Four Tips for Living with a Baby in a Small Space

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The Shoebox is no stranger to infants. Three times over the past four years we have introduced a new baby to the tiny apartment we call home. With each addition the walls seemed to march in a few inches, and we’ve learned more about living well with a baby in a small space. These four principles are our advice for bringing a tiny baby home to a tiny home.

 Ok, confession time: I’ve tried to write this post about seven times over the past four months, since Little Lady was born. I would sit down and genuinely wrack my brain for tips about bringing an infant home to a small space. Each time I gave up because my suggestions sounded lame, words empty. The problem might be abundance of ideas more than lack, because here’s the thing. Every family, regardless of home size, finds their own rhythm of integrating a new member.

Some families share a bed while others carve out private sleeping spaces for each person. Some babies never use their crib and are only happy in their swings instead. Some mothers breastfeed while others use a bottle. Caring for babies can take on a zillion unique patterns and props between families, and that’s not even addressing the infants who require a little more TLC in the form of bilirubin beds or oxygen tanks, which occupy even more space.

There. Is. No. Normal. New babies bring a season of survival and how-do-I-do-this-again? almost every time because of their different personalities and needs. With that being said, I really am going to press on and attempt a few universal tips for raising a baby in a small space. Here goes:

1. Evaluate Furniture Requirements

When nesting instinct kicks in, suddenly having all the baby furniture bought and assembled can seem paramount. Don’t let the flood of sudden Babies R Us catalogs persuade you to buy more than you need. If you feel like you don’t have room for a changing table, don’t sweat it. Although we use an old dresser as our changing table, half the time I change the baby on the bed or floor. Instead of squeezing a glider or rocking chair into the Shoebox, I just make do by nursing my babies with my knees up on our bed. Maybe before shelling out for that deluxe swing, wait until you know for sure that your new family member likes the feeling of swaying back and forth.

Although we do have a crib in the bedroom, we generally have the infant sleep in a portable crib in the living room until they are more or less sleeping through the night. That way we risk fewer night interruptions for the boys during those early days. It also means that we take down and put up the Pack ‘N Play to save space in our main living area. It might be a pain, but it just happens to be what works for us. 🙂

Try to anticipate what your rhythm of life might look like, and evaluate what your furniture needs might be ahead of time.

2. Invest In Only What You Need

Borrow, borrow, borrow. Babies go through clothes and other items really quickly. If you have friends nearby who are willing, borrow items from them that you know you’ll only need for a short while. Newborn clothes? Yeah they really only last a couple weeks for healthy, growing babies. We like to have a baby bouncer chair to place the little one once they are about four weeks old. It’s nice to have someplace besides the floor where they can chill, be a part of the family and still be out of the way. So with each child, we’ve borrowed a bouncer chair and then given it back around the four month mark. At the risk of being painfully obvious, I would add that an example of something you DO need is a good car seat. Just sayin’.

3. Include Baby In Family Life

One way to live with a baby in a small space is to include them in the waves of every day life instead of ostracizing them for being an infant. What I mean by that is this: the sooner you demonstrate the flow of your family’s day, the sooner they’ll catch on and (hopefully!) mesh into that pattern. Example: wear your baby with one of the awesome baby carriers out there. Bonus? It saves space to have them strapped to your person. 🙂

4. Plan ahead

One important way to work with a baby in a small space is to think ahead. If we are home during the day, Little Lady takes her naps in the crib in the bedroom to allow the rest of the family relative flexibility in activities during that time. However if I put the baby down before the boys are dressed, I must remember to grab a couple outfits to change them into after I lay Little Lady down. Otherwise I have to go in later and risk waking her up. So if you live in a small space and your rooms do double duty, plan ahead for who uses which area when. By “scheduling” who gets dibs on a room or nook you can seamlessly move through your day with minimal space crunch.

If you have a baby arriving soon and you’re living in a small space, take heart. It can be done, and it can be done well.

 If you have a baby arriving soon and you’re living in a small space, take heart.
It can be done, and it can be done well.

Evaluate your furniture requirements, invest in only what you might need, enjoy enveloping baby into your everyday life, and do your best to plan ahead throughout the day. You’ll be fine. 🙂

Hey other fellow parents of youngsters in smallish homes! What would YOU add to this list? Comment below and share your tips.

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  • SarahW
    June 30, 2014

    I’m no parent, but this post (and ALL the other ones you have written!) makes me less fearful of becoming one, especially as we wonder where our family will end up! It is good to know a family who has done the small spaces thing well. Feeling inspired! Love you guys

    • Evelyn
      June 30, 2014

      Helloooooo love! You are going to be an amazing mom when the time comes around, no matter where you’re living. Of course, I hope it’s close by… 🙂

  • olive
    June 30, 2014

    You don’t need a bath as it takes up a lot of space

    • Evelyn
      June 30, 2014

      You’re right, Olive… it does take up a lot of space. But we store it in the bathroom above our washer/dryer, and it’s nicely out of the way there. Since we only have a shower, it is one of the items that makes life easier for us and therefore fits into the current “need” category. 🙂 The kiddos still generally love splashing around in there, even though it is a snug fit for the older one. 😉

  • Lois
    June 30, 2014

    You may have struggled to write this but you did a fine job. I had small homes when my boys were young and can tell you the demands are harder when they are teens but like you said it can be done by any family if you want it enough.

    My youngest son and his wife are expecting and wanting to have a dedicated nursery my son moved his office and his closet into their garage rather than buying a bigger home. I think we forget that families didn’t used to have large homes and children shared rooms, we limited the number of toys and made do with what we had.

    By the way, love the picture of your Little Lady, she’s beautiful

    • Evelyn
      June 30, 2014

      Thanks Lois! Great thoughts. 🙂 I love that your son rearranged his home to make do–that so resonates with us!

  • Jayleen Zotti
    June 30, 2014

    You are such a great writer! You are taking me back 12 years when we brought our son home and he and my 2-year-old daughter shared a room. They shared for two years before we purchased a larger home and they each had their own room. They liked being together though and continued to sleep in the same room for a few more years!

    • Evelyn
      June 30, 2014

      Hi Jayleen! Thanks for chipping in and your encouragement… yeah our boys love sharing a room too. I know it gives them a certain level of comfort to know the other is nearby, and their bond of friendship is strong.

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