When Should We Get the Nursery Ready?

by | Apr 24, 2024 | Adoptive Families Blog

Adoptive couple happily paints their future baby's nurseryWhen couples are expecting a baby, getting the nursery ready is one of the top priorities. But when is the right time for adoptive parents to prepare the nursery? Should you wait until a birth mother has chosen you? What if you get the call at the last minute? Preparing for your growing family is important, but getting the nursery ready is mostly a matter of preference.
While all parents want to be as prepared as possible for their new addition, some go the extra mile by setting up their nurseries even before they receive an adoption opportunity. This proactive approach can keep you busy. By focusing on the enjoyable tasks of selecting furniture, baby clothes, and toys, you might be less likely to focus on the emotional strain of waiting.
For some hopeful adoptive parents, a fully decorated nursery is a source of hope and inspiration while they wait to be chosen by a birth mother. It’s a retreat where they can imagine the joy that will soon enter their lives.
Other adoptive couples have struggled with infertility for years and can’t bear the thought of passing an empty nursery each day. Some have even set up nurseries in the past for a baby that never came to be. They have expressed that they “don’t want to get their hopes up” by putting the nursery together until they know they will bring a baby home.

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The Great Nursery Debate: Get It Ready During the Wait?

The adoptive mother is typically the one who’s eager to start nesting and get the baby’s room ready while they’re waiting for “the call” that a birth mother has chosen them. Her husband may take a more practical stance and hope they can wait until they match before doing anything.
It can be hard on the adoptive couple’s marriage because while the wife has the urge to start nesting, the husband gets cautious. How can you find a happy medium between your two stances about the nursery?
There are positives and negatives to each decision about your future baby’s nursery. If you get it equipped now, you’ll be ready for a sudden adoption situation that may come your way. However, many adoptive parents have shared with us that it’s hard for them to stare at an empty baby’s room. If you wait to assemble the nursery until a birth mother chooses you, you may be able to decorate it with a specific gender in mind. On the other hand, if you haven’t bought any baby items, it can be stressful to buy everything a baby will need at the last minute.
Empty nursery decorated in yellow and gray

Tips for Making a Decision


  • Build a baby registry with an imaginary due date. Then, you can take your time researching baby products and getting feedback from your friends to determine which products are the best. Once you get a product recommendation, add it to your wish list!
  • If you have broad adoption preferences, it may be wise to hold off on designing and filling the nursery. You may be open to either gender, twins, or sibling groups. In this case, it’s best to hold off on building out the nursery. For example, you don’t want to bring a sibling group home to a room created for one tiny newborn!
  • Buy the basics from a nursery checklist, such as a car seat, diaper bag, and bottles. You could bring along a friend and make a fun shopping day of it! Car seats can be tricky, so it’s smart to familiarize yourself with installing them safely.
    Once you’ve collected the basics, you may store them away for the day you bring your baby home. Shopping for the basics can be fun, plus it helps you enjoy the stage you’re in—you’re expecting!
  • Enlist your friends to help by requesting their hand-me-downs. It’s easy to spend lots of money on brand-new baby items. The fact is that many baby items are used only for a short while, such as Bumbo seats, Boppy chairs, and bouncy seats.

  • Get the nursery partially set up during your adoption wait. Just buy and assemble the basics, such as the crib and changing table. Consider adding a photo of your partially set-up nursery to your profile or tape a short clip of you readying the nursery to add to your adoption video. Your future baby’s birth mother will love being able to visualize the home that her child will grow up in!


Advice from Adoptive Parents

As you consider your feelings about the nursery, hearing from others who were once in your situation is helpful. Here’s some advice from adoptive parents who were recently in your shoes.

Work at Your Own Pace

“We slowly worked on the room. When we felt drawn to it, we did. When we felt other things were on the top of the list, we didn’t stress.”
There’s no sense in adding more stress to an adoption journey that may already be stressful and emotional. If getting the nursery ready before you have been matched will bring you joy, then go for it! If the thought of assembling the nursery makes you feel anxious, hold off until you are comfortable.

A Full-functioning Nursery Isn’t Necessary Right Away

“For all that time and money I did spend, she spent almost no time in her nursery until she was well over six months old.”
Many parents choose to keep their infants with them at night for the first few months. This can make those multiple nighttime feedings and diaper changes a little easier. It can also give you some security to know that your baby is only an arm’s length away. You probably won’t need a fully-functional nursery until your baby is a few months old.

Wait to Decorate the Nursery

“I have hesitated to decorate too much since our preferences are pretty open. I definitely have a lot saved on Pinterest and my Amazon wish list!”
If your preferences are open, you might want to hold off on paint colors and themes until you know your baby’s gender, cultural heritage, or if you’ll be welcoming twins or a sibling group into your family. But you can certainly start browsing now. Put together a wish list or start a registry that you can tweak once you are matched.

Keep Busy During the Wait

“Putting together a nursery was a great way to deal with the difficult wait. It gave me something to focus on.”
There are so many elements to the adoption process that are out of your hands. Getting the nursery ready can help you take some control and feel a sense of accomplishment. It can also help you satisfy the urge to nest and feel prepared for your baby’s arrival.

Choose Hope Over Fear

“For me, personally, I find the completed room to be a place of hope! I go in there often to pray and even imagine the memories that will be made.”
Preparing for a baby is an exciting time that can fill you and your spouse with hope and excitement. If the idea of setting up a nursery brings you joy, then go for it! It can be a wonderful experience for both of you.
While you can’t control everything about the adoption process, you can control your outlook. You can choose to be present and experience each moment as it comes. Your adoption may not happen within the timeline you hoped for, but you can still enjoy the preparation. Your nursery can provide the hope you need to fuel you through your adoption journey.

Be Ready for the Call

“We’ve had our nursery set up for a couple months and over a year since we started waiting for that special call. Do I get emotional seeing the nursery all set up but no baby? Of course! However, now we’re completely ready!”
You might be fortunate to have months to prepare for your new baby. However, some adoption matches are made in the final hour. If your nursery is ready to go, you won’t be caught off guard by a last-minute call.

Get the Nursery Ready When You’re Ready

There is no right or wrong time to get the nursery ready. As long as you have some essentials on hand, you can be ready even if your match is made at the last minute. Gather some general baby needs like a car seat, a crib or pack n’ play, diapers, wipes, and bottles after completing your adoption home study.
If now is not the right time to get your nursery ready, there are other things you can do during your waiting period to make you feel just as productive. Spend time researching pediatricians and childcare options or keep a journal to record your adoption journey. Decorating a nursery is not the only way to nest and prepare for your growing family. Search your heart, and make choices that will help you feel prepared, hopeful, and confident.

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Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on July 21, 2020, and has since been updated. 

Heather Featherston

Written by Heather Featherston

As Vice President of Lifetime Adoption, Heather Featherston holds an MBA and is passionate about working with those facing adoption, pregnancy, and parenting issues. Heather has conducted training for birth parent advocates, spoken to professional groups, and has appeared on television and radio to discuss the multiple aspects of adoption. She has provided one-on-one support to women and hopeful adoptive parents working through adoption decisions.

Since 2002, she has been helping pregnant women and others in crisis to learn more about adoption. Heather also trains and speaks nationwide to pregnancy clinics to effectively meet the needs of women who want to explore adoption for their child. Today, she continues to address the concerns women have about adoption and supports the needs of women who choose adoption for their child.

As a published author of the book Called to Adoption, Featherston loves to see God’s hand at work every day as she helps children and families come together through adoption.

Read more about Heather Featherston

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