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You’re planning for a new baby! Congratulations!
That’s a long list of things to plan for and you might be wondering how to make it all work. Or, maybe, you’re wondering if there are ways to cut costs so you can focus on things that matter most to you. Or maybe, you’re just not ready to give up your only spare room to the baby just yet!
When I was pregnant, the estimated costs of a nursery were frightening. Pinterest-worthy nurseries seemed cute but overboard for an 8-pound newborn when we were looking to cut costs where we could and our home was small.
Luckily, I discovered that a newborn really doesn’t need their own room. And it saved me some big bucks.
The Vision Advertisers Sell You
The web is full of thousands of photos of gorgeous, magazine-worthy nurseries. You would think your baby needs the perfect room to be happy and sleep peacefully once they get home.
But when I did a quick search of “how much does it cost to set up a nursery.” The first link said the average cost is a whopping two-thousand dollars. That’s only the nursery their talking about!
The article told me to list my essential items. “Essential” like paint, curtains, and lamps. “Then a make list of your wishlist items, like a chandelier.”
Advertisers are trying to sell me a vision that says it’s essential to paint a new room, pick perfect curtains and dedicate it to the baby.
But That Wasn’t Going to Work For Me!
I had two problems.
First, I’m in a small house. Setting up a nursery would have meant losing our guest room. I didn’t really want that, especially when family might be coming to visit to meet our new addition!
Second, I wanted to save money wherever I could to cover the two months of my maternity leave that were unpaid. I really had no idea how much everything was going to cost once I brought baby home. That made me pretty nervous about taking that amount of unpaid time off work.
Skipping the nursery helped me save enough money to feel comfortable taking 3 months off before returning to my job.
The Reality of a New Baby
How much time is your infant really going to spend in a room of their own? Not a lot, most likely.
My new baby was the best thing that ever happened to me. It was exhausting, but the baby was by my side or with my spouse nearly 24/7.
He didn’t care one bit for how pretty his surroundings were. All my baby wanted was to be with his parents.
Don’t get me wrong, if you have space and the cash, you can probably find a use for a nursery. But do you need it?
Don’t let retailers pressure you into thinking you need $2,000 worth of nursery gear. Your baby doesn’t know the difference. And research backs a cheaper approach too!
Creating a safe sleeping surface for baby encourages a minimalist environment. Skip the crib bumpers and fancy blankets! They are pricey and they’re not recommended.
Where Will Baby Sleep?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that a baby sleeps in the parent’s room until at least 6 months. Preferably for up to 12 months.
Bit of a surprise isn’t it?
There are obvious pros and cons to this arrangement, but research suggests it’s what is safest for baby.
So, don’t let anyone tell you there is something wrong with planning to have your baby sleep in your room for the first year (or longer!).
My son will soon be 3 and sleeps in his sidecar-crib in my room. Or in bed with me and my husband. His room, or what will be his room someday in the future, still has our queen-sized guest bed in it. That’s an important factor in our small house as the room can still serve as a much-needed guest room.
And guess what? I bet your room is already painted and has lamps and curtains! All your rooms needs is a safe place for baby to sleep.
Setting Up Baby in Your Room
I’m a fan of the sidecar crib that I referenced above. This means the crib or bassinet is against your bed, just like the sidecar on a motorcycle.
I didn’t know how things were going to go when I had my first baby. But I did know that there was no way I was putting him to bed at night in a room away from me for at least 6 months. Personally, I didn’t want to be away from him. And I knew it was safer.
So, before the baby was born, 6 months was the working number that my husband and I settled on. We didn’t make any plans past then. We simply decided to see how things went and evolved with a baby in the mix.
I considered buying a co-sleeper or bassinet but opted to set up the crib in the sidecar fashion. The Ikea crib I bought also converted into a toddler bed. That meant I would only need to buy one item for sleeping for years.
I placed the crib surface level about 4 inches below the level of my bed so that, early on, I couldn’t roll on to the baby. As the baby got older and started moving, this also meant that baby couldn’t roll into the bed. Easy peasy.
The picture above is a totally “not pro photographer” picture of my setup right now at nearly 3 years old (note, there are more blankets and pillows than recommended for the infant age because he is now mobile and blankets are safe).
You might be worried that if it doesn’t get done right away, you won’t find the time to set up a place just for baby. Don’t worry, if you decide after the baby is here that you want to set up a nursery of some kind, the infant stage is a great time to get stuff done!
Babies nap a lot, and though you may be exhausted, there will be plenty of time to peck away at projects for the first 4-6 months before the baby becomes mobile. A benefit to taking your time: you get to really feel out what you and your baby need. Then you can decide the products and setup that will work best for you based on experience.
Great for Breastfeeding, Too!
At night for breastfeeding, I’d pick the baby up from the crib, we’d nurse, and then I’d place him back in the crib. I’ll admit, as I gained comfort as a parent, more times than not, the baby ended up sleeping right next to me (aka co-sleeping).
Not Always the Easiest, But it Works for Us
I’ll admit, there were a few gymnastics involved if I was going to put the baby down into the crib when I wasn’t in bed myself. I would have to climb onto the bed and knee-crawl over to the crib to put the baby down. A little inconvenient, but very doable.
We’ve found that this arrangement works great for our family. Bonus, it has allowed us to keep the guest bed in my son’s room. Once he was about a year old, I started putting my son down for naps on the “guest” bed.
What About Diapering?
There are debatable reasons to have a baby sleep in their own room versus your room. But who cares how or where the baby gets there diaper changed? (Apart from the smell!)
You don’t need an expensive changing station. And you especially don’t need to set up a whole room for an infant so that you have a place to change their diaper.
I went simple: I bought one diaper changing pad, the cheap kind that sits on top of a changing table. They are waterproof and cleanable.
Besides the changing pad, I bought a two changing pad covers. Though diaper pad covers might be unnecessary, they’re cheap. If one got dirty, I’d swap it out and wash it.
Mobile Diaper Station
While my son was in diapers, I would lean the diaper pad against the wall in the bedroom. We’d pick it up and put it on the bed to change baby. If one parent was sleeping in the bedroom, we could grab the pad and take it to whatever room we were spending time in.
I kept a little “diaper supply station” loaded on top of my dresser. A diaper basket was enough and allowed me to move it to another room if needed.
In my room, I also kept a stacked plastic organizer with drawers. This held a backup supply of diapers, diaper supplies we didn’t need often, and most of the baby’s clothes handy.
Since baby clothes are so small, this was more than enough space to hold the whole wardrobe, burp cloths, and bibs. The organizer had a very small footprint and was cheap too!
But Babies Have Toys! Where Will They Play?
That little ball of joy you’re going to have already has the best toy ever, you.
When it comes down to it, most infants want nothing other than to be cuddling and interacting with their parents. “Infants have a definite preference for the human face, voice, touch and smell over everything else. Therefore, the infant’s best toy is you, as you speak, move, touch I and talk with them.” The rest of the time, they sleep.
Of course, you can’t hold and play with baby every single minute and a little playtime through toys is fun and good for their development. But those toys don’t have to take up a lot of space or money!
My baby had a small supply of toys we kept a basket next to the swing. I could pull out toys as needed.
I would lay out a blanket on the living room floor and the baby was good to go!
Even now that we do have more (many more than I think we need!), everything seems to get dragged into the living room anyway. I’ve even contemplated just putting the toy box in the living room instead of the now guest room/ playroom.
A Benefit of Room-Sharing I Never Saw Coming
I mentioned that we were able to keep our guest room, which was one of my goals in skipping the nursery.
But, I never imagined how handy a spare bed would be when someone got sick.
It was also really great when one parent (usually my husband, as I was breastfeeding) just needed a few hours of uninterrupted sleep.
Between both parents and a newborn, there were a lot of sleepless nights. If the baby was waking a lot, sick or hungry or just having a bad night, my husband had somewhere to go to get a full night sleep. For me and baby, when my husband was sick, I kicked him out and sent him to the guest room. This made it less likely that baby or I would get sick. Plus, it meant I could get the closest thing to a full night sleep that a mom can get. Which of course, is priceless.
Even now, as we still choose to co-sleep, we have a queen size bed in the “playroom.” If need be, we can split up what rooms we’re sleeping in to make sure everyone gets the best sleep possible when someone is sick.
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 really need a nursery?
For the first two years, we did 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 occasionally play independently.
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!
Mamas, how much often was your baby in their nursery for the first six to twelve months? Share in the comments!