Changing Tables Changing Tables

Sarah Van Arsdale

Your hospital bag is packed, you have a great crib for the baby, your friends have laden you with baby clothes, and all you need is a proper changing table for the baby's nursery and you will have a well planned and designed children's room. Look out: there are many design choices involved and perhaps more decorating decisions to be made for when decorating kids' rooms than you'd thought possible. But with a little research, you can find a changing table that suits both the decor of Baby's room, the needs of Baby - and the needs of Mom.

The first decision to make is what you want under the table. Changing tables come in models with drawers under the table, or with open shelves on which you can put baskets. It may not seem obvious to the first-time Mom, but you want several items easily accessible to you: diapers, wipes, powder, cream, and clothing, for starters. You'll also make changing time easier if you can hang a distracting toy by the changing table.

The drawback to a changing table with drawers is that you'll have to pull them open, which is certainly manageable, but gives you one more thing to consider while you're holding Baby onto the table with one hand and opening a diaper with the other. You'll get the hang of it, but at first you may feel more like you've joined the circus than that you've become a mother.

The drawback to the open shelves is that they'll look messier. Don't for a minute think they'll look the way they do in the glossy interior design catalogs, unless you have a team of nannies, maids and footmen at your service. However, reaching into a basket with one hand while pinning Baby to the table with the other is easier than opening those drawers.

Other tables make use of the space under the table with a removable hamper for the dirty diapers, and some have a set of steps that fold into the table when not in use, so that a toddler can climb onto the table, making changing time less of a fight and more of an adventure when Baby is bigger.

Of course, safety is the most important consideration in choosing a table for a baby's room. Some tables have a rail around the top to prevent Baby from taking a tumble should Mom forget to hang on for a moment. Others have no rail, and are meant to be used with a curved changing pad which also helps keep Baby on the table. Others have straps, which you can also buy separately and put on yourself.

It probably goes without saying, but we'll repeat it here: when changing Baby, you should never turn your back. Even one second Baby is left unattended on a changing table can mean tragedy.

Finally, consider something that will seem utterly untrue during Baby's diaper years: eventually, Baby will no longer need diapers, and you will no longer need that changing table. So start putting into action a major principle of decorating children's rooms that should stay with you through all your child's years: buy with an eye to the future of the furniture. A changing table with drawers easily transforms into a child's dresser, and later, into a small chest of drawers for linens. A table with baskets can be changed into a bookshelf, or a shelf for the kitchen, or a handy place to keep toys and art supplies for Junior. If you plan your interior decorating with an eye toward versatility, the furnishings you buy for the room will last for decades.

If you're on a budget, you can find some savings by getting a table that requires some amount of assembly, or you can even get design plans for decorating kids' rooms so you can build one yourself.

Tip: Try out the changing table in the furniture store as best you can, by standing in front of it and checking the height. You don't want to have to bend over the table too much, so that you can save your back for the heavy lifting necessary the rest of the day.

Reprinted with permission from the Sheffield School of Interior Design.

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