It’s a fact of life. As the crowded image above suggests, baby gear takes up a LOT of space. So how do you manage a baby in a SMALL space?
We were facing this prospect when I was pregnant with Kimmie, and my husband and I were still living in his bachelor pad. We finally found a larger place by the time I was eight months pregnant. My brother Evan and his wife Alicia are following in our footsteps: six weeks before their firstborn arrives, they’ve also just moved out of the home Evan first occupied as a single guy.
These near-misses mean I’ve thought a lot about space-saving when a little person enters your life. If you’re facing your own baby in a small space – or you’re short on cash for all the gear that advertisers swear you need for your new bundle of joy – these hacks will save you both room and cash.
How to raise a baby in a small space
1. Skip the crib
One of the largest expenditures most new parents make – both physically and monetarily – is a crib for their offspring. Resist the urge.
Let’s face it, for the first four to six months (or longer!), your baby will be within arm’s reach in your bedroom anyway. (If you’ve got a one-bedroom city apartment, much longer!)
Do you have space for a crib in your room? I didn’t think so.
Instead, look for a play yard with a slim-enough profile that it can roll from one room to the next. (We liked the inexpensive Cosco Funsport models for this purpose.) Bonus: if you travel to visit family, you’ve got a portable bed for Baby ready to bring along.
Also consider putting Baby’s sleeping space in a closet, if you have more closet space than floor space. We’ve put hotel play yards and porta-cribs in the closet more than once, to save floor space in tiny hotel rooms.
If you’re still cramped for space when Baby becomes a toddler, and/or Younger Sibling arrives, you can graduate a larger child to a mattress on the closet floor until it’s time for a “big kid” bed. The girls used to fight over who got to sleep in the closet on vacations. And Essie still loves “camping out” in Kimmie’s double closet when a visiting guest is occupying Essie’s room.
2. Ditto for the changing table
Changing tables also take up a lot of room. If you’re tempted to get a fancy play yard with the changing table attachment, think carefully. You need to remove the attachment every time you put Baby into the play yard. (And models with detachable changing tables are often too wide to roll through a doorway from one room to the next.)
A better bet: Get a separate table-topper changing pad to use on top of a desk, table, or dresser. I had one of these on top of my grandmother’s antique dressing table for several years when the girls were small. I also used a folding card table in our living room as a changing station, rather than buy a separate changing table.
Already have a changing table? Consider parking it in the closet, if you haven’t already put Baby’s sleeping space there. My friend Keisha did this for her boys, and freed up precious floor space in their tiny shared bedroom.
3. Look for hidden storage at floor level
I’m talking about the spaces that might otherwise go unused: under beds, under dressers, etc.
- I have used roll-out under-bed bins to store out-of-season clothes since before the girls were born.
- In the girls’ rooms, their under-bed spaces hold spare clothes boxes – as did that huge crib before they moved to big-girl beds.
- And as kids grow, their clothes take up more space. Since Kimmie’s dresser drawers are tiny, we’ve put a plastic bin under her dresser to hold the overflow .
- In our living space, toys hide inside our coffee table and under a side table covered with a tablecloth.
After you’ve used all the available space at ground level, look overhead for more storage room. I’ve written before about adding overhead shelves to make the most of tight spaces. Even an unused corner can become a full-fledged library when you add enough shelving.
Hanging things is another great way to manage a baby in a small space. Over-door racks with baskets and clear shoe organizers are must-haves for keeping things neat and organized. Consider an over-the-door ironing board/iron holder for hanging a stroller on the back of a door.
And if you haven’t yet discovered 3M’s line of Command Damage-Free Hanging Products, now’s the time. I use these all over my house to hang things without damaging walls or furniture, and love how versatile they are.
And my final tip for raising a baby in a small space:
5. Think about the long game
If you’re in a small space, storage is probably as tight as available floor space. So think carefully about how you can best stretch your dollars, and conserve space, over the long haul:
- Sure, cribs that convert to beds may seem like a smart bet for flouting Hack #1 above. If you’re definitely a one-and-done family, great. If not, buying a convert-a-crib may seem less wise when you need a place for both a toddler AND Younger Sibling to sleep. A pack-n-play followed by future bunkbeds may make a better long-term investment.
- Careful planning can minimize your carseat purchases over the years. Consider one that will convert from an infant rear-facing through age 4 or 5 (when you can switch to a backless booster). Or use a more compact option like carseat vests when your kids are big enough, especially if you’re a two- or zero-vehicle famly.
- Or if you like the idea of a carseat that swaps from car to stroller and back again, consider a carseat frame (cheaper/less bulky). You can upgrade to a lightweight stroller in a few years, and have a less bulky piece of gear around until then.
- Likewise, think twice before you buy a huge feeding chair. Why not get an inexpensive booster, or a chair that will convert from infant to adult, instead? (Hence why these are my two top picks for high chairs/boosters with long life potential.)
Have you navigated life with a baby in a small space? What are your top tips for others facing this challenge? Let us know in the comments!