When you ask parents what not to buy for a nursery, a changing table rises to the top of the list. "Official" changing tables don't repurpose well into non-baby furniture so many parents choose alternatives to traditional changing tables, primarily dressers or desks that are at a comfortable height and deep enough to accommodate a changing pad. When my son was born this is exactly what we did, but for my daughter we've simplified things even further and gone without a changing table or pad. Here's how it's been going...
The reason we've been changing our daughter on the floor or bed is simple: space. To make room for our daughter's crib, we had to get rid of the cabinets that we had used as a changing space for our son. I saved the changing pad and had the idea that we would hang it on a hook and then put it on the floor or bed to change diapers. But we haven't used it even once.
Instead, we use a thin, wipeable, portable changing pad (a Pronto by SkipHop that was a hand-me-down from a friend) on the floor of our living room or sometimes on our bed. (The photo above was taken while we were visiting my mom and the baby is additionally on top of a blanket that she was rolling around on.) Of course, you could use a towel, blanket or similar. Overall, it's been just fine. Here are the pros and cons of this method:
1. Safety: a potential hazard of changing tables of any kind is the risk of a baby rolling off if not constantly supervised or restrained. This risk is eliminated if you're changing them on the floor. If you're changing them on the bed, it is still a risk, but is slightly lessened since a bed is larger (obviously, never leave a baby unattended on a bed no matter what).
2. Space: no need to permanently dedicate/usurp a furniture surface
3. Flexibility: instead of always bringing your baby to your changing station, you can change them wherever you have diapers handy. If you're going to use a portable changer like we do, you might get an extra one and keep them in the parts of your home you spend the most time in.
4. Less laundry: if you choose to use a wipeable pad like I have, there's no extra laundry from fabric pad covers.
1. Comfort for parent/changer: do I think it would be more comfortable to stand and change my baby? Yes, somewhat. But unless you have physical limitations (a bad back, for example), it's not that big of a deal. Changing them on a bed requires a bit more bending than a higher changing table, but is pretty comfortable nonetheless.
2. Comfort for baby: when I asked readers a few years ago whether a cover for a cushioned changing pad was necessary, a few mentioned they thought soft fabrics were nicer for a baby to lie on and warmer in cool weather. This may be true, but unless your baby is particularly sensitive to this kind of thing, I'm guessing they won't notice or care. My daughter certainly doesn't.
3. Inconvenient: the flip side to the flexibility I mention above is that you may prefer to have all your diapering supplies in one central location instead of scattered in a few places around the house (not that you couldn't still designate a central location without a changing table). There have been a few times when I didn't know before the diaper change that I needed diaper cream which I only keep in the bedroom. It was simple enough to run and grab it mid-change, but some people would be annoyed by this.
4. No mobile above: this is more of a quibble than a problem but many parents hang a mobile for their baby to look at/be distracted by during a changing.
So that's the skinny after six months without a changing table or pad. For us, it's been just fine and any pros far outweigh the cons. If we had more room for a changing surface like we had for my son would I still forgo a changing pad/table? No, if space weren't an issue, I'd probably like to have one and would do a mix of changing there and on the floor or bed. But if you're considering going without, I hope these considerations will help you make your decision.
(Image: Carrie McBride)