Learn strategies for navigating public transportation, crowded streets and small living spaces from Manhattan mom Monica Storch.

City Living Means Putting Baby in a Corner

iStockphoto/Arpad Benedek

Life in New York City definitely has its advantages. We have access to some of the world’s best restaurants and museums, we can have sushi delivered to our door 24 hours a day, and our kids’ backyard is none other than Central Park. When it comes to our domestic environments, however, nearly all but the wealthiest New Yorkers (I’m looking at you, Blair Waldorf) find themselves squeezed into apartments that would make suburbanites cringe. Indeed, whenever I watch “House Hunters” on HGTV, I can’t help but scoff at the potential homebuyers who turn up their noses at the fact that a bathroom has only one sink or that the walk-in closet in the bedroom is “only” ten feet wide. These people wouldn’t last a hot minute in a typical NYC apartment, where, in true Carrie Bradshaw style, our ovens function as storage spaces and we think we’ve struck gold if our living room will fit both a couch and an armchair. Throw a baby or two into the mix, and you’re presented with a challenge of Herculean proportions: how to comfortably (or, more often, not so comfortably) fit a family of three or four or even more into a living space that really isn’t even big enough for two.

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But we New Yorkers are a resilient lot, and we’ve come up with myriad ways to convert our tiny living spaces into homes for our growing families. Walls are erected, dining alcoves are transformed into nurseries, entryways become stroller parking, out-of-season clothes are carted off to the in-laws’ house, and any and all available floor space is taken over by doll strollers, ride-on toys and art supplies. I know some parents who have surrendered their apartment’s sole bedroom to their child and who now sleep in the living room on a pull-out couch or Murphy bed. One couple we know even turned a closet underneath a stairwell of their loft-style apartment into a nursery for their baby, punching a hole through the wall so that the baby would have a semblance of a window. And of course, many parents opt to share a room with their baby or toddler. It’s not ideal by any stretch of the imagination, but we make it work because, more often than not, moving just isn’t an option.

When my husband and I were expecting our now 4-year-old daughter Sadie, we toyed with the idea of trying to find a larger apartment, but ultimately decided to work with what we had, turning the dining area of our one-bedroom apartment into a small, but livable, room for Sadie. She’s actually been pretty content in her room and we were chugging along pretty smoothly until we found out baby #2 was on his way. Never mind the gender difference; the 4-year age gap between Sadie and her brother really mandates that the two have separate sleeping quarters.

Not that we could even have our kids share a space anyway, as Sadie’s already cramped room is filled to the brim with her bed, dresser, bookshelf, toy bins and formidable collection of Disney Princess “stuff” (don’t get me started). Once again faced with the decision whether to move or to attempt to fit yet another being into our already cramped world, we’ve opted to stay put – for now. Since neither my husband nor I can stomach the idea of couch sleeping, we’ll be sharing our bedroom with our son, who will be fortunate enough to have his own little corner of the room dedicated to his crib and dresser/changer. I even went through the painful exercise of clearing out several closet shelves (a precious resource indeed) and two large dresser drawers to make room for the little mister’s supplies.

Trying to ascertain where we’re going to put all of the stuff that will accompany baby #2 has been an exercise in creativity and flexibility, to say the least. Fortunately, my type-A personality has made me an expert on the very best space-saving products to make city apartment dwelling with babies as painless as possible.

Here are some key tips to get you started:

First, you’ll want to invest in a bassinet, co-sleeper or smaller crib that will accommodate your baby for at least the period of time you’re planning to have him or her share a room with you. If the room share is only for a few months, you’ll be well-served by a stylish bassinet like the Ninna Nanna or babyhome Dream Cot. The Bounce ‘n Sleep Bouncer from Stokke is also a smart choice, as it can be used on its own or paired with the Bounce ‘n Sleep Daybed to create a bouncer/bassinet combo.

If the baby will be sharing quarters with you for a bit longer, then an apartment-sized crib may be just the thing for you. For us, the Alma Mini Crib from bloom was exactly the right choice, as its smart design fit right into our bedroom décor and its petite size will accommodate baby #2 for at least his first year of life without completely overtaking our room. And of course, the Stokke Sleepi Crib and Bassinet set is always a popular choice because once you’re done with the bassinet, you can convert it to a full-size crib.

Now that you’ve found a place for baby to sleep, you’ll need to figure out where to store all of his stuff, as well as where to take care of the delicate task of changing his diapers. Instead of a separate changing table and dresser, consider buying a universal changer that can go on top of your own dresser or even on the baby’s crib (if you opt for this route, you’ll want to make sure the changer is designed for your specific crib model – for instance, the bloom Change Tray fits on both the Alma Mini Crib and Alma Papa Crib, in addition to other bloom cribs and dressers).

If you don’t have room for an extra dresser devoted to your baby, floor totes are a fabulous and affordable alternative that can be squeezed into any and all available space in your room. I’m particularly fond of the collapsible storage bins from 3 Sprouts, which are not only adorable but also easy to tote from room to room throughout the day.

Ultimately, you’re not going to be able to have it all. A rocker or glider just isn’t practical when you’re already short on space. It’s no big deal – you can nurse your baby on the couch, bed or anywhere else with the support of some strategically placed pillows and a nursing stool. Even if you’re sharing a room with your baby, you can still make whatever corner or area of the room you’ve dedicated to your little bundle of joy exclusively his or hers. Canvas wall art or decorative decals can easily transform the area over the crib or dresser into a place of baby’s own, so that the designated nursery area doesn’t look like an afterthought.

To outsiders, this may all sound crazy, but for New Yorkers it’s a small price to pay for the privilege of raising our kids in one of the most exciting cities in the world. Well, at least until we hit the Mega Millions jackpot, at which time we’ll of course become Park Avenue real estate tycoons. Hey, a mom can dream, right?

About Monica

Monica Storch publishes NYCeast.macaronikid.com, a weekly e-newsletter and website highlighting the best events going on for kids and families in New York City. She lives in Manhattan with her husband and their 4-year-old daughter and infant son.

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