Though it’s true your heart expands when you welcome a new baby, your living situation may not be expanding at all.
Parents-to-be in one-bedroom or studio apartments already know the challenges of living in tight quarters well, so how can you go about setting up your space to welcome in a new bundle of joy?
We pulled together experts on organization, design, and even doulas to give us their tips for maximizing your space before you bring baby home.
Where should your baby sleep?
Save space by skipping the crib—at least for starters. What many expecting parents don’t realize is that many families don’t put their babies in a crib until they are a few months old (and some don’t ever use a crib).
Some people advocate safe co-sleeping for those early weeks and months.
“Since most pediatric professionals recommend keeping baby close to you during the early months, having a small apartment is actually a plus,” says Bill Schmid, designer of the HALO Bassinest. “You may want to put off setting up a full-size crib until the baby actually needs it. This will be at about three to four months, or once the baby starts to roll over.”
One idea that isn’t done very much in the U.S. but is in other parts of the world is suspending a crib from the ceiling, says artist and designer Pablo Solomon.
“Make it easily movable from one ceiling to another,” he says. “This is safe and makes great use of available space while easily moved when necessary. Just make certain that you suspend the crib from rafters and not just sheetrock. You can even suspend the crib at the end of your bed, which makes checking on baby easy.”
Ditch the changing table
You won’t need as much stuff as you think you will.
“The biggest mistake parents make is to follow mile-long must-have lists of baby gear,” says Oksana Dominé, founder of the Baby Manual video series. “They truly don’t need 90 percent of that stuff.”
Dominé whittles down the baby basics to the following: a place to sleep, a few clothes, swaddle blankets and diapers.
Most people agree that changing tables really aren’t that popular anymore. Babies can be changed on any flat and stable surface — “most moms simply use the dresser,” says Emily Beaven, a Realtor in San Francisco and mother to a 9-month-old.
“Put a disposable pad on your bed and change your baby there — skip the changing table. Give a bath in the sink — skip the baby tub,” says Dominé. “You don’t need any fancy bedding — just a couple simple crib sheets is enough.”
Keep things tidy
As your life shifts to caring for a baby, it helps to have an organization system in place to help keep things tidy in your small apartment.
“Organize clothing, toys and other items by size or age, and put them in labeled bins or vacuumed sealed bags to be stored,” says Kara McCall, birth and postpartum doula in Berkeley California. “No reason to clutter your drawers with items that aren’t going to be used for a while, but you also don’t want to forget that handmade sweater your great-aunt made because it gets pushed to the back.”
Curate your baby’s toys. “They really don’t need a lot, especially when they are little,” says Beaven. “Limit toys to a couple of bins or baskets.”
Find underutilized space
Even in a small apartment, there are spaces that probably aren’t being maximized. Look to your walls and closets for starters.
Install extra shelves on your walls for storage — you can even go up higher on the wall to store things you may not use often, such as piggy banks and collectibles that you’ve been given as gifts.
“Hang an over-the-door shoe organizer on the wall, or hang two,” says Jamie Novak, author of Keep This Toss That. “Those clear pockets are the perfect place to stash baby gear — onesies, accessories and shoes.”
Closets can be transformed into multipurpose spaces.
“Closet space may be limited, so utilize a bookshelf which can serve as a multi-functional unit. In addition to storing your baby’s first book on the shelves, you may also place baskets on the shelves to serve as storage,” says Jakia Muhammad, a Maryland organizing consultant and founder of SoleOrganizer. “The baskets can be used to hold products, clothing items and diapers.”
Some parents have successfully converted closets into nurseries.
For smaller closets, McCall suggests that parents convert them into changing spaces. “I have seen clients put a dresser with a changing pad on top right in their shallow closet,” she says. “Hang a mobile from the clothes rack above and you will have on happy baby without taking up any space in your living area.”