Have baby, will travel... to the next room.
November 25, 2012 2:04 PM   Subscribe

Small baby that grows, small apartment that doesn't?

Hooray, we just found out we're expecting a baby mitten! YAY.

We're in a small apartment and not planning to leave any time soon. Wahh.

Our parents are super generous and we have lots of friends who have hand me downs waiting for us -- but we don't want to take anything or buy anything we don't need or won't have room for.

I know this has been asked before but I think it's always great to have fresh answers.

So please share:

Things you ABSOLUTELY needed.
Things that you ABSOLUTELY didn't need and just took up space.

Maybe some swaps or things you used that doubled for more than one purpose.

Any other 'two new first-time parents in small one bedroom apartment -- how do we maintain our routine of not killing one another' etc. advice, tips, tricks of any kind are totally graciously accepted.
posted by mittenbex to Human Relations (16 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Here's the thing about baby crap... you don't know what you're going to
need. Maybe your baby cries all the time unless he's in a swing, maybe he hates the swing and it's a waste of space. Maybe he needs to be held all the time, so you buy a sling. But you find that the sling hurts your back, so you need a front carrier. Obviously you think baby needs a crib. But if he's like mine, he slept maybe an hour in his crib in his whole life. Those jumparoo things are lifesavers... if your baby is a jumper.

It's all so confusing, so many different things that could be potential lifesavers for parents, or ugly pieces of plastic junking up your apartment. Here's what we did, we took 2nd hand things as we needed, we tested them on baby, and we kept the lifesavers. When baby outgrew things (all too fast), we gladly pawned off ugly baby crap on other people to test in their babies!

I'm sorry for the non-answer, but in reality, you don't need anything but there might be something you find that gives you precious hours of sleep/shower/alone time. Only your baby will tell you what that magic object is! Good luck, avoid the urge to over prepare, and enjoy your last few moments of blissful sleep.
posted by katypickle at 2:16 PM on November 25, 2012 [15 favorites]

On preview... just sharing what worked for us and our baby... YMMV. :)

We needed:
-Exersaucer from month 3 on so that we could have a place to stash her before she could sit up. Sometimes she just *didn't* want to be held OR put on the floor.
-Swing - she took naps in it.
-Changing pad to put on a dresser.
-Prefold diapers as burp cloths/changing pads- SO much better than 'official' burp cloths
-Aden and Anais swaddling wraps and wrap around bibs... best thing ever for saving dressy outfits!!!
-Cheap trash can as diaper pail

Didn't need but still used:
-"Activity gym mat" - not necessary but she liked looking at the lights.
- Designated diaper bag - a backpack would have worked just as well.
- Nursing cover - at a certain point, I just found it easier to not use it. We got good at nursing, so her head covered any necessary parts.

Haven't used yet:
- Crib
- Stroller
- Receiving blankets
- Half the clothes we bought
- Baby books
- Baby bathtub
posted by marylucycraft at 2:25 PM on November 25, 2012

Hooray--congrats! We were in the same boat, a 500 sq foot apartment that we loved. Now I see that I could have lived there for a long long time if we could have negotiated the sleeping arrangements better. I cannot sleep with my kids, even now and because I was night nursing, I couldn't sleep with babies in the room because they would constantly wake up to nurse. Cosleeping works for a lot of people and that certainly cuts down on the furniture. Here's what we did:
* a co-sleeper by the bed for 6 months, then a crib in the room after that.
* no changing table. We had a pad on the bed for changes.
* An inflatable duckie tub that lived in the bathtub
* Stroller lived in the car.
* Small dresser from IKEA that went in a corner for all the baby blankets, clothes, etc
* A plastic booster seat that strapped onto a dining chair for when they can sit and eat (6 months) It can be easily removed for guests.
* A little swing chair for meal time and shower time...(but that can be given away at about 6 months) Jumper thing for later.
* baby Bjorn/sling

Really for the first year they don't need toys, books and all the stuff that will eventually fill up an apartment. A few chewy toys, a ball, favorite blankies and you are all they need. Even then, if you can keep the toys under control or are good at giving things away, you can live like that for a long time. We have neighbors who sleep in the living room and gave the kids the bedroom so they could keep their apartment in a prime location.
posted by biscuits at 2:32 PM on November 25, 2012 [4 favorites]

This is us! We have a four-month old (plus dog & cat!) in a one-bedroom. We got a ton of stuff, and while the place felt pretty crowded, it felt good to have a lot. It was nice having a lot of clothes. It was nice having a hand-me-down swing, even though the baby only used it occasionally for the first few months. It was REALLY nice having 10,000 receiving blankets. Clutter is the least of your problems the first 3 months. I'd suggest taking everything you can now and worrying about getting rid of it later.

The one thing that I would say served multiple purposes for us (nap bassinet, swing, place for baby to sit) for us was the rock n' play. But as said above, there's no guarantee that your baby will be into one!

I would wait as long as possible on a crib (use a bassinet or mini crib), and a stroller if you don't have a car (use an Ergo/K-Tan/Moby, etc). If you don't have a car, don't get a huge car seat that is a pain to lug around- get one of the lightweight bucket seats that can be strapped in with the seat belt (we did not get one of those and in retrospect, I wish we had- we accepted a huge hand-me-down that is too big to be convenient for our life). You can wait on toys and books- newborns don't care about 'em.

You live in a big metro area, so the good news is, anything you have that you decide you don't need anymore can be disposed of quickly. Post a free ad on Craigslist, it'll be gone that day. Or hand it down to friends who have younger babies. We've cleared out our first big round of stuff and the place seems palatial!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:39 PM on November 25, 2012

Clothes, diapers, things for wiping spills (disposable or not) bottles if you plan to use them, mild baby shampoo that you will use in tiny amounts, comfy chair/couch that accomodates parent+baby, stroller if you are taking them out to places sans car, changing pad is nice, and lots of food for you that's easy to make during a kid's 15 minute nap so you can eat.

Medical stuff: Nosefrida, tiny nail clippers, diaper rash creme, maybe baby Tylenol on hand for fevers plus some dosing spoons/syringes (you can often get those free from the pharmacist).

Someplace to keep Important Baby Records: shot records, medical records, social security card and gift certificate, any baby-specific life insurance or college fund, etc.

All the rest is gravy. If you need to line up gifts, ask for gift cards to baby emporiums or Target or whatever's close to you, so you can buy as needed.
posted by emjaybee at 3:00 PM on November 25, 2012

Don't get a separate changing table. A contoured changing pad is great and goes anywhere. I had a smallish apartment and went without a high chair. The seats that strap onto a kitchen chair work great - some of them recline for small babies.

Find a white noise machine to mask noises if baby is sleeping, and you'll be all set. Everything else is negotiable.
posted by checkitnice at 3:40 PM on November 25, 2012

Honestly these lists are so subjective. Diapers, boots, onesies, some blankets. Co-sleep. Maybe some swaddle blankets. A carseat. A changing pad on the floor or bed. A thermometer and booger sucker - probably the hospital will give you those. Nail clippers. A baby bathtub.

As you figure it out, get stuff from Craigslist or friends. Amazon prime or run to the store.

You'll figure out a carrier, a stroller, and anything else along the way.
posted by k8t at 4:48 PM on November 25, 2012

Bookmarked this a couple months ago: What was on your baby registry that you use and what was on it that you don't use?
posted by ringu0 at 5:14 PM on November 25, 2012

We got (and appreciated) tons of hand me downs. Things we didn't want or use we donated. I think it was a good strategy as you won't know what you need or want or what the baby likes until you either try it or notice you can't live another 5 min without it.
posted by cestmoi15 at 5:23 PM on November 25, 2012

You might want to look into a storage unit. We got lots of stuff given to us that was either too big or too small and I like having only what the baby needs and uses right now out at this stage. We have a storage cupboard, so there are a couple of plastic bins and boxes full of clothes and toys and things for later or to be given to parents with younger babies as needed.

One thing that's been awesome is this cabinet from Ikea which we have in a smaller version. It was my nightstand, but has been given over entirely to the baby's toys because the baby can open the drawers herself and helps herself, and cleaning up is opening a drawer and chucking toys back in. We are planning to get another one soon for her clothes so we'll free up a cupboard and she can get her own clothes.

We got a changing table because my husband's back hurt bending over on the bed. We got a foldable one from Ikea so we can store it, and it holds all her non-toy stuff too, but there's a neat narrow drop-down one that converts into a dresser/shelves there too.

We couldn't fit a crib in our space, so we got a moses basket for the first months, and now she has a small mattress on the floor for naps that we stow behind the changing table. We're trying to figure out what we'll do for her bed when she's bigger - maybe a custom rollout that goes under our bed so we can hide it during the day for space.

The biggest thing I would do is look around your space and imagine a super active toddler - is there anything major that needs to be altered or replaced to be child-safe? It's easier to fix that now while you're pregnant than later with a small baby nipping at your ankles.
posted by viggorlijah at 7:22 PM on November 25, 2012

What's your laundry access like? Depending on how hard it'll be to wash things, you might need to stock up on blankets, changing pad covers, clothes, and all the other things that get dirty on a regular basis.
posted by snickerdoodle at 7:43 PM on November 25, 2012

We have a four month old and a small house - preparing for the least amount of stuff is definitely a smart way to go. My lifesavers:

- a foldable Infantino baby gym. I started putting him down on it from about a month old, and thus can take showers/do things around the house as it keeps him busy.

- a Mobywrap. It's one of the cheaper baby carrying devices and I initially thought I'd wasted our money (it takes a little adjusting to) but then the baby started getting fussy with sleep and this was the only place he'd really sleep properly in during the day. The wrap style carrier also has the advantage of being super comfortable while sat at a desk. YMMV of course! My husband for example, prefers the Beco Gemini. My advice: buy all baby carrying devices used until you know what you're looking for in that area. PAXbaby and eBay both have a good selection.

- brightly coloured cushions in varying sizes and densities. Especially if you're breastfeeding but also if you want something to entertain the baby once they can sit up in your lap. My boy will happily pat a cushion for half an hour because he likes the way it looks/feels.

- cheap IKEA washcloths. Not just for spit up/drool, but also for wedging under parts of the baby/yourself to keep you comfortable for long periods of time.

- velcro swaddle blankets (eg: Halo or SwaddleMe). I got really bored/frustrated trying to get him into a blanket while he was screaming in my face. They're cheap and easily washed and I wish I'd had them from day one.

- Arm's Reach co-sleeper in the mini size - as an added bonus, there's storage space beneath the sleeping part. He sleeps next to the bed, in his own space, and we're only just thinking about buying a crib to use in what will be his room for daytime naps and future night sleeping.

One thing I didn't have and regret not having and is now too pointless to get because my baby is the size of a 6 month old? A swing. They are easily found in the used baby gear circles and with all the trouble I had getting my baby to nap, I feel stupid I didn't have one ready to go. Sleep is too precious to be unprepared for fussiness!
posted by saturnine at 7:54 PM on November 25, 2012

Well, in the first month we used the changing table and swaddle gowns the most. I mostly did washcloth baths, so we never ever ended up using the baby tub (our baby is super long, so he outgrew it incredibly fast).

I always said I wouldn't co-sleep... until the baby wouldn't sleep any other way in the hospital. By the time I got home I was like I guess we're co-sleeping! We did try to use the bassinet and the crib, but honestly the bassinet got used maybe 3-4 times, and we didn't use the crib for the first six months.

Now, even though your place is small and you may think that you will hear the baby when he/she wakes, I strongly recommend a video monitor. Because yes you will hear the baby, but you may not always need to go in. It's so nice to be able to decide from the video instead of going in and accidently rousing a baby that would have otherwise gone back to sleep.

Have you made a decision with regard to nursing or not? That's sort of a separate discussion altogether, with regard to what feeding accessories you will need.

Everyone told me to get some cloth diapers for clean-up, but I never used them.

We take our kitchen trash out pretty much every day, and breastfed poop doesn't smell, so we never bothered with a diaper genie, we just put the used diapers in the regular trash.

I never bothered with a wipes warmer, because I didn't want the baby to get used to it and then be unreasonably fussy if we were out or staying overnight somewhere and didn't have it. But we live in So Cali, I have read that people who live in colder climates advocate for them, especially on cold mornings. I
guess it depends on how warm you keep your house.

Get a Nose Frieda, and have some baby tylenol on hand.

Our swing got a fair amount of use in the first six months. We also got a bouncy exersaucer thing. I put the baby in it as soon as he started bouncing up and down on my lap, right before three months. That's pretty early, but he had good neck control. We had to put a box under it because his feet didn't touch the ground, but he developed strong legs really early. We used it until he was about a year old, when he had started walking and didn't want to be confined.

We started using the highchair right before six months, when we started solids.

We had a walker at the insistence of our babysitter, but it really didn't get much use. The push 'n play however got TONS of use, and still gets used once in a while, now at 18 months.

People always ask about diapers... We used 7 packages of 40-count newborn diapers before our little guy graduated to size 1. He went through sizes 1, 2, and 3 reeeaaallly fast, to the point where a couple of times I had to return a smaller size package for a larger one. Since about 12 months he has been "stalled" in size 4, so I don't mind stocking up a couple of cases at a time.

Protip for the hospital: take your own preparation H and your own motrin. I had to wait hours between when I requested them from the nurses and when they were finally brought. That was after my dr. had written them into my orders. It would have been so much easier to just inform the nurses that I had already taken them.

Oh, and Congratulations!!
posted by vignettist at 9:52 PM on November 25, 2012

Previously, but limited to the first year.

But now i get my input since Little Furnace just hit a year, and the most important thing to get? Custom earplugs with the highest decibel rating you can find. Some nights you will just need to sleep no matter what, this is a good way to do it. Sweet Jesus especially in a one bedroom.
posted by furnace.heart at 9:02 AM on November 26, 2012

Things we used and loved during baby's first 3-4 months in a teeny apartment:

- Armsreach Co-Sleeper Mini
- Rock and Play (BEST PURCHASE EVER!!!!)
- Bouncer (it was nice to have somewhere to set down the baby while we ate and I bought this used)
- Boppy
- Miracle blanket (for swaddling)
- Moby Wrap (we eventually graduated to a Beco Gemini but the baby preferred the Moby until he was about 3 months old)

Things we didn't buy and didn't need:

- Swing
- Crib
- Changing table (we used a waterproof pad that we would put in and out of the co-sleeper)
- Stroller (While he was little, I found it more convenient to use the Moby to carry the baby around - I did have a snap and go for when I needed to take the baby somewhere in the car seat but I've probably used it less than 10 times in 6 months. We eventually bought a Chicco Lightway, but Grandma is the only one who uses it on a regular basis.)
posted by jrichards at 10:03 AM on November 26, 2012

My number one baby equipment recommendation is an Ergo carrier. My son is almost 3 months old and we have yet to use either of our strollers because the Ergo is so much more convenient to travel with, and he loves being snuggled. We wear him around the house so we can do chores while he sleeps, on walks around the neighborhood, and while grocery shopping. It's a lifesaver. Plus it takes up hardly any space! I suppose your baby could dislike being worn, but all the babies I know love the Ergo.

A glider, recliner, or other comfortable chair, because newborns spend a LOT of time nursing.

The other thing we've gotten a lot of use out of is our yoga ball, because the baby thinks rocking is for suckers but bouncing is the bee's knees. But obviously that's specific to our munchkin.

I definitely recommend a contoured changing pad on top of a dresser instead of a changing table.

Our baby hates the electronic swing and stupidly expensive bouncer thing, but other babies absolutely love them. I'm hoping he enjoys them more when he gets older. If you have friends with babies, I would recommend trying out these sorts of things before buying to see if your kid is into them.
posted by Safiya at 12:53 PM on November 26, 2012

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