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Paula Kashtan

How To Buy A Changing Table

Get practical tips for setting up a changing station that'll help take the hassle out of diaper duty.

Let's face it: The changing table is one place new parents will be spending a lot of time at. Baby will go through about 6,000 diapers in the first two years of life, according to the Real Diaper Association. That's a lot of diaper-changing! So it's important to make sure the changing station is set up to be safe and convenient for you and baby. Luckily, there are plenty of practical (and adorable) changing tables to choose from.

Tip: One of the easiest ways to save space, time and money is to skip the actual changing unit and place a changing pad and all your gear on top of a dresser instead. By the time baby is approaching 1 year, it often becomes safer and easier to change him or her on the floor or a low bed anyway. (Babies of that age are quite wriggly and don’t like being placed on their backs.)

Whether you're buying a dedicated changing table or converting a dresser for the job, read on for tips on putting together a changing station like a pro.

How to Set Up Your Changing Station

Placement
Put your table against a wall (double points for a corner), making sure there’s absolutely no space between the two. Keep the table away from heaters, windows and the path of an opening door.

Stability
If you opt not to use a changing table unit, make sure the dresser you put it on is sturdy and bottom-heavy. If the table wobbles at all, it isn’t stable enough for baby.

Size
You need enough room to place all your necessary gear on top of the table, including the changing pad. You shouldn’t need to bend over or open any drawers to get equipment, because this means taking your eyes off baby.

Setup
Put everything you need within your own arm’s reach but out of baby’s. The best place for gear is on the opposite side of the table from baby's head. 

Changing pad
For newborns, pads with curved mattresses and soft sidewalls are very useful—these keep baby from rolling back and forth. Though they don’t have much utility beyond the first few months, we think they’re worth the investment.

Changing pad covers
Put disposable or washable covers on top of the actual changing table cover. They will get dirty, and this way you don’t have to do the wash every time. You can simply throw the soiled cover in the laundry bin and grab another one for the next change. Make sure whatever you use is waterproof—anything else would kind of defeat the purpose.

Diapers
Whether you use cloth or disposable, keep some sort of caddy filled with diapers (and for cloth, any other diapering necessities) on top of the table at all times. You should never have to bend down and open a drawer to grab a diaper.

Cleaning system
While traditional advice used to recommend not using wipes on newborns, hypoallergenic, alcohol-free, and fragrance-free options are now easy to find and are fine for most infants. If you go this route, make sure you can open the box and pull out a single wipe using only one hand (the other one should always be on baby). If your baby’s bottom is sensitive to even the newborn wipes, you can use quilted paper towels or cotton balls soaked in warm water, or warm washcloths.

Cream
To treat (or prevent) a mild diaper rash, use an ointment or cream with zinc oxide or petroleum jelly. Anything more serious may call for a prescription remedy. No matter what you use, make sure you can open, squeeze and close it with one hand, and that it isn’t easy for baby to get into. Also, it should be something you’re comfortable rubbing into your own hand—if you need a towel to wipe it off, you’ll have to take both hands off baby.

Petroleum jelly
Have this on hand to treat circumcised boys.

Diaper can or pail and hamper
Keep the pail nearby, so you can toss the dirty diaper in without turning around to look. Soiled clothes and dirty changing pad covers go in the laundry bin. 

Baby health care kit
Keep all your infant hygiene supplies in one place. The diaper table can be a place for clipping nails, rubbing lotion on and doing any other baby care tasks.

Distracters
If baby has a hard time with diaper changes, any sort of mobile or toy to keep him or her calm and distracted is great to have nearby.

What To Skip

Safety straps
If your changing table or pad comes with any sort of safety straps, cut them off the minute you buy it. They tend to compromise your innate safety instincts and create a false sense of security, making it easier to turn away or take a hand off baby for even a brief moment. The straps are also a strangulation hazard and can pinch baby when you close them. All in all, bad idea. Plus, changing time is an opportunity for you to be close to baby, touching and interacting on a more intimate level. Any kind of straps take away from that.

Wipes warmer
They simply aren’t necessary—in fact, they tend to dry out the wipes. No need to shell out for this one.