Prepping Your Small Living Space for the Arrival of a Baby

When my husband and I moved into our one bedroom, city apartment, we were not thinking about having children there. It was all the space we needed, just the two of us and our Labrador retriever, but adding another human into the mix was not something we thought about until we saw that second line on the pregnancy test. Ready or not here I come, baby seemed to be saying, and since moving wasn’t an option right away, we set to making room in our little home for our precious new addition.

Let me just say, it has not been easy. Our apartment felt crowded before, just with our own belongings, clothes, computers, kitchen supplies, and music equipment, but we’ve found a few things to help us make it work.

1. Abandon the conventional 

We do not have room for a dresser, and our wardrobe has limited space. Finding places for our own underclothes and pajamas, for example, was a challenge to begin with. We started by storing our underclothes in baskets beneath our nightstands, but I found that baskets can be horrible for storing clothes, because it just ends up in a massive tangled pile. I made dividers using cardboard and fabric to organize the contents of our baskets, and the system works well enough for us. Now, baby has her own set of baskets with dividers, too.

2. Utilize vertical space 

Shelves, Closet hangers, and wall and door hooks are all excellent options for organizing your small space. That said, if you are living in rented accommodation, sometimes you are limited as to what will work for you in this category. Such things as free-standing shelves or coat hangers may make good use of a corner, while pocket organizers or hanging shoe organizers may maximize storage in a closet or on a door. I use pocket organizers on our wardrobe door to store various small items, like baby’s hats, socks, booties, and bibs.

3. Allocate extra uses for otherwise one purpose spaces 

My friend suggested putting our laundry basket in the shower. This won’t work for us, as the laundry bin we have is fabric and would be destroyed if we did that, but if you have a plastic laundry bin, the shower is a great place to store things when not in use. You can also store cookie sheets in the oven (but whatever you do DO NOT store anything that is not oven safe in the oven. I had a roommate do this once without notifying me, and the result was melted plastic and a fire in our oven.

4. Don’t underestimate the space available under the bed 

Under the bed is a fantastic location for baskets, rolling storage containers, suit cases, and random items that you do not need to access regularly. Use the hardest-to-get-to places, such as the middle area or under the head of your bed, to store things that you don’t often need, and use the edges for things you use daily. I have a line of baskets beneath the foot of our bed that I can pull out throughout the day to access baby clothes and cloth diapers, and find that it works very well. If you don’t have much space under your bed, consider getting risers to lift it a few inches higher and give you more room to tuck things beneath.

5. Declutter! 

I didn’t know how wonderful it can be to get rid of unnecessary stuff until I moved into such a small space. Finding things I can donate or throw away is like finding buried treasure for me now days. Along with this is avoiding collecting more things than you need (I’m preaching to myself here!). Babies really don’t need as much stuff as the industry would have you believe. If you’re making a baby registry, add only the essentials, and leave out anything that seems gratuitous. You will thank yourself later when there are less things to put away.

6. Rearrange the furniture 

Sometimes we take it for granted that whatever layout we currently have is the best one, but moving things around may offer just the opportunity you need to make better use of the space you have. We decided to move our bed into the corner when we brought our baby’s cot into our room, and it’s been a great improvement.

7 Identify spaces that could be put to better use 

Got a narrow open area between the toilet and the wall? You may be able to find a shelf to fit. Got a suitcase stored under the bed that’s currently empty? Find something you can put inside of it. Maybe you have some room on top of the fridge or microwave that could be useful. Look around your home and find places that could serve you better in terms of storage, perhaps with the addition of a shelf, basket, or hook.

8 Identify specific places for particular things 

Life in a tiny apartment can feel chaotic, and unfortunately, that can get a whole lot worse with the arrival of a baby (envision me frantically digging through a drawer while my newborn is screaming in the background). Sometimes I feel like no matter how hard I try to organize things, everything just ends up in random piles. Combat this problem by naming specific spots for particular items… a basket for hats, a shelf for books, a drawer for baby towels and burp cloths, etc. This is something we are still working on, but I think once we have found a system that works, it will be a great help! That said, it is important to discuss whatever you do with the other members of your household. For some, it may be important to label these areas clearly so that they can remember what goes where. Some may prefer a highly detailed system of organization, whereas others may find that it is best just to have a general area for a certain category of things, and not worry so much about the actual organization of that area itself.

No matter what changes you decide to implement in your home before the arrival of your little one, remember that organization is meant to be a help to you, not a cause for stress or anxiety. If you are struggling to make your space work for you, be patient with yourself, and don’t be afraid to enlist the help of friends or family members. Making such changes is definitely worth it if it means less time frustrated over a chaotic home environment, and more time with your baby. Still, it doesn’t have to happen all at once, and if it doesn’t happen at all, it will be okay! As I mentioned, our space frequently feels chaotic to me even with our organization efforts, but I am trying to remind myself that at the end of the day, life is more than tidy bedrooms or dishes tucked away in cupboards. Sometimes we just need to breath in the sweet times with loved ones and thank the Lord for having a home to live in and be messy with them.

Are there other things you would add to this list? What have you done to make a small space work for you and your family? Let me know! See you next time!

Tummy Time with a Dog in the House

So here’s the thing, I know tummy time is important, but I have to confess I did not do it as much as recommended in the early days. Why? Well, my baby didn’t much enjoy it, so there is that, but more than that I was afraid of putting her on the floor much in general because we have a dog, a big dog, who likes to run to the door when she hears unfamiliar sounds, and I was afraid my baby might be trampled. Fortunately, there are some solutions. Here are the ones I have come up with.

1 Use a play pen 

If you have an especially hyper dog and you have space for a playpen, this seems like a good option while baby is on his belly. It is portable, so you can bring it into any room where you want to put your child on the floor for a while, and your pup can still hang out nearby without baby being in danger.

2 Use a baby gate to block a doorway  

Baby gates are handy because you can close off the room while still being able to keep an eye on your canine pal, and allow them to keep an eye on you, too. Plus, if you have stairs in your house, you will probably need a baby gate at some stage anyway, so why not get it early and put it to use for newborn tummy time?

3 Coordinate with your partner so they can take the dog for a walk while you do tummy time 

Especially in the very first few weeks, I found this was a win win solution for everyone in the home. My husband got a break from caring for mama and baby, Pup got a much-needed walk, and baby and I got to do play and tummy time on the floor undisturbed. 

4 Put your pup in their crate or on tie down 

My dog does not currently have a crate due to lack of space, but if we did have one I think I would have chosen to do this frequently in my baby’s first few months. Newborns do not do tummy time for long periods anyway, so most pups won’t mind the brief break in their crate or on tie down. Keep a special bone, treat, or other toy handy to entertain your pup while baby does their daily exercises, and soon they will eagerly anticipate this new part of your routine.

5 Practice tummy time with baby placed on your chest

This was the one way I always felt comfortable doing tummy time with my newborn. Baby was happier there, it was a sweet way to cuddle and bond with her, and there was no danger of an imprudent pups trampling paws. That said, if you do place your baby on your chest for their tummy time, be sure not to fall asleep with them there, as that can be just as hazardous as leaving them unattended in proximity to an animal.

It is always important to supervise your baby while they are practicing tummy time, especially with animals in the home. Still, you needn’t let anxiety about your pet’s behavior near your little one stop you from giving your baby time to wiggle freely on the floor. Above are a few measures you can take to make sure baby can practice tummy time safely with his canine friend close by.

If this article interested you, you can read more on my blog about raising a family with a dog in the home, or read more of my writing on dogs in general.

Prepping Your Dog for the Arrival of a Baby

There’s a lot to do to get ready for the birth of a child. Furniture has to be purchased, clothes and toys need to be organized, and various other things in your home may have to be discarded or rearranged in order to make room for baby’s buggy, baby’s play pen, baby’s bouncer, etc. In the flurry of activity it can be easy to forget that our dogs notice all the new goings on, and might need a little support in making the leap from family life as it is now, to life when little one is born. So, what are some things we can do to make our dogs more comfortable with their changing family environment?

1 Allow your dog to sniff and familiarize themselves with new objects and furniture 

Your life will change dramatically when baby comes home for the first time, but so will your dog’s. Help him start making the transition early by familiarizing him with all your new baby gear. This is particularly important with some of our more modern baby accessories like bouncers, swings, or the like. Your dog may never have encountered some of these objects before, so it can help to introduce them to him before baby enters the picture. 

2 Think about boundaries 

Consider what things your dog does that already drive you batty. Those things will only become more stressful when you bring your child home. Now might be a good time to work on some of those naughty behaviors, or set some new boundaries that you think may be helpful when baby arrives. For example, your dog may always have been allowed on the bed, but you may feel it would be safer for baby for furniture to be off limits. If that is the case, he will not automatically assume this when you bring your baby home. It is important to communicate any new boundaries to your pup clearly and consistently in the weeks and months leading up to your baby’s homecoming to minimize risk and frustration in that busy newborn stage.

3 Observe your dogs reactions to babies and children in general 

If you do not already have small children in your life and the life of your dog, it may be helpful to introduce your dog slowly to the idea of having littles around the place. Is your dog sensitive about his paws, tail, or face being touched? It might be a good idea to work on positive associations with body handling. How does he cope with loud crying or squeals? Does he get overexcited around children and need to work on impulse control? Even if your dog is not around children regularly, you can help him build positive associations with children from a distance in public places such as parks or town centers, and general concepts like body handling and impulse control on your own time at home.

4 Set aside time specifically to play with and cuddle your dog

Just like bringing a new sibling home to your other children, pets can feel a little left out when all of your attention is suddenly devoted to baby. Get some good quality time in with your pet or service dog while you can, and consider when you might be able to work that time into your new life when your little one joins the family. That might look like handing baby over to your partner while you and Fido go out for a walk, cuddling up with your pup beside you while you snuggle or feed your baby, putting your baby in their bouncer or cot for a few minutes while you groom or play with your dog, or, in the earliest weeks, calling your dog to the bathroom with you so that you can pet them in the few seconds you have before your newborn needs you again (haha, I’m not joking. This worked well for me, and my dog started getting very excited every time I had to take a potty break).

5 For those with service dogs, practice working with baby gear before hand 

Give your canine partner the opportunity to work with some of the new things you might be using before baby arrives. For example, wear the baby carrier or pull the buggy with a sack of sugar in it while out and about with your dog. You’ll get some strange looks, but at least you won’t be doing it for the first time ever with your tiny fragile newborn. It’s a great opportunity to work out any kinks and do some additional training with your pup if it seems necessary.

6 Consider working with a professional trainer 

Sometimes, we just need a little help. If concerns arise for you that you feel are beyond your ability as a pet-owner/handler, don’t forget that you can enlist the aid of a professional. It is hard enough to juggle being a new parent and a pet owner or service dog handler without having extra worries on your plate as you make the transition. Working with a trainer may be one way to ease those concerns. It gives you a structured time to work with your dog on any undesirable behaviors, provides an excellent opportunity for bonding, and may be an important step to ensure the health and safety of your new wee family member. 

There’s a lot to do to get ready for the birth of a child, and with a canine pal already part of the family, there may be a few more things to do than usual, but with some forethought, a little bit of effort can go a long way in making for a smoother transition to life with a baby.

If this post peaked your interest, you can check out more like it in the parenting or guide dog categories of my blog. 

Blind Mama Pregnancy Vlog | Week 16

Excited to share the next installment of my pregnancy journey! This week, I talk about baby’s development so far, my blind parenting tip of the week, symptoms (including one that might be TMI, so feel free to skip those few moments of the video), plus some of my thoughts at the time on parenting fears etc.

Check out my newest video here

And come back next week for more updates!

Blind Mama Pregnancy Vlog | Week 10

Enjoy my second update in my Blind Mama Pregnancy Vlog series! A similar set up as my first video, detailing symptoms, things I was thinking about, and my prayers at the time.

Blind Mama Pregnancy Vlog | Week 10

Be sure to check back for more updates next week!

Have any questions about life as a blind person, guide dog user, or blind parent-to-be? Feel free to comment here or on Youtube! Are you a blind parent yourself and want to help inform others about the capabilities of blind and vision impaired people? Share this video, and drop me a comment to let me know what might be good topics to discuss here and on my channel.

Until next time…

The Stroller Struggle | What to Keep in Mind When Searching for a Buggy as a Blind Parent

Working out which buggy/pram/stroller to get was one of the first challenges that came to mind after finding out we were expecting. As a blind mama, I won’t be pushing a stroller, but pulling it behind me. The problem is most strollers are not designed for this sort of functionality. For that reason, I plan to use a baby-carrier in most situations, but more on that in another post. Back to buggies.

The Problem with Pulling a Stroller that’s Designed for Pushing

Wheels-

In most cases, strollers are designed with swivel wheels in the front that move easily in the direction you desire to travel, if you are pushing from the back, that is. If you are pulling it, the swivel wheels become a nuisance because they fishtail every time you try to turn. In addition, the fixed wheels in the back of the stroller make it difficult to turn because they do not move in accordance with your direction of travel. This means that the only way to turn while pulling is to lift the stroller slightly or allow the stroller to tip somewhat to one side. Obviously, this isn’t ideal.

Handle-

Many strollers have two vertical handles to push the chair along. These models are virtually impossible to pull comfortably as you have to choose a side, left or right, that you will use, leaving your control of the contraption quite lopsided.

Handle-Height-

Another problem with prams is that the handle is often too high to comfortably grasp from behind. If you think about a pull suitcase, one can hold the handle easily at the resting length of one’s own arm, but often times a stroller handle is waste height or higher (at least for anyone like me who’s a few inches below average height).

Direction of Chair or Carry Cot 

Some buggies have a fixed facing position for the chair or carry cot and do not allow the user to reverse their original positioning. This means that while your child may have been facing the most desirable direction when pushing the buggy, they may not be facing the direction you or your child would like when pulling it.

Price-

There are strollers with features that ameliorate some or all of these issues, but in my experience so far, they are often much more expensive.

So, What Are the Solutions?

1 Wheels that can be adjusted from swivel to fixed in both the front and back of the stroller. If this is not possible, a reversible handle may also be a functional option. If the stroller is a model which has fixed wheels in the back when pushing, and swivel wheels in the front, a reversible handle allows the user to place the swivel wheels nearest the handle, that is toward the front when pulling, and the fixed wheels furthest from the handle, or in the back when pulling.

2 A horizontal push bar. This allows the user to pull from the center of the handle, rather than only from the left or right side.

3 A low, hip-high handle (or lower if possible) that can be adjusted to be higher/longer only if need-be 

4 Reversable chair or carry cot. This allows the user to switch the facing direction of the chair or cot independent of the stroller handle.

5 Buy used! I knew this could be one of the priciest items on our baby must-haves list, so I decided to research which stroller I needed as early as possible so that I could be looking out for a suitable model on second-hand websites. I’m SO GLAD I did! Our chosen model, the Bugaboo Chameleon, retails online for around 800 euro. We were blessed to find an older version of the stroller and several handy excessories online for a grand total of 50 euro.

Another option you might consider is to purchase a travel wagon. They do tend to be bulkier than your typical stroller, but they definitely seem more practical when you have multiple children to cart around, and, of course the best thing about them is that they are designed specifically to be pulled. Keep in mind, though, that many of them have limitations when it comes to traveling with a newborn.

In every case, don’t forget to consider which carseat you plan to purchase and whether it will be compatible with the stroller or wagon you choose.

I hope this post was helpful! Please subscribe for more content, and click here to read more posts from my parenting blind series. Until next time, happy trails to you and your family.