreaking reality that does occur. However, chances of a miscarriage decrease substantially after the 12 week mark of pregnancy, and become less than 1% at 16 weeks, according to NCT.

For that reason, it may be best to wait until after that 12-16 week period — somewhere around the beginning of your second trimester.

You may also choose to wait until you know the sex of your baby! It can help with design decisions — although of course, knowing the sex isn’t necessary beforehand at all. Still, many parents like to design the nursery around the baby’s sex, which can usually be determined at around 14 weeks on the early side.

How long does it take to finish the nursery?

Planning, decorating, and setting up a nursery can take anywhere from a few days to several months depending on how much you have to do and how much time you spend on it.

The best way is to take it slowly, perhaps completing a task or two each weekend or when you have the time so that you don’t tire yourself out.

If your room is a blank canvas, it will be quick to add in the furniture and decorations so you might even get it done in a weekend.

However, if you’re starting out with a room full of junk that you need to find new homes for, and there are major repairs to be done, it would be wise to start a little sooner.

Wrapping Up

While decorating the nursery for your new baby can seem like a mammoth task, you’ll find it much more manageable if you break it up into a list of smaller tasks that you can fit into your schedule.

If you’re halfway through your pregnancy, it’s probably a good time to start planning the nursery.

But, if you can’t get it all finished by the time your bundle of joy arrives, that’s okay.

You’ll probably spend much less time in the nursery than you think you will.

For more guides like this, check out:

Hope this helps!