baby playing

Do babies need a nursery?

If the thing stopping a couple from having a baby is purely real-estate-related, it needn’t (necessarily) be. Parents — and parents-to-be — may have it in their minds that each person in the household, including brand-new babies, needs his or her room.

Maybe it’s how mom and dad grew up. Maybe it’s how they dreamed of growing up, without having to share. Perhaps what they saw on TV while they were kids made it seem like the way to go. For whatever reason, they’ve come to accept it as “normal.”

Having babies and becoming a parent responsible for your own family’s health and well being has — for me, anyway — a way of making you contemplate how exactly people got by in life before these modern times. I mean, I sometimes take it way back, like to the cave. That’s probably where a woman laboured if her clan wasn’t currently migrating. And how about migrating while pregnant? Man, that’d be rough — or make you strong, depending on how you look at it… And where did she keep her baby? On the other side of the cave? I think not.

I digress, somewhat, but it’s all, in a sense, related. People made do with much less space to live in than we might now consider normal for many, many years. And they still do in many places in this beautiful, wild world.

Having your family close has its advantages, especially when your family has not yet even made one single trip around the sun. While some may have come to see having a separate nursery for baby as the ideal

New crib, new crib mattress, new rug, new curtains, new rocker, new wall art, new bookshelves, new dresser, new change mat—no doubt about it, the nursery business is big business. But do we all need to buy into it? I mean, is it possible to just do no nursery? Would that be okay? How would that work?

Well, ultimately, the answer to that question is going to be personal. And by personal, I mean it’s going to depend on you. If you’re wondering if you could make do without a nursery, here’s what you need to ask yourself:

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Where will the baby sleep? 

A nursery gives the baby a place to sleep that is not your room. Or should I say, it gives you a chance to sleep someplace where your baby is not. However, you should consider these two things: first, that oftentimes babies end up sleeping right by their parents anyway, and second, that it is possible to purchase a crib or bassinet that can be moved around the house, allowing the baby a chance to sleep by you sometimes, and other times allowing you a little space to yourself.

baby playing blocks

Where will you feed the baby? 

A nursery gives you somewhere to feed the baby in private. A lot of parents use the rocker in the nursery as the place to feed the baby during the night or when people are around. You need to ask: is privacy while feeding important to you? Is there somewhere else you can feed the baby at home? Where else might you feed the baby if you don’t want to keep your partner up at night?

Where will you change the baby? 

A nursery gives you somewhere to change the baby. Diaper changing is not the most pleasant activity; let’s put it that way. There will be occasional messes; there will be smells. Sometimes it’s nice that diaper changing doesn’t happen just anywhere but is confined to one space. Where could that space be in your place? It needs to be somewhere wipe-down-able and safe.

Where will you store all of the baby’s stuff? 

A nursery gives you a place to store baby’s stuff that is not the rest of the house. This is a biggie. No matter how minimalist you hope to be, you’ll be shocked at how much stuff one tiny person can accumulate. Toys, books, clothes, linen, changing pad, and gear… all of it has to go somewhere. A nursery creates a central location for baby things, preventing them from spreading out into every other area of the house. Is there a place where you could keep all of baby’s things together? Or would it be possible for you to make a no-go zone for a baby stuff-free space?

Should you share a space with a baby?

Let’s face it, and the baby will probably sleep with or near you for the first six months to a year of his life. So does he need his room? The Hatch looks at why and why not to share a room with the baby.

Why?

Whether or not you plan to follow the attachment parenting method, many new parents co-sleep with their newborns or place a bassinet for baby in their room for the first few weeks or months of baby’s life. This is a wonderful bonding and comforting experience for both baby and parents. It is also convenient for mom to nurse the baby in the middle of the night without disrupting too much of the night pattern.

If you’re tight on space in your home and don’t have an entire room to dedicate to baby, putting a crib in your room can be the perfect solution. If you have another child who has a room of his own, consider having the children share the room, though you can still have a baby sleep in your room for the first few weeks or months so as not to have the older sibling disturbed in the night when baby wakes to feed.

Why not

As a newborn, the baby is not going to need much space of his own. But as he grows, you will both probably need your own space. It’s also important that the parents maintain their own personal space for well, you know.

Even if you don’t have much space in your home, create a “room” using curtains or a room divider to make a personal space for baby. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, and you can do without a lot of the big bulky nursery furniture like a changing table (you’ll probably change him on the floor or the bed or wherever you happen to be in your home more than you will on the formal changing table anyhow!). Instead of a dresser, add extra shelving and rods to closets for baby’s clothes, diapers and more, and add shelves and cubicles to walls for toys and picture frames.

When sharing a space with baby, make an extra effort to carve out alone time with your man — without a baby in the room — to maintain your connection.

Reasons Baby Doesn’t Need A Nursery

Ease Of Access

What do babies do a lot of, like every hour or two in the very early days? Eat. What else do they do a whole heck of a lot of? Poop. And what else still? Pee.

I don’t say this to be daunting to new or prospective parents. I don’t want to freak anyone out or make them worry. But I do want to stress the convenience of having that little eating, pooping, and a peeing bundle of joy close by.

The first thing to do is accept the fact that in the early days a baby will need to breastfeed (or have a bottle) at least every few hours. Sorry to say, but that’s not just during daylight hours. And rather than dragging yourself out of bed, finding your way out the door, meandering sleepily down the hall, and going into the baby’s (separate) room each time, it might be a little more convenient to just have her in a bassinet or crib right in your bedroom.

Safe And Sound

I am by no means suggesting that you should stay up all night listening to your baby to make sure he’s breathing. But in the first maybe 24-48 hours, especially — when many but certainly not all new parents are still in the hospital — someone will probably need to be up monitoring the baby at all times. They’re just starting to do the whole breathing thing, and saliva and spit-up can easily create issues for them if they enter the wrong pipe.

And then in the early weeks, and even months, of life, it’s a comfort to many new moms and dads to hear the baby’s gentle breath, grunts, sighs, and snorts as she snoozes away right close by to her parents’ bed. If she does need assistance, such as to be repositioned, get burping or a pat on the back, or for someone to use a bulb syringe to clear out spit-up, boogers, and other bodily goop of the like, she’ll have help right there at the ready.

Beauty Rest

Anyone who’s ever had trouble sleeping knows that certain things can make it that much harder to fall back asleep when woken up or fall asleep at all in the first place. The bright glow of screens, turning on any lights at all, talking to others, getting up, and moving around can all take you from drowsy and oh-so-ready to drift off to alert and awake.

That’s why anything that you can do to stay a little closer to dreamland all of the many times you will be woken up to feed or change a newborn is probably a good idea if the goal is to get any amount of sleep at all. See, the two-hour intervals I was talking about earlier between each feeding? That’s from the start of one to the start of the next. Factor in how long each feeding takes, as well as any diaper and clothes changes that may be required, and that’s not a lot of time to allow yourself to unwind and drift back off to sleep before it’s time to do it all over again.

Pint-Sized People

This one might seem kind of obvious if you just think about it for a minute. Newborns weigh what, 7 or 8 pounds? Sometimes they’re a bit smaller, and sometimes they’re a bit larger. And how tall are we talking? 18-22 inches? Something in that range? That’s less than two feet, in case it helps you to think about it that way.

They’re just not big enough to require their whole room!

They don’t even move around on their own yet, so it’s not like they need room to stretch out and roam around. And even once they do, that’s not what nighttime is for. Bedrooms (though sometimes later on for some movement and play) are for — yep, sleeping!

A crib or even just a smaller bassinet at your bedside may suffice. Babies can tend to be comforted by smaller spaces, all the better to feel secure and get some good sleep. They just came from a really small one, after all. Even if you put small babies in full-sized cribs early on, they can tend to wedge themselves right up against the sides or into the corners where they feel nice and cozy.

Olfactory Matters

To a newborn, or even older baby, toddler, or young child, there’s one smell that is oh-so-nice. It means comfort. It means safety and protection. It means snuggles and food. It’s the one and only smell of mom!

You can test it yourself. If the baby is upset when the mom is not nearby, try putting one of mom’s shirts or sweaters within smelling distance. Does that little bundle calm right down, or at least pause to breathe in that sweet, sweet momma scent?

That’s why if mom is nearby, say right there sleeping in bed next to the bassinet or crib, and a baby will probably be happy and comforted.

And the same might also go for the sight of mom as well as her sounds. A baby sleeping right there in her mom’s room need only open her eyes or hear the sound of mom’s restful breathing to know help, food, and comfort are right there in case she needs them.

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Travelling Light

Even if you went to town to put together the first wardrobe for your baby, the entirety of it probably doesn’t take up much room. I cleaned off one bookshelf for my second little one’s clothing to prepare for her arrival. As she got older, her “closet” expanded to two shelves, diapers and supplies included.

A whole stack of onesies or rompers just doesn’t take up that much space. Whether it’s a storage area built-in under the bassinet, a bookshelf, a drawer in a dresser, or a nook in your closet, it won’t take much room to store pretty much everything your baby needs — and certainly, everything he needs for during the night when you guys are probably spending time in the shared bedroom if you choose not to put him in a nursery right away.

And that’s really what ends up taking up most of the space in most bedrooms, right? The inhabitants’ stuff. The clothes, in closets, dressers, and wardrobes.

It Takes Two, Baby

If the baby is in another room, it’s probably likely that one person will end up getting up to help the baby in whatever fashion is currently needed throughout the night. And what the baby usually needs help with is eating, and in many cases that job falls on none other than the baby’s one and only mom.

If the little guy or gal is right there in a couple’s shared bedroom, it’s more likely that both parents will end up chipping in. Maybe the dad brings the baby to the mother to nurse in bed (that’s a good one, believe me!), or maybe he changes the diaper and then momma nurses. Maybe sometimes he even takes a feeding shift and gives the baby a bottle.

Having a little or a lot of help to feed, diaper, change, and generally care for a baby during the night, especially when he or she is a newborn, can make all the difference for an exhausted new mom.

Years Ahead

Perhaps you do have more than one bedroom in your abode and are considering simply rooming in with baby during the early days, weeks, or months. Or perhaps your studio or one-bedroom apartment simply doesn’t provide you with the space to give that little love her very own room, just yet. But either way, it will be quite a while before the baby needs the privacy of his or her room.

Sure, a young child may need a quiet place to have some independent play or quiet time before they require their own space for privacy when changing and so on, but that space can be created or improvised in other creative ways as needed during the day. Plus, if the adults aren’t sleeping in the bedroom during the day (which they usually won’t be), it can be used as a place for the young child to have some time apart.

Young families often find themselves quite readily and happily running around the house naked together (for changing, getting ready for bath time, and so on). The idea of needing to cover one’s nakedness from others doesn’t come until quite a while down the line. So the privacy of a separate bedroom? Not needed for the early days (or even years).

Turn Up The Volume

You know what I’ve read can help a new mom and baby who are having trouble with breastfeeding? Spending a day in bed together. I’m not advocating for sleeping in the same bed (co-sleeping) here, nor did what I read, but the closeness of just being nearby to each other can help a mom and baby to more successfully learn to feed.

Being nearby to the baby could also potentially help with a new mom’s supply (of breastmilk, that is), ensuring that she is producing enough to satisfy that growing baby. Oxytocin, that chemical of love, closeness, and cuddles, is involved in a mother’s “let-down” reflex when the breast milk starts to flow.

Might a momma also be more likely to more frequently attempt nursing or offer the breast to the baby when the baby is right there in the same room? I’d bet.

So much of the effort that necessarily goes into parenting in the early days, weeks, and months (okay, and years, honestly) is getting a child to eat. Checks at the doctor will often seem to largely focus on whether the baby is eating and growing enough, or at an age-appropriate rate. So whatever can be done to make this job easier is probably A-OK with a new mom.

Snoozing Siblings

If there is only one “nursery” (or kids’ room) in a dwelling, which is better? Putting the new baby in the older sibling’s room or the room currently being shared by the parents?

The answer might be different for different families, but so much of whether parents feel like they’re having good days or bad days depends on how much sleep everyone gets that I’d bet most would do about anything to make sure that the older child keeps on sleeping.

There are just so many nighttime wake-ups in the early days and weeks. Some babies continue nursing at night, getting into the six-month age range and even beyond. (Of course not having their own space to learn to fall asleep on their own might be a factor in that, but “sleep training” is another topic on its own… perhaps for another article.)

The point is if the older sibling is still sleeping through the night even when the baby is waking up, it might just be the thing that keeps mom and dad sane.

Just To Be Near

Life is busy. Life is crazy. Those are stupid sentences for me to write because if you’ve lived at all, especially with a baby or child (or more than one), you surely know that.

Some moms pick children up at daycare or school after work, cram in the time to feed everyone dinner, and then it’s time for any babies or young children in the family to go to bed. There’s often just not enough time left to feel like the family has a chance just to be together and bond.

Now I know sleeping in the same room doesn’t mean face-to-face interaction, singing together, playing games, or talking, but it does, in a sense, maximize the bonding time between parents and their children by simply having them near.

If after that hour or two of together time, baby’s off to bed in her separate room, it’s that much less time spent together, well, at all.

Didn’t Hear A Thing

If you’re worried about the rustling of sheets, your husband passing gas, or yourself sneezing waking up you’re sweetly snoozing newborn, don’t.

Newborns spend so much time in sleep and sleep-like states, and they’ll do it anywhere. They’ll nod off in your lap, usually, be out cold after nursing or having a bottle, and don’t care or notice at all if older siblings are running around singing, the microwave is beeping, or the doorbell rings.

They certainly will not be roused by the normal night sounds of two sleeping or falling-asleep adults.

And the beauty of it is, if a baby becomes used to the normal sort of white noise of sharing a room with other people from the time she’s very little, she’ll be accustomed to sleeping through minor sound disturbances and probably be able to do it later on.

Raising a good sleeper is one of the top goals of many parents. After all, good sleep for the baby often means good sleep for everyone in the house.

What Beast With Two Backs?

As I mentioned above, a newborn baby will sleep through just about anything. Sometimes they can even be hard to rouse when you know it’s time for them to nurse or have a bottle. And sleeping babies, especially if used to the background noise of being around other people, often won’t be woken up by the sounds of other people breathing and talking around them as they get a bit older — even if those sounds are panting, groaning, or whispering sweet nothings.

I get it if you’re weirded out at the idea of being intimate with your partner while a baby is in the same room. What you’re comfortable with is what you’re comfortable with. I’m just saying, in situations where it’s necessary, easier, or favourable in some way for the baby to share a room with the parents, it probably doesn’t mean a halt in action.

They’ll probably sleep right through it, and if they are awoken for some reason, they’ll have no idea what’s going on—finding the time and energy to get down to said business? Now, that’s another story.

Glad Dad

If one parent, such as the father, works outside of the home and during normal business hours, likely, his schedule doesn’t leave him much time to be with or even nearby the baby at all.

If the baby sleeps in the couple’s shared bedroom, it’s one more chance for father and baby to bond.

Even if the baby doesn’t wake up much any more during the night, it gives father and offspring a chance to hear each other’s breaths, smell each other, and see each other more than they otherwise would. And we are mammals, after all, so all of this helps us to establish and grow the all-important parental bond.

Even if it’s just the chance to see that cherubic face, soft, wispy hair, and pudgy-wedgy set of legs before he hits the hay at night or takes off for work in the morning, it certainly counts. And it may just help old dad to feel like he’s that much more involved, like all that work he’s doing is for an important cause, indeed.

Now That’s Cozy

I live somewhere with “temperate” weather. There’s often sun, you can exercise outside almost every day of the year, and your clothing choices need only revolve around your fancy, not the weather patterns, on pretty much any given day. So central heating and cooling aren’t even included in many homes in the area, and if they are, they’re very rarely used.

Whether your particular neck of the woods is like this or not, you probably want to make as little effort as possible in the middle of the night to make sure your baby is the right temperature, and here’s where the beauty of sharing a room comes in.

If more people are in a room breathing and just being there with their warm bodies all night, it will certainly be warmer, all the better to keep baby snug as a bug if it’s cold at all.

And if it’s too hot for the baby, the parents will easily know it, because they’re in the same room. It’s built-in temperature control!

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You Don’t Need a Nursery

If the baby isn’t sleeping in the nursery and you aren’t changing baby in the nursery, do you need a nursery?

Probably not!

For the first two years, we made most of our living, as a family, in the living room. (Must be how that room got its name) It wasn’t until my son was over 2-years-old that he started to use his “room” to play independently occasionally.

Babies can be expensive. And if you’re stressing about the cost of a nursery, or wondering if you have the space to create one for your child, remember that a nursery is truly optional. Your baby will be just fine without one.

Don’t let advertisers dictate what’s needed for a happy, healthy home and childhood. Save that money for things that matter!

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