Converting unexpected places into nursery space

Anti-SIDS recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics support sharing your bedroom with Baby for the beginning of their life, up to their first year. This means that finding space for a nursery or child’s bedroom isn’t a problem that needs an immediate fix. Instead, for many families, it’s an issue that only gets pressing when they start growing out of the bassinet, or when their parents start to miss having a little privacy at night. However, waiting may mean that you have to convert a room that wasn’t meant to be a nursery into one.

Ways to make room when you don’t have room

  • Closet conversion: Nurseries that fit into closets are actually fairly trendy right now, and it does make a certain kind of sense, given that the closet is a room that’s a bit more proportional to Baby’s size than the bedroom you might not actually have for them. Closets also keep Baby close to you while still giving you your bedroom back. Obviously, this works best with larger or walk-in closets, but mini-cribs, storage below the crib, secure storage above it, and a judicious lack of other furniture can make even many smaller closets work. The main concerns with closet-nurseries are ventilation and insulation. Closets often aren’t insulated as thoroughly as rooms designed to be inhabited, which can cause temperature fluctuations. This is only really a problem if the closet you’re planning on using faces the outside of the building, though, since inner-wall closets don’t need to be insulated the same way. The best way to ensure that the closet stays well-ventilated, since they’re not designed for people to live in, is to either remove the door or, if you’re in a rental you can’t alter, just keep it propped open, and section off the area with a well-secured curtain.
  • Changing table cheat: Plenty of people say that it’s easy enough to avoid the expense and added space needed for a changing table by using the top of Baby’s dresser, but if Baby’s clothes are being stored in bins under the crib, or in shelves as a way of making full use of the walls, their changing table could just as easily be the converted top of your dresser, too.
  • Spread the nursery around: Once Baby’s space to sleep is set up, there’s no reason everything else they own needs to share the same space. Arrange your home in whatever way will be the most convenient for you and your family. A toy box in the living room, stash of baby toiletries and bath toys in the bathroom, and space on your own bookshelf for a board book section keeps Baby’s things from needing a central location. And if Baby spends most of their time in the living room, it makes sense that their changing station could be set up nearer to their play area than their sleep space.
  • Think vertical: Baby may be a little too young for bunk beds, but that doesn’t mean you are! Sharing a room with Baby becomes a lot more feasible once you have access to the space above your head as well, and the space underneath a lofted double bed is a good fit for a mini-nursery. Other good ways to use your vertical space include installing shelving on open walls (as long as they’re not above the crib, changing table, or anywhere else Baby will be lying down since items falling off the shelf could fall onto Baby and injure them, or into the crib), and using hanging containers for storage. Keep anything stored overhead neatly arranged to avoid toppling and always double-check that any shelving is properly and securely installed.
  • Block it out: Even if you haven’t actually got a second room, sectioning off your space from Baby’s using different colored throw-rugs can be a great, decorative way to maintain an independent sense of your own room while still keeping Baby close.
  • Mini-cribs: Babies are small, and their beds can be, too, even once they grow out of the bassinet stage.

Ideas that might be better on paper than in reality

  • Furniture as makeshift walls: Using furniture, even including decorative screens, as “walls” to section off new rooms is an appealing idea, but more wall-like pieces of furniture, like bookshelves and dressers, are generally designed to be positioned against a wall, and should be secured to walls when baby-proofing anyway. Setting them up in free-standing positions carries the risk that they’ll tip over.
  • Unconverted walk-in closets and bathrooms as nurseries: Using rooms without windows as bedrooms is generally against building codes. Unconverted walk-in closets and bathrooms also tend to have less effective ventilation than spaces designed to be used as bedrooms, and closing their doors, even accidentally, can reduce air quality in the rooms. Bathrooms can also be damp, and water sources like toilets and sinks can pose safety risks to older babies and young toddlers.
  • The wall as the closet, baby clothes as decorations: Baby clothes are adorable, but using the wall-space above the crib to store them carries the risk of the clothes falling into the crib and posing a SIDS risk.

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