Contrary to what real estate agents would like you to believe, having a baby does not automatically mean you need to buy a bigger house. There are plenty of ways to fit a baby into a small space. It just takes some advance planning and a willingness to think outside the box.
1. Ditch the change table.
Trust me, they’re overrated. A newborn can easily be changed on a bathroom countertop, which gives you convenient access to water. Use a thin, waterproof-bottom change pad on any available surface, then roll it up and put it away once you’re done.
2. Turn the change table into a multi-tasker.
If you simply must have a change table, either place a cushioned pad on top of a clothes dresser, or else buy a change table with plenty of storage space underneath.
3. Install a diaper supply shelf on the wall.
Choose a spot close to where you typically change the baby. Stack diapers, wipes, cream, and washcloths at an easy-to-reach height.
4. Use a bassinet for as long as possible.
Don’t be in a rush to move a giant crib into the room. Infants are usually quite content to sleep in smaller, cozier spaces for longer. My kids slept in a Moses basket on the floor until they were 4 months old. Whenever they weren’t using it, I set it on my bed to free up floor space.
5. Buy a smaller crib.
Cribs don’t have to be huge and fancy. There are very nice ones on the market that are simple, light, and take up fairly little room. Some people choose to forego the crib altogether to co-sleep, or use a small infant bed inside the parents' bed.
6. Get creative with crib placement.
A crib can easily go in the corner of the parents’ bedroom. (I did it for one year when living in 1-bedroom apartment with a newborn, and it makes nighttime feedings easier.) Or turn a wide, shallow closet into a sleeping nook for baby. Maybe you can fit the dresser in there, too, while you’re at it.
7. Put a pocket shoe organizer over the door and use it for nursery supplies.
Lotion, oils, medicine, thermometer, toys, clean washcloths and spit cloths – all of these things need to be stored somewhere, and what better place than hidden behind the door?
8. Move the rocking chair out of the nursery.
If the space is tight, consider putting a rocking chair in the living room instead. It’s not as convenient at nighttime, but it can be pleasant place to spend time with your baby during the day. As for a special feeding chair, it can be even cozier to do it in bed, propped up with pillows.
9. Make decorations functional.
Install decorative hooks on the walls to hang up clothes. Or string a cotton rope between hooks to create a place where older kids can hang up their own clothes on little hangers. Find a funky fabric laundry hamper and hang it on the wall, too.
10. Let go of the cute but unnecessary decorations.
Bumper pads, stuffed animals, and decorative pillows in a crib take up space, create visual clutter, and are hazardous to a baby. And, let's be honest, the baby doesn't really care. Hang a pretty mobile from the ceiling instead.
11. Reconsider that nursing pillow.
Nursing pillows work well for some women, but they can be a pain to store because of their awkward shape. Usually an ordinary bed pillow (or a few) can do just as good a job at supporting your arms and baby.
12. Use the space under the crib.
For some reason, this space is often forgotten, but there’s no reason why you shouldn’t store boxes of out-of-season clothes, toys, or extra diapers underneath. Same goes for under the parents’ bed.
13. Choose wall shelves over floor shelves.
Installing shelving units up off the floor will make the room feel less cluttered, plus it’s easier to clean. If you do go with floor shelves, think tall instead of wide.
14. Babies can share a room with older siblings.
This can save you from needing to furnish or add an extra room, and most little kids love it. They’ll keep each other company, and even provide comfort with their physical presence.
15. Create a room with a curtain divider.
Who says there has to be a wall to delineate the nursery? Create separate spaces for parents and baby by installing a full ceiling-height curtain. Bonus: You won’t need a monitor because you’ll still hear everything.
16. Reduce the amount of stuff.
Babies never need all the ‘gear’ you think they do, so it’s best not to go crazy with shopping. Buy the absolute minimum, and see how it goes once baby arrives. Chances are, you’ll quickly discover that one-piece sleepers stored in a dresser make everyone happier than a slew of fancy outfits in the closet. Same goes for most toys, stuffed animals, and baby blankets.