When you start buying all your baby gear, you'll soon be faced with a question: where should I put all of this stuff? This means it's time to get the nursery (i.e. the room your son or daughter will be inhabiting for the coming years) ready! And if there's anything that Dad can do, this is it.
It's better to do this in the first trimester as you might need some help lifting the furniture and she should not be doing any heavy lifting as she approaches her due date. Or you may simply be too stressed and tired just before and after the birth.
So how should you decorate the nursery?
You may be thinking of just putting a cot or box somewhere in the spare room corner along with the other things you have in there because, after all, the baby can’t tell the difference between a nicely decorated nursery and a messy bedroom. But you might want to reconsider for a couple of reasons:
Firstly, you and her will probably be spending a lot of time in this room voluntarily (“oh look at my cute baby sleeping”) or involuntarily (banished from your own bed because of you are disturbing someone or someone is disturbing you). So you want it to be nice for your comfort as well as hers.
Secondly, as children grow, they will become aware of their surroundings. Creating a nice, comforting room can make it more comfortable for them and, having a consistent and calm sleeping location can help them to sleep better. Create a mix of fun and relaxing colours and elements (when in doubt, go for white, yellow, cream), and you will be just fine.
What items are useful in a nursery?
For good sleeping conditions, you want to make sure that nursery is the right temperature, with not too much light or noise. If you live in a noisy environment, double glazing is ideal. Thick curtains work well too to keep the temperature, light and noise right.
Another typical item for a nursery is a cot – with a good, new, firm mattress. It's advised that the baby sleep in the same room as you for at least the first six months to reduce the risk of SIDS. After these six months, you can simply move the cot back into the nursery.
To make those night-time feeds more comfortable, you need a comfy chair – something where her arms can rest while holding the baby.
Then you'll need somewhere for nappy changes. Parents have different preferences between changing on a mat (safer, cheaper, less comfortable) or changing on a changing table (risk of falling, more expensive, more comfortable, storage is a bonus, but takes up more space). If you go for a changing table, get one with raised sides to avoid falls
And you have to put those smelly things somewhere, so a good changing bin will keep your nursery smelling nice. And then some antibacterial hand gel to keep you nice and clean.
There is a lot of new stuff that needs to be put somewhere, so you need some storage space. This could be in a changing table or as a separate storage system. And a changing bag will help you when you're on the move.
So that is nursery done!
What about the rest of the house?
There is such a thing as making your house baby-proof. This is not an urgent problem, given that your baby will have to start crawling and walking around before you have to think about blocking access to stairs, attaching your drawers and bookshelves to walls, covering corners, etc.
If you want to plan ahead - which might be a good idea as you'll have a million things on your to-do list when the baby comes - you could do some of these things while you are preparing the nursery. (Some fathers may decide to act on a “has-to-happen-once-before-protecting” basis, which is not recommended).
Some things you could do in preparation:
Check the temperature
Put the cot away from radiators or direct sunlight from the windows. If this isn't possible, adjust the radiators and get a blind (blackout blinds are great for daytime naps). You could also buy a room thermometer and a fan. Try to keep the temperature between 16-20 °C or more simply put around 18 °C (or 65 °F) as recommended by The Lullaby Trust. Or you can get a Bluebell Smart Monitor which will measure the actual temperature of your baby and warn you the temperature is too high or low (amongst many other things).
Install a carbon monoxide detector
You should have one anyway if you use gas or any other fossil fuel burning device. But young children are especially vulnerable to carbon monoxide poisoning.
Fit a smoke alarm
Again, you should have one anyway. Some prefer a mains-wired system to avoid changing batteries. Fire services or insurance companies (at least in UK) offer free smoke alarms or installation.
Check the locks
Obviously no safety measures can compensate for supervision. Still, it is worth checking the doors, windows, stairs and specific cupboards (medicines, cleaning products etc.) and fitting latches, child-locks and safety gates.
Check for the corners and fragile items
Cover, pad or move out of reach any items that have sharp corners, e.g. coffee tables, TV stands. Also, look at your house with the eyes of a small child: what fragile objects might you be able to reach and break?
So that is it, some more fatherly tasks for your to-do list. Happy DIYing!