Help my baby to be a minimalist
February 23, 2016 11:30 AM   Subscribe

My husband and I are expecting a baby in June. Hooray! We live in a one-bedroom, fifth-floor Manhattan walk-up. Yikes... I would really appreciate help with what a newborn baby actually needs in our situation?

This situation is temporary, but for various logistical/financial reasons we will definitely be in this apartment until the baby is about 10 weeks old, and possibly until it is about 5 months old (at which point we will be moving out of NYC altogether). In a city of 8 million people, I'm sure that babies are born in smaller and higher-up apartments and in much worse circumstances than us, so I'm optimistic about making this work. But what to buy?!

I've looked at numerous lists and blogs online, but they all seem to be aimed at people with a house, a car, storage space, a nursery, etc. So I'm having trouble parsing out what is immediately necessary (or at least, "buy this because it will make your life so much easier") versus what is just nice to have, versus what is only going to be useful later on so we should hold off until we move to a bigger place.

Some specific details / questions:

- The apartment is: bathroom, kitchen, living room, bedroom (with a door between bedroom and living room). All the rooms are a pretty good size, and we don't live with a huge amount of clutter, but there is definitely no "extra" space that we could commandeer for a baby area.
- One of us will be staying at home for this time period, so there's no need to get the baby to a caregiver at a specific time and place every day (although of course we'll want to leave the apartment). We don't have a car and mainly get around by walking, subway or the occasional taxi.
- We do not have a washer/dryer in the building. Currently we drop off / pick up our laundry at one of the numerous cleaners in our neighborhood, but could easily switch this to delivery. We already have groceries delivered.
- We're going to ask the landlord to be sure, but it doesn't look to me like there's any space for us to leave a stroller at the bottom of our stairs. Is it possible to get by with just a sling/carrier thing? We are both fit and healthy (the stairs are no problem for us normally).
- There is no room for a full-size crib in our bedroom, so I've been looking at those bassinets that are supposed to go next to the bed - we're not planning to co-sleep, but I gather it's convenient to have the baby that close anyway. Are these safe / can they handle a baby for up to five months?
- Planning to breastfeed and use disposable diapers.
- It's not exactly "money is no object!" but we're happy to throw some cash at items and services that will make our lives easier. So I'd rather spend more on a convenient item that will be great for these few months but we end up having to give away when we move, than buy something that will last for years but that involves a lot of space or hassle.

I will gratefully accept lists of things to buy, specific item/brand recommendations, and general advice from people who have been in a similar situation. This is our first kid, no nearby friends with kids, and neither of us have much experience with infants, so it's hard to imagine what this whole thing will actually be like...thanks in advance!
posted by cpatterson to Home & Garden (46 answers total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
Back I don't know how long ago when I was visiting Apartment Therapy and the Kitchn regularly they had a sister site Ohdedoh that often featured minimal/apartment-appropriate baby life stuff. It appears that Ohdedoh no longer exists as a standalone and all of that blog material now lives in the Apartment Therapy Family tab. I have no practical advice to offer as I don't baby, but you may find useful ideas there.
posted by phunniemee at 11:37 AM on February 23, 2016

- We're going to ask the landlord to be sure, but it doesn't look to me like there's any space for us to leave a stroller at the bottom of our stairs. Is it possible to get by with just a sling/carrier thing? We are both fit and healthy (the stairs are no problem for us normally).

Yes, you can survive. My wife used a Boba wrap when the kids were very small and she loved it enough to send on to her sister when she got pregnant. The key is distributing the weight well and feeling comfortable about where the kid is.

- There is no room for a full-size crib in our bedroom, so I've been looking at those bassinets that are supposed to go next to the bed - we're not planning to co-sleep, but I gather it's convenient to have the baby that close anyway. Are these safe / can they handle a baby for up to five months?

Yeah, this works fine for most people. We didn't put either of our kids in a full crib until a while later. Having the baby right there just makes a lot of things easier.

With your space constraints I'd also avoid a changing table and really any large objects. We used to have two changing tables because of yard sale finds, but nowadays we just keep a diaper bag packed and change the kid on whatever surface works with one of those foldable pads.

In the near term, there's no need to panic. You're in good shape, the baby will be light, and very little babies don't move around so you don't need a ton of space. You'll probably move less than you had before, if anything.

When the kid starts moving around, though... come back to Ask and we'll discuss. :)
posted by selfnoise at 11:38 AM on February 23, 2016 [5 favorites]

For instance, this recent post and the comments.
posted by phunniemee at 11:39 AM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Clear out a drawer to put clothes and stuff in. Find some counter space suitable for changing diapers -- or do it on the couch. Either way, you need a pad to lay the baby on and protect the surface from mishaps.

Depending on the baby, yeah, a bassinet may well be fine up to 5 months. Get a slung/carrier and pair it with a back pack for shopping, etc.

You can also look for foldable "travel" things. My oldest slept in a little travel bed on the floor that someone gave me. My youngest slept in a collapsible play pen for a time.

Even with breastfeeding, you need a few bottles for juice or extra feedings if baby is super hungry or so mom can leave baby with dad occasionally. You also should get a small black and white toy (like a stuffed animal). It helps their eyesight develop. Standard practice is put in their bed with them where they can see it when they wake up.
posted by Michele in California at 11:40 AM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

We had our younger one in a Pack-and-Play portable crib for about a year because her brother didn't want to give up his crib . The bassinet insert is good up to 15 pounds; then you remove it and have a playpen-style crib that our son took naps in sometimes up to age two. We've used both Graco and Chicco brands. The "real" crib we used was also not a full-sized one, and my son was about 3 before he gave it up; it was from Community Playthings.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 11:40 AM on February 23, 2016 [4 favorites]

I lived in an apartment much like yours, but on the first floor, when my son was born. This was pretty much what we really used to some extent. We did choose to cosleep because if we hadn't, there'd have been no sleep in the end. We had a Pack'N'Play, but it ended up getting used to store other things in and not for its intended use because kid.

A playmat thing to put on the floor so baby wouldn't fall off a couch or chair by accident
A sling
A car seat
Breast pump and storage supplies
At least a few bottles on hand
Eventually one of those little bouncy activity chair things
Some board books
A few toys to start with -- balls, blocks, etc

We got a car seat because we didn't want to risk having to rent one or buy one last minute when we rented cars. It is useful to have one, even if you don't use it very much.

We didn't have a stroller until my son was about 9 or 10 months old. My mom came down to babysit for a few days and couldn't carry him around in the backpack carrier like we could, so she got a cheap umbrella stroller that we started to use on weekends.

I highly recommend having a sling that works for at least up to six or seven months. But after that, I cannot recommend the Kelty TC enough. There are differing models, but this will get you started. That thing was used everyday for about 18 months to 2 years once my son started riding it. He was a little older than two when he stopped needing it. It is such a good system, especially for city and subway on-foot travel. It makes everything so much easier.

And in the end that was really it.
posted by zizzle at 11:42 AM on February 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

I don't have kids but I thought this blog post at Young House Love had a nice perspective on minimizing baby stuff.
posted by pintapicasso at 11:42 AM on February 23, 2016

Baby wearing is nice and takes no space. I'm carrying our little one in a boba wrap all the time. Our bassinet, a chicco next2me, says it's fine for up to six months, but our two year old has slept in there too. The one month old often sleeps in a baby nest and we put that on the sofa table during the day. For the first few months, wrap, diapers, wipes, clothes, a place to sleep, and a means of bathing (we have a bath flower for the sink) is really all we have needed.
posted by meijusa at 11:42 AM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

You absolutely want a carrier! Go somewhere you can try them on - there are a gazillion varieties and they all fit different people different ways. I have a Boba 4G and LOVE it, others swear by Ergo or Tula or Kinderpack or or or....those are all structured carriers (the kind that buckle), you can also get wraps that are long strips of fabric that you tie the baby on with. My husband loved a Boba wrap when our kid was tiny but I didn't - this can be kinda personal. You might want two if you and husband are significantly different sizes - will save some effort readjusting every time. You may well be able to get away with just a carrier, at least till kiddo gets bigger. However, you will likely need a carseat (you cannot leave a hospital without a car seat). Most carseats have frames that you can snap the seat into that create a little stroller. They are good till your kid outgrows the infant carseat (maybe 20-30 lbs - you should be fine till well after 5 months) and take up less space and are lighter than a traditional stroller. We had a Chicco KeyFit 30 and carriers and didn't need a "real" stroller till she outgrew that carseat around a year old.

You will DEFINITELY want laundry delivery. OMG. Time, effort, carrying...jeeze, yes, throw money at that problem.

I know a lot of people who loved the Arms' Reach Co-Sleeper. I forget how big they go up to. You can also snug your crib right next to your bed, if there's room. You'll want the baby in your room for the first six months anyway - as per AAP recommendations. My advice for all pregnant mamas is to read about how to co-sleep safely - you may well fall into doing it and done correctly it is way, way safer than falling asleep in a recliner or chair or on the sofa, which is extremely easy to do. So learn how to do it before you need to, even if you don't plan to.

You will likely do well to have some kind of small bouncy swing thing you can stash the baby in safely for a few minutes - something small enough to move easily is great so you can tote it with you to the bathroom, kitchen, etc. You need a safe place to stash the baby so you can pee, shower, eat, etc etc.

posted by john_snow at 11:43 AM on February 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

Check out the Finnish baby box.
posted by theraflu at 11:45 AM on February 23, 2016 [5 favorites]

We had our baby in a pack and play next to our bed until around 18 months, when he moved to a real bed. We got one with storage underneath for all his clothes and a changing table attached (when he got big enough the storage went away, which was an issue, but that took quite a few months.)

I am a huge fan of the Snap-and-go stroller frame that holds a car seat - no need for a separate stroller, and it folds up when it's not in use (so you can take it on the bus as well).

Nthing getting a baby carrier.

The only non-minimalist thing that turned out to be a need for us was one of these bouncy seats - which generally lived on our dining table.
posted by Mchelly at 11:47 AM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

The Fisher-Price Rock and Play is great until about five months. It folds up, too, so it's better than a Pack and Play, IMO. We've used out Pack and Play once and the LO is two.

The sling/carrier should be fine. You'll have a car seat? If so, I'd invest in a car seat caddy instead of a stroller, like the Chicco KeyFit30 and caddy. The caddy folds up small and is nice when the kid falls asleep in the carseat and you don't want to wake him/her to transfer to a wrap. Put up some hooks in the living room to hang it up. They are light, so it shouldn't be an issue with walking it up.

Skip the changing table. We still use the bed with a receiving blanket on it. Easy to move around. Put the diapers in a market basket and you can move them to wherever you are.

Services like Prime Now, Shipt, and Boxed are great! I also use Prime subscription now and it's awesome. It's not that you won't want to get out -- because you will -- but it's nice to be able to order stuff without resorting to weird hours around naptime.

Get a housekeeper -- once a week, or just once every couple weeks. It's so nice not to have to worry about that in a small space.

Don't buy a swing right away. Try one out if at all possible, or get one you can return. Our kid hated it. The Rock and Play comes with a vibrating part, so you might be ablet o get away with that.

If you pump and plan to freeze your milk, then Medela makes small bottles (like 2 ounces, maybe) that have a holder and fit in the freezer easily. Skip drying racks and special equipment. Use the Medela steam bags instead of a sterilizer. They're cheap and easy and take up no space. A bottle warmer is nice, even though it takes up space. It made my husband much more comfortable when he was the caregiver.

The stuff explosion really starts after one year. Good luck!
posted by mrfuga0 at 11:52 AM on February 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

Remember millions of babies survive quite well with much less than the amount of stuff in most minimal suggestions here. They are pretty small so a stroller is not really needed for several months/pounds. A box with a folded blanket to the baby is just as warm and cuddly as the fanciest bassinet. Changing on the floor is safer than on the best designed custom table anyway.

Baby needs food, warmth, keeping clean, Dr. appointments and love. It is overwhelming, you'll be fine.
posted by sammyo at 11:52 AM on February 23, 2016 [6 favorites]

My standard advice, which goes double because you are in Manhattan: If you're not sure whether to get something, don't. Anything you absolutely need will be available at a 24-hour drugstore. Anything that you decide would be nice to have you can order and have in a day or two.

Of the suggestions above, I would wait on:
- playmat (can use blanket or crib, and won't need for at least the first few weeks)
- books/toys - again, won't need for at least a few weeks, and may not want to have much if any if you're going to leave in 10 weeks.
- potentially the carseat. For most people, it's a must, but if you're within a five minute walk from the hospital and can reach your pediatrician without driving, you might want to wait until you move. Our hospital had very cheap seats that you could use to get home. If you will only need it that one time, you could do that then give it away. Check with the hospital.

Again, remember that you are really planning for the first week.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 11:57 AM on February 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

I slept in dresser drawers as a baby and you could never tell to look at me. With the age range you're talking about, I'd focus more on nice things for yourself. Though my stepmom did love the cloth diaper service they splurged on.
posted by SMPA at 12:03 PM on February 23, 2016 [4 favorites]

If you have a c-section, it will be hard for you to come and go for a while when there are five flights of stairs in your way. You should set your apartment up so you are prepared to spend a bunch of time in it. I hope you have air conditioning that works well. If not, get a room air conditioner.
posted by crazycanuck at 12:04 PM on February 23, 2016 [4 favorites]

We were in a fifth-floor walk up for our first. Didn't use the stroller for six months; carriers did the trick! Particularly the Ergo. Baby slept in the co-sleeper at night and lounged in the rock n' play during the daytime.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:05 PM on February 23, 2016

You need a diaper change pad (put in on a dresser)
Nursing pillow
Baby Carrier

That's it for the apartment. Congrats!
posted by Kalmya at 12:06 PM on February 23, 2016

Assuming that you will live there until your baby is 5 months, there honestly is no need to invest into much at all. The baby wont be mobile independently until after that time, and depending on whose recommendations you follow might not eat solids until after you move out. Mine started solids at 6 months.
Practically speaking this means the priorties are sleeping, eating and pooping, at least until 3 months. Months 4 and 5 you can still be safe with minimal as at the most she will try and roll her body. So there is no need to childproof windows, doors cabinets etc. or buy high chairs, rocking horses, swings, etc etc.

Sleeping - depends on what works for you, but if the side bassinet and cosleeping is not to your taste, consider a laundry basket or the type of bassinet used on a pram (often people will sell those off cheaply once they don't need them aymore eg their child is 4 or 5 months old). Lately I often come across the idea as practiced in Finlad to use a cardboard box - personally I would be very sceptical about residual chemicals in the card board boxes used for shipping goods or fruit (bananas!!), unless the box is specifically manufactured for baby sleeping (as is apparently the case in Finland).

Eating - if you do indeed breastfeed, you could aim to breastfeed exclusively until 6 months ( a common recommendation in a number of European countries, and this way save yourself from buying the whole paraphernalia of baby eating (heaters for food jars, sterilisers, special plates, spoons, cups, bottles, high chair, floor mat etc etc). However, this is something you can not plan for - I expected to enounter no problem and ended up supplementing wiht bottles. I wish someone had told me to look for a breastfeeding / lactation counselor while pregnant because when you suddenly face a problem bf a newborn you will need help fast and now.

Pooping - a small baby can easily be changed on any flat clean surface covered by a towel, eg your bed, the couch, the floor, a table - a thick/heavy towel will be sufficient as a protection of the surface and hygenic cover beneath baby - there really is no need at all for a changing table. Get some container for the clean diapers and another one for the wipes, and if your place is tiny perhaps one of those diaper buckets that encases the dirty diaper in plastic. But until she eats solids and is exclusively bf, it will not be half as gross as you think but still stinky somehow.

And for playing just get a blanket or quilt unless you dont have one alreeady , put it on the floor and offer some used tupperware (food safe and hopefully washed a 1000 times) and until you move out ask no one gift you toys as a) a baby of less than 5 months needs no toys despite something to chew (but this could be the lid of a tupperware box) and b) you have no space to store until such an age as she will enjoy the toys.

getting about - baby wearing is a great option if you live urban and with no car and no storage for a stroller. I did too. I carried him until about 15 months. The I bought a succession of super cheap ones (stroller theft being a major issue in boboville where I live and people buy bugaboos for 1500 Euros)
The only thing to pay close attention to is that very young babies (under 3 months) must not be carried /worn in asling the wrong way - join a class for baby wearing, many let you also try different styles with a doll and can (or should be able to) advise on the difference in how to wear/carry a newborn vs a 6 months old. Don't just purchase something off ebay or etsy without real adice by a real person.

I think there is such an incredibly pressure out there for pregnant women to spend money, and honestly, it is all wasted. The baby will want you nad will not care about anything else until they start being mobile. Safe it for a time when the child has some real wishes - eg a super special bed with curtains and a pirate look out.
posted by 15L06 at 12:08 PM on February 23, 2016 [10 favorites]

The only things I'd add that I haven't seen mentioned would be a boppy and cloth diapers. The boppy (or another breastfeeding pillow) will make nursing a million times easier. Cloth diapers are great for cleaning up spit up, leaks, whatever gross stuff the baby will throw at you.

For specific product recommendations, Lucie's List was really helpful for me.

posted by galvanized unicorn at 12:08 PM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

I recommend finding out if you would be allowed a stroller. I had a complicated delivery and some other problems that cropped up and I wasn't able to baby wear for very long at a time. So, to be able to get out and about, I depended on having a stroller and being able to lean on it. If you end up with a C-section or a more complicated tear, you might need the stroller once you are able to go up and down the stairs. If I hadn't had a stroller, I wouldn't have been able to go out for the first few months with each child. I know a few other people who were in my situation.

Aside from that, babies don't need much. You can get away with a bassinette when they are tiny and switch to a crib/co-sleeper. I changed the babies on my bed, using a change pad. I had some blankets and outfits. Diapers. Wipes. Cloths. Burp cloths. Sling/carrier/Ergo. A car seat (so you have one handy). Not a whole lot.

Maybe you can beg your landlord to let you lock up the car seat and stroller downstairs, at least for the first while.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 12:12 PM on February 23, 2016

I used to live in a 1 BD Manhattan 5th floor walk up.

- Yes, a baby carrier. I liked the baby bjorn, those wrap around things freaked me out. YMMV.

- A mini travel crib for the first 10 months are GREAT. Or some kind of bedside pod thingy. These are between, $50 to $150.

- Use a changing mat on your bed for changing.

- Some kind of bouncy chair. I had one with a super small profile, you don't need a crazy big one.

- You literally don't need much more, space for supplies and clothes. That's it.

*** I don't think diaper disposal systems work or are worth it, but get yourself a roll of bags like at the supermarket for vegetables, or pay more fore diaper disposal bags. Take your garbage down 2x per day***

posted by jbenben at 12:15 PM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Lots of great advice here already, but wanted to just agree that you can absolutely do this! If there was one thing I could tell pre-baby me, it's that stores will be open after the baby is born. You will be able to buy something you need after the baby is here. I'm someone who sometimes has anxiety about spending money and I HATE buying things that I don't need or use. I felt lots of guilt for wasting money on supplies I didn't use for my first child. You know, in addition to the all the other mom guilt I felt! For me, it was much easier with baby #2 when I knew not to buy lots of supplies in advance. I have also always lived in small spaces and it's so much easier to not have the extra supplies creating clutter. We live in the Amazon age, where if you decide you want to try a rock-and-play or a new sling or stroller, you can buy one and have it within days. Hell, in NYC you can probably have it in an hour.
To answer your questions, I would find out now if you can park a stroller in the foyer. But that doesn't mean you have to buy a stroller now. A bassinet will probably work for 5 months. It will definitely work for the first few months. Then, if baby is pretty big or rolling over at an early age, you could buy a pack and play. When I was living in a small apartment with a baby, we had a changing pad on top of our dresser. First drawer of dresser was emptied for diapers and baby clothes (I recommend mostly sleepers in size 3 months and up). We had a bassinet that we placed by the bed and I ended up rolling it out to the living room fairly often too. Alternatively, a travel bassinet like this can be really functional too. I would make room for a comfortable rocking chair or glider before I would make room for a crib. You are going to want a comfortable place to sit and nurse or bottle feed baby.
For baths, we didn't have room for a baby tub. We did sponge baths on a table top or the floor and then when baby was a bit bigger, one of us just sat in the tub and held the baby. Those little baby baths are something I'll always remember. A sling is a great way to travel with baby. Maybe buy a relatively inexpensive one now, and then when baby is here you could take him/her to a baby store with you and try out others to see which model you prefer. Finally, I do really recommend buying a breast pump and bottles. This is one thing that if you decide you need it, you will need to have it on hand almost immediately. I liked the Medela Pump in Style. Finally, you'll want the bedroom - or wherever baby is sleeping - to have very dark, black-out shades and access to a white noise machine. Grace makes a simple white noise machine that works fine or you can buy white noise apps.
Congratulations! I hope you'll share photos once your sweetie is here.
posted by areaperson at 12:16 PM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

I would come up with a strategy now for the folks who will want to give you presents. Might you want to register for things you'll need when the baby is a bit older, and you could have those gifts sent to a parent's house? People love giving presents when babies are born, and while this might normally be welcome, having all this clutter at the outset might make life more complicated.

Good luck!
posted by bluedaisy at 12:17 PM on February 23, 2016 [4 favorites]

When we had our first baby we had a "travel system" which could take a travel cot or car seat (something like this although it was a different make). Folded down, the base did not take up that much space and we used the travel cot as a bassinet (which was fine for several months). If a sling or other on-body carrier isn't practical for you, this might be a good way to get double use out of things.
posted by crocomancer at 12:40 PM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

forgot to add re bathing - I used to bathe him in the kitchen sink until about 6 months. So convenient for avoiding back pain. before 2 or 3 weeks I don't think I bathed him at all, our pediatrician being very much for preserving the natural skin, only wiped with wetted paper kitchen towels. I used to carry those around with me too, in a zip lock bag.

re clothes - I would have loved to have someone deliver the clean stuff!! so if you can go for it. I had way to many clothes, so many hand me downs. If I did it again I would really be much more selective.
posted by 15L06 at 12:47 PM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Congratulations! I favorited this because I'm in a similar position. I will offer that a good friend said that she used the sling/baby carrier way more than the stroller, especially at first. I was also looking at using a pack n'play with the bassinet/changer attachment as a crib. My niece slept in a Fisher Price Rock n'Play for several months - my sister liked it because she didn't need to mess with sheets and such and it folds up. Even if you already know where the baby is going to sleep, it might be nice to have because it's cheap, doesn't take up much space, and can serve as another place to park the baby. Good luck!
posted by kat518 at 12:53 PM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Such good advice here - go with the most minimalist, up till six months you literally only need diapers and onesies. I loved the disposable washcloths, but you could manage with cotton ones which can go in the laundry and you might have already. A small plastic basin for bathing is a good thing, but once while traveling I washed my baby in a big soup pot.

For changing, a towel on the bed or a table or counter is fine.

It's true you might end up needing a breast-pump and bottles and stuff, but as someone wrote: you are in New York, drugstores are open 24/7. If the need arises you can do something. If it doesn't, all that stuff is a mess. No solid food until 6 months.

The bouncy chairs are really nice to have, but not good for your child's development. A folded blanket and a big pillow on the floor is better. Good toys for small babies are small wooden and plastic kitchen tools. (Food safe). And one teddy bear or something.

Most children are fine in a cardboard box, Finnish style, till 6 months. Or a basket, or a drawer. A travel bassinet is good too. Some children start to be able to sit up already at 3 months, and then you need to make sure your cot/crib is safe. But that is in 3 months, wait and see.

About on-body carriers vs. strollers: my babies were small and medium. Easy to carry. But two of my friends and my sister-in-law had large babies and they were not able to carry them for more than 10-15 minutes. Again: wait and see. Even a huge baby is small to begin with.

If I were to mention one product that really improved life it would be the voksi bag. With a voksi and it's special inserted bottom piece, you don't need anything else and your baby is always safe and cosy. But since you are giving birth in June, it might be too warm. (My no 1 is from July and moved into her voksi in October, but much depends on the weather). It's not necessary, but it is definitely nice.
posted by mumimor at 1:06 PM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

- Laundry delivery sounds great.

- Yes, you can easily get by with just a sling or carrier until the baby is 5 months old.

- Will you need a car seat at all? I hate to say it, but I think I’d recommend having an infant bucket. You may want/need to take a cab to a pediatrician. Also, I have heard that some hospitals require you to have a car seat to take the baby home. Something to look into. And if you do get an infant bucket, you may want to consider a Snap-n-go stroller frame. They’re quite small, though I admit I wouldn’t relish lugging one up and down five flights regularly while carrying an infant bucket seat. Might be nice once in a while, but I think you’d be fine with just the carrier.

- The co-sleeper seems like a good option, although I’m not sure you can count on making it to 5 months with it. You’re not supposed to use it once the baby can push up to hands and knees. Some babies do before 5 months. Another option would be a Pack ‘n’ Play, since you’re not planning to actually use the co-sleep function. They make ones that come with a bassinet attachment for small infants. The downside is that the bassinet is outgrown at 15 lbs (probably between 3 and 4 months). You can use the Pack ‘n’ Play itself for sleeping but it is very low – not ideal for lowering a sleepy baby. But maybe not so bad as a temporary measure. We still use the Pack ‘n’ Play as a travel crib at 20 months, and also occasionally as a play pen. Some also have a changing table attachment.

- Aside from that, I really appreciated having a dresser for the baby’s clothes. We got a 4 drawer Ikea Malm, which isn’t huge, and slapped a changing pad on top. But if there’s no room for that, you’ll be fine changing the baby on the bed.
posted by Kriesa at 1:17 PM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

We had a small apartment for the first 8 weeks, and we bought a 4-in-one pack'n'play that was a bassinet, a crib, a play pen, AND, most importantly, it had a flip-over diaper change table on it. It was basically this. I loved this! Baby olinerd slept in this for the first 8 or 9 weeks until we moved into our house and could set up her real crib. When that happened, I put this out in our living room as an easy daytime nap/"put the baby down and be sure she'll be where I left her" area. We've gotten a ton of use out of it.

We did have a diaper genie thing. Especially depending on your trash situation you definitely want something that will contain the smell of a day or two's worth of diapers in your bedroom/living room. My husband was like "but newborn diapers don't smell that bad!" and then during our move we spent two nights in a serviced apartment where we just put them in the normal trash and guess what, they reeked.

I'm all for the baby carrier. We used ours far more than our stroller in the first few months. Usually now when I take the stroller it's just because I want to hang a lot of stuff in/on it (hi, airport travel).

Other things: we had 12 identical dish towels we weren't passionate about as a wedding gift. We put on within reach of every sitting surface in the apartment. They all got used to clean up milk, baby vomit, water I spilled because I was clumsy, etc. Do this. It was useful.

A nice soft bath mat or something to put the baby on while you shower, if like me only one of you will be home caregiving while also needing a shower. "Shower while the baby naps" just never happened for me.

It really does depend how long you'll be there. For 10 weeks, you really will just be feeding, changing diapers, and sleeping, with the occasional outing. We did fine with no extraneous stuff for this period. If you're there for five months, you will want a bouncy chair, or a rocker, or play mat, or something, because the little one will start needing stimulation and entertainment. But for 10 weeks? Sleep, poop, eat, repeat. Much easier.
posted by olinerd at 1:24 PM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Probably the only thing that we really agonized about not having in the house was infant ibuprofen when it was called for in the middle of the night. Other than that you can use a Pak and Play or similar collapsible setup for the first six months easy.
posted by benzenedream at 1:24 PM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

I wanted to come back to address the stroller / no stroller issue (I was one of the people recommending the car seat-holder stroller frame). While I agree that when it's just you and a little one, there's no need for a stroller, the missing element is how are you planning to handle groceries, diapers, etc?

Having a stroller (especially with storage space underneath or a mommy hook), means you can shop with the baby and not have to worry about how to get everything home (babywearing with bags is fine for this when baby is under 15 pounds, then it starts to get iffier). Everywhere here delivers, plus there's FreshDirect, so that may not be an issue for you guys. But for us that cost was more than we wanted to take on. We live on the first floor, though, so getting the groceries home with the stroller wasn't an issue - if you already get everything delivered because of your walkup, this could be less of an issue for you.
posted by Mchelly at 1:33 PM on February 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

When we travelled around India and had a tiny baby, we had a travel basinette in the bed with us. So our daughter was sleeping on a firm surface, no sids risk from co-sleeping, while technically cosleeping anyway. Back home we had a pram with a basinette attachment which we placed in the middle of our bed on occasion.
posted by taff at 2:14 PM on February 23, 2016

In terms of stuff, this is no problem at all. Two things I would recommend even if you were living in a palatial mansion: A Rock N Play for all sleeping until baby is consistently rolling over, and a Beco baby carrier. The Beco can be used from birth with no infant insert, and works up through toddlerhood. It is more comfortable with a bigger baby than a wrap will be.

With the stroller issue, you probably won't need it often, but I think a small umbrella stroller (see Lucie's List for recommendations on the lightest one) that you can fold up and carry up the stairs easily would be worth the space. But it's absolutely something you can wait to buy to see if you need/use it.

I would say that a small cheap bouncy seat is worth the space as well. It's really nice to have somewhere safe to put the baby down in the living room, and although you can move the Rock N Play around, it'd be nice not to have to do that.

Lastly, I really recommend a breast pump and bottles. Your insurance will cover it, and without it, with exclusive breastfeeding, you can't leave the baby for more than an hour or so and believe me, you'll want to!

All the best!
posted by reksb at 2:18 PM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Baby wearing is great, but I also came here to say that my sister was barely able to carry the baby through the house after difficult birth, and would have been completely trapped without a stroller. That doesn't mean you should buy one now but definitely look into them so if you decide you desperately want one three days in, its not a blind panicked purchase.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 2:22 PM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

so we actually did this for 2.5 years. Third story walk up probably less than 600 square feet. We were able to store our big stroller under the stairs. It was still a huge PIA and I rejoiced when he could use an umbrella stroller.

Our entire baby accoutrement consisted of a mini-crib, a glider that fit in our bedroom, an exercise ball in the living room, a bunch of canvas baskets for clothes and toys and a play mat to go over the rug in the living room. We kept his toy box stashed under a built in in our living room and we were quick to put things away. We bought a changing tray to put on the bed or dresser, but quickly realized it was a waste of space and put it into our storage. Ubbi diaper pail was huge. he also had a bouncy chair that got used a bunch in the living room.

The real key is to straighten up constantly and edit the babies things with an absolute unrelenting vengeance. Bottle too small - out. Clothes to small - out. Season changed - out. Not playing with a toy anymore - out. Family got told no big toys, no big stuffed animals.

One thing to keep in mind is that if you will be looking for a carer to make sure they are physically able to take the baby up and down the stairs several times a day. It can be pretty exhausting.

We loved our neighborhood and we had an incredible deal on our apartment and I don't regret staying there post baby.
posted by JPD at 2:36 PM on February 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

We had a mini co-sleeper right next to my side of the bed that was great & had baby less than an arm's reach away. There was storage in the bottom of this add-on, which helps with storage. 4 bassinet size sheet sets. No pillows. Kids like human faces more than toys or dolls. You don't need a diaper genie, just a can with a lid and a plan for frequent disposal. We used bassinet size waterproof mattress pads to change the kiddo on any appropriate flat surface. We lucked out with a tough-as-nails $20 BabysRus umbrella stroller that lasted through 2 kids. Sometimes you will want the stroller option, and it doesn't require a lot of space, and could be bike-locked somewhere if need be. Hang on to you old t-shirts/washable clothes, as you will have extra laundry, too. You will be dropping off wash more frequently, and hand washing/spot cleaning. IKEA has a fun octopus clip hanger for air drying that works great for mittens & such as a kiddo grows. Washable breast pads, you only need one tube of lanolin. Triple paste was a silver bullet for diaper rash.

I literally co-slept with my oldest for the first 6 months, but can say that heavy sleeping and other factors make this a tricky option. I hope this is helpful!
posted by childofTethys at 3:39 PM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

reading my tea leaves is exactly what you're looking for. You can search for the posts about how they manage baby stuff. The link is to a post showing the sled they made out of a box during the recent snowstorm. Super adorable.

My advice- you need five or so each of sleepers and onesies, diapers, a baby carrier or wrap. A small place for the baby to sleep is good but you may end up not using it. See if you can find a baby wearing class/meetup/group and try a couple out before the baby comes because there are lots of different options.

If you have friends who have kids don't be shy about asking for hand me downs. Parents are usually happy to get rid of stuff.

Anything else you need, you can buy as it's needed. If you have well meaning people in your life who may buy you things without asking first, try to preemptively suggest small items (or college fund donations!) If you can.
posted by betsybetsy at 6:36 PM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Lots of great advice already, I would add that there are a lot of baby things that come in handy, but you usually won't know until you have said baby. I think if you acquire something for baby and it isn't a good fit- just pass it on to the next person. I found that there was always a steady stream of hand me downs from other families and I tried to utilize those before I bought anything. An infant car seat doubles as a place for baby to hang out in the apartment (instead of a bouncy seat or other baby seat. Most babies stay in them for a good number of months. It's also handy because you can strap your baby in their carseat in the bathroom and pop into the shower when there isn't a second set of hands around to help. I think a car seat and a car seat stroller thing is really useful, bypass a full stroller until you moved. There are going to be times when you will want to put the baby down, so a sling is great, but a stroller set up like the one above provides a safe spot when you go to the doctor for your postpartum check-up. I liked the pack and play that was posted above- I used the area below the bassinet to store extra baby stuff we weren't using, and the changing part kept a contained space that if a blowout happened we wouldn't be changing our whole bed. You can put a hand towel down in your kitchen sink so the bottom isn't slippery and use that to bath baby for a good long time.
posted by momochan at 9:04 PM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

We're in similar shoes (a 1 BR in Oakland, expecting a baby). To add to a few things:
- It helped us a lot to declutter our own stuff and maximize our storage (e.g., get boxes that go under beds, get wall hooks, install a bathroom shelf).
- If you do want a full stroller for walking to shopping, there are strollers that fold up really easily and are on the lighter side for carrying up the stairs. We got the City Mini Jogger ($170 on Amazon after the baby registry discount) which will hook to a bunch of different car seats, including car seats designed for the taxi scenario.
- You'll want to set up a nursing station: somewhere comfortable to sit with a water bottle, snacks, reading material. We got rid of our "office desk" and put a borrowed rocker there, but you could probably get by with your couch.
- I mostly agree with "you can always buy things later," with one exception: the breast pump thing has been enough of a hassle that you might want to do it ahead of time if you think you'll want a serious one. (You can request a referral from your doctor to get it reimbursed by insurance, then contact the place they refer you to... it's taken me almost two weeks myself.)
- In many situations, there are compact or foldable things.
- Our friends who have done this successfully credit frequent Craigslisting and trips to goodwill to sell or donate anything they stopped using.

Good luck!
posted by slidell at 10:40 PM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Based on my own experience I would just add that while you certainly can do without many things (and we did, due to a lack of funds, rather than space), many of these purchaseables can make difficult aspects of looking after an infant easier. In fact, I distinctly recall laughing with my husband about how every time we were able to buy a thing our lives just got better. For example, a microwave steamer for bottle cleaning. An actual nappy bag with pockets, instead of plastic bags or too-small handbags. So while it is great to hear of all the ways in which you can manage, and of course people do, I wouldn't get too excited about how utterly wasteful all those other mums are for buying these other things, and I would be looking to take the earlier moving out date if you can because smaller spaces are in fact generally harder, even if they are course ultimately manageable if needs must.
posted by jojobobo at 1:16 AM on February 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

Things that people forget to tell you: you will be bringing the kid for pediatricians appointments almost immediately. If you've just had a c-section, this will make the fifth floor walk up quite difficult. You'll also be going in for at least one OB appointment fairly soon afterward. Again, there are those stairs.

I just had a kid last week and we're in a one bedroom apartment as well. I'd suggest getting the breast pump ahead of time (especially if you're getting it through your insurance); breast feeding could work beautifully for you or not. When you realize that it is the latter, it is good to be prepared rather than making an emergency trip to Target and paying out of pocket for an expensive item. In addition, those formula companies will find you and send you samples. Keep them. If the moment comes that you realize that your kid isn't getting enough from your boobs, you will be happy to have an alternative.

An oilcloth table cloth makes a great surface to put down to change the kid.

The arms reach cosleeper that attaches to your bed seems to work pretty well so far. We have that in the bedroom and a pack and play thing in our living room.
posted by sciencegeek at 2:01 AM on February 24, 2016

We have lived in a ~600 square foot 1.5 bedroom 3rd floor walkup since my son was born 2 years ago. It's not super ideal, but it's totally fine.
My advice:
1. You don't need a crib, high chair, changing table, or swing. You DO need somewhere safe for your baby to nap/sleep, and a safe place for your baby to be put down when you need to use both hands during the day. A co-sleeper does not strike me as a good buy in your situation because, although it would be great at first, it may not fit a 5-month-old (our son was too big at 4 months). A Pack'n'Play will, though, and you can use it as a cosleeper with the insert at the beginning. Another option is a Rock'n'Play (possibly also not big enough for a 5-month-old?), which has the added benefit of being easily portable and good for putting your baby in when you need a place to put him/her down during the day - but it's not a flat sleep surface. Personally, my best recommendation for you is to get a Pack'n'Play whether or not you plan to cosleep, and maybe a flat-folding bouncy seat (we had this one and it was great) so you can put your baby down during the day. Yes, you can put your baby on a blanket on the ground (and less than 5 month olds are unlikely to be mobile), but I can almost guarantee there will be times when you will need to get a few things done around the house (sometimes you need to do things that can't be done while babywearing, even) and your baby will not feel like laying flat on the floor to play.
2. Yes, you need a car seat - you might need to rush to the pediatrician, etc. For your situation just get a light Graco bucket seat. You COULD even use this in place of a bouncer seat or Rock'n'Play or whatever other solution you pick for "place to put baby while I unload the dishwasher".
3. You will want delivery laundry 1000000000%. If this is doable for you, DO IT. Depending on how difficult it is for you to change your laundry schedule or decide when it will be done, you may need a LOT of outfits for your baby. It's seriously not ridiculous to plan on having 6 full outfits per DAY if your kid spits up a lot or is prone to blowouts. Mine wasn't prone to either and we still had an average of 3-4 changes a day. You will also want large numbers of plain burp cloths or bibs, and muslin blankets. If you have a stash of bodysuits, diapers, blankets and cloths/bibs you should be good. None of these things take up much space at all.
4. We did not use our stroller until our kid was like 6 months old. Babywearing worked awesome for us. If you don't have the OPTION of the stroller you might find yourself trying out a few carriers to see what your kid likes, and there's always the frustrating possibility your kid won't like being worn, but that's rare. If you're only going to buy 1 carrier, buy the Ergo 360 and get the infant insert - that'll cover your bases, and it can be easily worn by 2 very different-sized adults with some quick adjusting. My tip: guides say babies less than 6 months don't like facing outward, but this was just hilariously dead wrong for our kid, who insisted on facing outwards at 1 month.
5. Instead of a changing table we just bought a bunch of small waterproof mats and used those. Never been a problem. We put diaper supplies in a small basket.
6. In terms of smaller bits of baby gear, we got by without a diaper bag, without a breast pump for the first 6 weeks, without any special gear for bottles (we just washed them in the dishwasher and stored them in a drawer, we had a total of 5 when my son was in daycare and I was pumping), without a nursing pillow (just arranged pillows on the couch or bed). Baby played on a folded quilt on the floor. No rocking chair or special nursing chair.

I am a very healthy fit person who had a very difficult birth following a very healthy pregnancy, and for several weeks afterwards I had a REALLY hard time getting up the stairs to my apartment. Pain, dizziness, weakness, etc. If you find yourself in that position, just camp out in your apartment until you heal, and make sure your partner carries the baby down the stairs on the way to those early pediatrician appointments. Really.
posted by Cygnet at 7:24 AM on February 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

You are probably on top of this already, but if you are really looking only for things that would be useful in the first five months, you should know that:

1) Most umbrella strollers do not allow the baby to lie completely flat, which is required for the first 6 months.

2) Babies don't drink juice or eat anything other than breastmilk or formula for the first six months. So feeding equipment except for formula and expressed milk bottles is not needed.

3) For newborns under four months or so, you need to be very careful in positioning them in a sling or other hands-free carrier because they can suffocate with their chins on their chests etc. I agree with the advice upthread that you should find a babywearing expert to help get this right.

We were in a similar situation when we'd planned to move from the one bedroom apartment before the baby was born, but he arrived early. Because I'd been waiting until after the move to buy stuff we didn't have everything we needed. Right away we needed a good electric double pump (ours came with a few bottles), an arms reach mini co-sleeper which we used in the bassinet configuration, receiving blankets for swaddling, diapers and wipes, a changing pad, a baby bucket car seat (we also didn't have a car but needed to take cabs to and from doctors), and baby clothes. I found that I needed a lot more baby clothes than expected because they mess them up pretty quickly and they really do need to be covered up. If you are reading the blogs you might find as I did that people suggest not buying clothes because "babies don't need to be bundled up" and "you will get so many as gifts." I think these people are reacting against some notions of baby care that weren't part of my world -- babies need probably one more layer than you need to be comfortable and you might not get clothes as gifts.
posted by SandiBeech at 7:33 AM on February 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

1) Most umbrella strollers do not allow the baby to lie completely flat, which is required for the first 6 months.

This belief is regional. In my area of the US only a small minority of strollers allow the baby to lie flat; it's not seen as important. It's a common belief in Europe.

You will be confronted with quite a few similar situations, where one group/country/culture insists that ABC is essential for proper development and another group/country/culture has never paid attention to ABC or only considers it a 10th priority.

Personally, as a parent, I found these discrepancies (ESPECIALLY discrepancies in pediatrician recommendations between countries) very informative... There are a lot of right ways to raise a baby, and we all tend to get kind of short sighted about that.
posted by Cygnet at 7:59 AM on February 24, 2016 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Well THIS is amazing. Thank you all for the (slightly overwhelming but extremely useful) advice and recs. Everyone's brought up stuff I wasn't even thinking about (which is what I hoped for!) so we're going to go through carefully, create our shopping lists, research a bunch of stuff, and then be fully prepared for it to all go out the window when an actual tiny baby appears in our lives.

I really appreciate the reassurance!
posted by cpatterson at 1:10 PM on February 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

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