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How to Create the Perfect Changing Station

Photo by: iStock

When you start setting up the nursery for your new baby, it’s so easy to get caught up in the aesthetics and the “cute,” and there’s nothing wrong with that – until baby comes home, and you figure out that the adorable changing table just doesn’t work. So, how can you be sure you have the perfect changing station – one that is sweet to see and practical to use? Hopefully, these tips will get you started down the right path.

Safety First

First, make sure that your table is sturdy and stable, whether you go with a specially designed table or repurpose an old piece of furniture, like a dresser or bookcase. The table’s legs should be thick enough to hold the baby’s weight plus supplies. On older furniture that you are upcycling, especially bookcases, you may need to add some cross-support pieces to help prevent wobbling, as well. On a side note, to make it easier on the diaper changer, the table should rise about 36 inches to 45 inches above the floor, so you don’t have to scrunch over to use it.

Opt for solid wood furniture, and avoid particle board or plywood furnishings whenever you can. Vintage furniture from Grandma’s attic is great for recycling, as it’s almost always solid wood. Choose a water-based paint with zero volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions; those paints contain less than 5 grams of VOCs per liter, as compared to 50 grams in low VOC paints.

Finally, Zaida Khaze, of Wiggletot Diaper Changer, suggests, “The changing table should be against a wall so there aren’t two ways a baby could fall off the table while changing.” No matter how carefully you watch, there’s always that one second when your baby moves in an unexpected way; with the wall’s help, you can more quickly and easily prevent disaster.

Organize It All

In real estate, location is everything. For changing stations, it’s all about storage. Shelves and drawers are great, but you can also use baskets, bins and caddies to hold all the things you’ll need at the station. While your baby is still tiny, you can even use a tiered stand to hold the basics on top of the table for quick reach.

“Accessorize” your changing station with a diaper pail or trash can and a laundry basket right beside the table. This lets you stash used diapers and soiled clothing without having to walk away and leave your child unattended – while you should never do! Mary Jane Martin, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, recommends a metal diaper pail or trash can. She points out, “Odors seep into plastic, and they never go away. That doesn’t happen with a metal container.” To make things even easier, look for a pail/trashcan that opens with a foot pedal for nearly hands-free disposal.

As you start to arrange things at the station, consider sliding the changing pad to one end of the table instead of centering it. That way, you can stand at that end, with baby’s feet and bottom directly in front of you, making changing much easier than if you are standing at the baby’s middle. Place the essentials on top of the table, including a small table or desk lamp that can be adjusted to dim lighting. Now you can see well enough during middle-of-the-night changes, but a bright light won’t wake your child completely.

Michelle Hale, organizer and co-founder of Henry & Higby, says, “Use a caddy or open basket to house your diapering essentials and keep them in easy reach. As for the supplies, some of the caddy essentials could include: rash cream, wipes, lotion and skin protectant.” Place this caddy on top of the table, and restock it from supplies on the shelves or in the drawers as needed.

Also, don’t forget the wall above the table. If your changing table doesn’t offer shelving or drawers for supplies, hang some baskets, bins or shelves above the table. They can do double duty, both as quick-access storage and as room décor.

Stock It Up

What goes in the perfect changing station? Probably more things that you think! Obviously, you need diapers – lots of diapers – but you also need plenty of baby wipes. Of course, you need a changing pad with a safety strap; if you can, consider having at least one extra pad cover. Don’t forget – babies are messy!

If you are using disposable diapers, take them out of their original packaging and put them in a basket or bin. The last thing you want is to have to dig around in a package while you’re trying to keep a squirmy baby on the table.

What other supplies make your changing station perfect? You’ll want a basic diaper ointment, a cream for diaper rash, and some hypoallergenic, fragrance-free moisturizer for all of your baby’s soft skin. While you’re at it, add in a few things for the changer; Hale suggests hand sanitizer, hand lotion, and maybe even a few hair ties.

Make changing diapers and clothes easier with some fun distractions, as well. Keep some teething rings, board books or favorite toys at the changing station to help keep your baby occupied during the process.

Star Steinkamp Green, mother of two, recommends keeping extra clothes in baskets or cubbies in the station, as well. “Even if you just have a few simple onesies, shirts, and socks, it will make things a lot easier to have them already at hand,” she points out.

And, finally, if your changing table just isn’t big enough to allow you to store extra supplies there, Hale says, “However, if space is at a premium here, keep all extra supplies in one area of your home preferably close by so you can find them easily. This will help ensure that you don’t run low on anything because you can always see how much you have on hand.”

If You Build It…

There are some great changing tables on the market and some used furniture that would be perfect for renovating and reusing. If you want to build your own from scratch, however, the plans at these sites will short-cut your search. Rogue Engineer offers free plans for a simple, rustic table with open shelves for storage, while Shanty 2 Chic’s plans include a removable topper, so that you can convert the station to a toy or bookcase when you no longer need a changing table. Ana White offers a station with two drawers and shelves, and, with The Design Confidential’s instructions, you can build a unit with drawers and doors that can function as a dresser as your child grows up.

Pam Martin has been writing professionally since the early 1980s, on a wide variety of topics. She brings 20 years of classroom teaching and tutoring experience to the party, including early elementary classes and courses in writing, reading and literature, history, geography and government at middle and high schools. She is also accomplished in crafting and in writing about projects, including her blogs, Roots and Wings From the Village, The Corner Classroom, and Sassy Scribbler, which encompass crafting, cooking, lesson plans, and professional writing advice.

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