Preparing Baby's NurseryGoing into an adoption, unlike a pregnancy, you have no idea when your child will be born, what season it will be, what the child’s sex is, or even if there may be more than one baby. So how in the world do you prepare for baby when there are so many unknowns?

Do you prepare a nursery? Do you buy cute little clothes? What about diaper, wipes and bottles? Should you find a car seat and have it installed? What if baby comes sooner than expected? What if it takes months or even years?

The truth is there isn’t just one right answer to these questions.  The best practice is to only do what you feel comfortable with.

Let me explain.

Often times, after years of struggling with infertility, adoptive families can’t bring themselves to put the nursery together until they know they will be bringing a baby home. Some families “don’t want to get their hopes up,” others can’t bear the thought of walking past an empty nursery every day. Still others want to avoid the chances of coming home to an empty nursery after an expectant mother changed her mind.

Beyond the emotional reasons to delaying the preparations, there are practical reasons to put it off as well. Maybe you want to customize the nursery or clothing or toys to your child’s gender or name, which of course you don’t know yet. Maybe there is still some uncertainty over whether you’ll be taking home one baby or two – or even three!  Maybe there are simply too many unknowns for you to even know where to start. That’s ok!

What you really need to consider before making preparations is how you will handle it emotionally. If a fully prepared nursery will make you anxious or sad before you bring home your child, maybe delaying the preparations would be a good idea. However, if setting up a nursery fills you with hope and excitement, go for it! Preparing for baby is such an exciting time and can be a wonderful experience for you and your spouse.

All that being said, we’ve worked with adoptive families for many years now (25 years to be exact), and we’ve found that most families fall happily in the middle. Here’s our list of what you need before baby’s arrival, and what can wait until after he or she is born.

What to Buy Now:

Cloth and Disposable DiapersDiapers/wipes

Start off with just a couple packages of both newborn and size 1 diapers (who knows how big baby will be right?) and a couple packs of wipes. Buy a couple different brands to see which ones you like best.

If you’ll be using cloth diapers it will probably be best to start building your stock slowly to disperse the initial cost. Anywhere from about 16-20 newborn or one-size diapers should be good to start you off, and you can always buy more later.


Pick up a few 4-5 oz bottles with slow-flow nipples to get you started and buy more later. If you’re wanting to breastfeed it can be tricky to find the right time to induce lactation, but hopefully this article will help.

Burp cloths

Babies tend to spit up a lot, so you’re definitely going to want plenty of spit rags to save yourself and baby from major messes.


Newborns LOVE to be swaddled so you’ll want to have a few blankets on hand to keep baby nice and cozy. Plus, these are easy to find in adorable gender-neutral patterns.

Clothes (minimal)

Pick up a few gender-neutral outfits to get you through the first couple of days and stock up on the rest later. Some adoptive families buy a going home outfit for each gender just in case.

Diaper bag

Put all the above items in the diaper bag and you’re ready to meet your baby!


This item is a bit more difficult to buy at the last minute, so we recommend buying one beforehand or at least finding a couple you like and can buy once you are matched. (Assembly is optional)

What Can Wait:

Car seat

As strange as it may seem, the car seat can actually be bought on your way to the hospital to bring your little one home.

Portable place to sleep

If you’re waiting out ICPC you’ll likely be sleeping in a hotel for a few days so baby will need some place that’s portable to sleep. This can be a co-sleeper, a pack-n-play, or any other portable place to sleep and it can be bought at the same time as the car seat.

Bathing necessities

Baby will get his or her first bath in the hospital, giving you ample time to get the bathing supplies gathered later.


The hospital will give you at least one of these and not all babies will take them, so wait to stock up until you bring baby home.


This can either be bought in combination with the car seat or separately, but it doesn’t need to be purchased right away.

Nursery furniture and decorations

Waiting until you’re matched or even until you bring baby home allows you to customize it to your child. Plus baby will be spending the first few days wrapped tight in your arms so you’ll have time to finish up the nursery.

Toys and clothes

Wait to get the majority of these items until you know the sex of your baby, then you can buy cute little dresses or polos for your little one. Plus, baby likely won’t be interested in any toys for a while anyway.

Keep in mind, this list is simply a suggested tool for preparing the bare necessities for baby. Some families want to have every last thing prepared beforehand while others prefer to wait. Prepare in whatever way you find most helpful for your family!

Click here for a full list of necessary baby items.