The Changing Table: Necessary or No? - Modern Alternative Mama
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The Changing Table: Necessary or No?

admin December 20, 2010

When I was expecting my first baby, I read lots of lists about what babies really need, and what they don’t.  On many of those lists, the changing table was listed as “just not necessary.”  So many people said that they never used it; instead, they’d change diapers on the floor or a bed or wherever they found themselves.  Others said they really liked it, and how it helped them organize things.  My mother had always used one, so I felt like I wanted it.  I bought one and set it up.

I also had a theory that if I changed all or most diapers on the changing table from birth, that I could teach my baby not to fight being changed, as long as she was on the table.  Experienced moms laughed at me.  But, I still believed it.

How did it all turn out?  Now that I’m expecting baby #3, do I really still use one or have I found them useless? Not at all!

Why I Love My Changing Table

I think, with disposable diapers, it’s not that important.  A lot of disposable-diapering moms just have a basket that contains several new diapers, wipes, and cream, and maybe a blanket or mat to toss on the floor to change the baby on.  I think that probably does work fine with disposable diapers because you don’t really have to keep track of them.  You use a new one, and you throw the old one away.  If you lose some new ones, it doesn’t matter; you can use them if they turn up (but since they’re cheap per diaper, who cares?).

But I, like many green moms, use cloth diapers.  That’s a different story, organizationally, than disposables.  You have to know where your ENTIRE STASH is at all times, lest you run out of diapers.  And since they’re not cheap — on average, about $18 each — you don’t want to lose one (or more!) of them.  Since you have to wash them, you need a place — ideally near the changing space — to store the dirty ones.  See where I’m going with this?  You need a designated area for diaper changing that has a place to store the clean diapers, and the dirty ones, plus all the changing paraphernalia.  A changing table is ideal.

I used one constantly until my first was around 2, and running upstairs with both children (my second was 6 months then) every time I needed to change someone became a burden.  Instead, I started just doing “whatever” — changing on beds, floors, etc.  I didn’t have any designated organizational system.  Somehow, during the time I wasn’t organizing my diapers, I lost a few of them (actually I was constantly losing and finding dirty ones — yuck!), I often had dirty ones sitting in the bathroom or near the basement door or in other locations waiting to be taken to a wet bag somewhere, I could never find all the pieces to stuff the diapers properly, I never knew where my wipes were, and I even managed to completely lose two of my wet bags.

I was losing my mind.

changing table

Eventually, I moved my daughter’s no-longer-in-use changing table (she’s been potty trained for almost 6 months) to the playroom and set it up.  I put a trash can, lined with a wet bag right next to it.  Ah!  Organization once again.  I also now have a changing station on each floor so my diapers remain organized and there’s no need to go up or down stairs to change a diaper.  It is really necessary to my organizational scheme.

And yes…it did keep my daughter from screwing around and trying to roll away, because she knew that the changing table was for diaper changes, not play time.  That’s not to say she didn’t fuss and fight some around 8 or 9 months, but she definitely never tried to get away.  A small toy as a distraction, or singing a song worked well too.  My son hasn’t *quite* caught on, but he’s still new to the changing table.  A toy works well for him, though.

My changing table, with using cloth diapers, really is crucial to my organizational system.  I need it or I go nuts.  Now I always know where my diapers are, I always have the dirty ones put away as soon as they’re changed (except, occasionally, upstairs…but no one goes up there!), and I always have the “stuff” I need to change a diaper, too.  So much better!

Do you use a changing table?  Why or why not?

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24 Comments

  1. I so agree! I've got a trilevel, and everyone thinks I'm crazy to want a 2nd changing table on the main floor as well as the bedroom floor, but going up and down stairs postpartum for each diaper change sounds way crazier to me. I also use cloth (mostly velcro pocket diapers), and it's so nice to know where everything goes.

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  2. Thanks for the insight. We're expecting and I've been trying to decide whether or not we need one. I was thinking the same thing, that it would make cloth diapering much easier to stay organized. Thanks for the insight!

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  3. I'm in the no-change-table camp. I prefer to use my bed. I keep things in one place, a big basket near the bed (and I do use cloth diapers). I have used change tables a bit, but I don't like how wiggly my babies are up there, and my other kids like being close by. On the bed we can all sit together and enjoy our baby. Are my kids the only ones who like to "check" the contents of the baby's diaper??

    When the baby is tiny, I have a change station on both floors of our house. When I broke my arm earlier this year, I again set up stations in very convenient places. I do think having things all set up in one spot makes diapering run much more smoothly. It's not fun to find dirty diapers roaming around the house!

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  4. Yes, and for many of the same reasons as we started out with cloth diapers. Now that most of my kids are done with diapers, we use most of the space for clothing for the youngest two. I like having clothing accessible for the younger kids, and it takes up less space than a full size dresser.

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  5. Great post! I have never used a changing table…..I was one of those who didn't think it was necessary. We used cloth diapers and disposable diapers on our four children and never felt it necessary to have a changing table. I've used the changing table at church and it always felt awkward because I had to stand funny. Guess there is a learning curve? 😉

    And of my four children, two of them fought me while changing their diaper and two of them didn't. It had more to do with their personalities than with where I was changing them. But I could see where using a changing table could keep some babies from fighting.

    I'm glad you found a system that works for you……that's what matters!

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  6. A change table is an absolute must have for me. I don't have room to have one on the ground floor so I have to go upstairs for every change but that doesn't bother me. On the top shelf I have my diapers stuffed & ready to go. A small basket with my cloth wipes & a large baby wipes container. We get the baby wipes container free in the maternity hospitals here. They come with a travel pack of wipes insides but holds 2 full packets of wipes (just to give you an idea of size). It is perfect for holding my home made wipes solution.

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  7. I love my changing table! It helps me stay organized with all of my baby's stuff. One shelf holds canvas bins of onesies, socks, shoes, and hats (basically serves as our dresser since all clothes get hung in his closet). The other shelf holds cloth diaper gear, baby towels and baby blankets. I usually–though not always–change diapers there because it's easiest on my back and our house is small enough that I'm never far from the nursery.

    Luckily we were very blessed that the family we purchased our house from left a changing table in the back of the garage when they moved. It took a lot of cleaning, but it's been so nice to have! I don't know if I would have been willing to buy one new (they're kind of expensive), but I would definitely have hunted a thrifted one down if we hadn't already had one!

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  8. Okay, I had to weigh in with my opinion on this! I agree with the organizational aspect of a changing table. I use disposables, but I still see major advantages to being organized. Just buy a changing table that doubles as a dresser. Then it's not a useless item once your baby is out of diapers. One point I would make against "just changing the baby anywhere" is the fact that daycares and such are required by the health dept. to have designated changing areas. Why? It's more sanitary that way. If you change your baby on the floor or on a bed, you run the risk of "contaminating" your floor or furniture with fecal matter (eww!) and then your baby and other children are playing right there too. I'm not by any means a "germophobic" person…but looking at it that way just seems to make more sense to me. Plus if your baby has a blow-out diaper, then it's easier to contain and clean if you do it in a designated area. Just sayin'. 🙂

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  9. I use disposable diapers and LOVE my changing table….can't imagine not having one! It's so much easier to have them up at the right height for changing the diaper. Ours is tall enough that neither my husband or myself have to bend over to change a diaper….which is so much better for our backs!
    Not sure that changing them every time on the changing table has anything to do with helping with the squirming/rolling away. I have never changed my daughter anywhere besides the changing table when at home and she still goes through phases of trying to escape the diaper changing by wiggling/rolling, etc. Just a normal thing that babies and toddlers do.

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  10. OK, I love this post. I've been reading about cloth diapers for a while now. I didn't use them with my son until he was 2 and then just a few to practice with to see if I could do it with #2. Now that #2 is indeed on the way, I want to do cloth…but there are a few things I don't quite understand. Maybe you can do another post that addresses this. I hate changing my son and then having to get him all settled and dressed and not knowing what to do with the poopy diaper until he's all set and down from the table. I know it needs to be rinsed in the toilet before it goes in my wet bag, so what good does it do to have the lined garbage can if you can't put it in there until after you've take in into the bathroom and rinsed it. Also, how to you transport it back into the room with the changing table to put it into the wetbag? I seem to always be missing that step when I read about how "easy" cloth diapering is.

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  11. Hi Bekah,

    Very briefly (perhaps I will post on this more indepth!), I basically set the diaper aside, wrapped up, so my son can't kick it, and get him dressed. Then set him down, take the diaper to the bathroom and dump it. I don't bother with rinsing and swishing and all that stuff. I tried it once and found it WAY too messy. Once it's dumped, I just carry it back (wrapped up in itself; but since I haven't dunked it it's not soaked or anything) and put it in the wetbag. If I DID dip/soak/rinse diapers, I'd just keep my wetbag/pail in the bathroom and put the diapers straight in there. That's what a lot of people do. And also, with a newborn who is exclusively breastfed, you don't need to dump or rinse at all! Breastmilk poop is totally water soluble and needs no extra care. 🙂

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  12. I flip flop. I never did have a real changing table…I just had a changing pad on top of the dresser. I haven't used it in months, it seems. I've grown accustomed to floor-changes. And it can be aggravating because it seems 8/10 times, I do forget to grab a diaper, not to mention getting myself off the floor! 🙂 You provided some great insight, though, about how 8-9 months the squirming, but knowing the changing table is not play time. My son is 9 months (next week) and he definitely tries to crawl away on me during diaper changes! But, I bet you're right…maybe he just hasn't differentiated completely between "it's time to sit still on the floor" and "it's time to play on the floor". And to the point about cloth diapers being everywhere. That is true. I find that when I was changing in one consistent place, I knew where all my diapers were at all times. Now, there are some upstairs, some on the laundry machine, I even found one in a bag in the car today!! :o) Maybe it's time for me to re-explore the changing pad…

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  13. We use both cloth and disposable diapers, and I can't imagine not having a changing table! Perhaps if I were much younger and we went back to carpeted (yuck) floors. As it is, being almost 37 with back problems and wood floors, getting up and down multiple times per day does not appeal. And bending over a lower surface is uncomfortable as well. That said, with babies #4 and #5, we have a much higher bed than with the others, and it also makes a suitable changing surface. But as you mentioned, it isn't a great place for changing cloth diapers, since the bucket for those and the wipe warmer we use for cloth wipes is in the boys' room.

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  14. We were given a changing table to use with my DS #2 and it is almost falling apart, we also use cloth and have everything right there on the changing table, or in baskets underneath. Problem with this one is there is no space for all those extras like the tub of better "butt"er, the wipes warmer with my cloth wipes in it, just a place for the pad. Which is totally frustrating!!! So for # 3 who will be here in Feb/March I will be building a new one!! That's right Building… found an awesome blog that has plans for much less than it would cost to buy a new one. Plus the top comes off when you are done with the bubbas and it becomes a bookshelf. Hope ya'll enjoy!

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  15. I used our changing table a lot with my son. It is better for your spine to be able to stand up at a changing station then bend over on the floor or bed. I also go crazy with out some organization. I like having our whip solution, basket of wipes, creams and salves, and cloth diaper needs all in one place where I know where to find them. When Jack was younger we had a changing station on 2 of 3 floors which was also helpful.

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  16. We do not have a change table, but I kind of wish we did! I'd love the extra organizational space. We have a changing pad set up on the dresser, and one of those wooden shelves with bins on it that holds the (diapers) along the other wall. Over the last three years, my childhood dresser has been ruined, when wet wipes or diapers are accidentally left to wear off the finish on the wood (late night sleepiness/carelessness to blame). 🙁 The bins barely hold all of our diapers (esp now that there are two kids). I'm going to have to rearrange my son's room soon, because it's not safe for me to leave the baby on the pad and walk away to get a diaper (only 4 or so feet, but still).

    We really didn't have the money to buy one at the time my first son was born, and we don't have the wall space in his room now (since there's a twin bed, a crib, a dresser, bookshelf and chair, etc in there now), but it'd be nice if we could make it work. I do normally try to keep a diaper or two downstairs or in my bedroom, for when the baby needs changed when the toddler is napping in their room, but like Heather said, it kills my back to change him on the bed/floor.

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  17. we've exclusively clothed since birth and i would have to say that i don't think a change table is necessary; but having somewhere to put your diapers is. let me explain. we have a change pad on a dresser… and a shelf above it with diapers our cloth wipes and homemade buttspray. however we rarely changed/chage them on it (we like to be social :)) so we will grab change stuff (including the contoured changing pad) and do it in the living room, then simply run the dirty diaper to the pail (we had two when we were on 2 levels) we never leave dirty diapers (or in fact any diapers) around; but this may be easier for us because i am a neat freak 🙂

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  18. An interesting post. I actually never used a table to change the diapers, I just used the floor in the babies room or occasionally in the living room. My only focus for this was to ensure I had everything – everything I needed! I can see some of you smiling. There is nothing more frustrating in getting half way through and you don't have enough of this or forgot that. Not so bad if your husband is at home etc., but still irritating. I line up with the prefold cloth diapers mums but do use disposeables when visiting! One further reason I did it on the floor was when finished you could just leave baby there while you tidied up around them

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  19. I'm a cloth diapering momma too! So, yes a designated changing space is crucial! In our old house my husband custom built a simple changing table with shelves to fit in the area needed and to hold all the diaper needs of two kids. Now that we have moved and our house is much bigger — I have a designated spot in the bathroom — the changing table doesn't fit but I love having the changing station in the bathroom — so easy to dump the messies into the toilet!

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  20. What is your brand of cloth diapers? And also, have you experienced the ammonia smell? I am using Thirsties cloth diapers (insert with diaper cover) and we are having an awful time with ammonia. I have tried the baking soda method of stripping, but I'm thinking I may need to do the dawn dish soap. We have switched from a top loader to a front loader washing machine and the front loader seems to be making the diapers worse. Any advice?

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  21. The ammonia means you are not removing the wee or urine successfully and so the bacteria called nitrobacter are converting the urine to ammonia. I would look at the soaking stage maybe use both baking soda and a bit of bleach etc.

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  22. I have a changing table that is attached to the playpen and I have used it for all of my 5 children. I hate to bend over and change a diaper on a couch or floor or whatever…it hurts my back. But being able to stand up and change the baby is sooooooo nice. If I have more children I will have to invest in a new one because it is starting to fall apart.

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  23. My son is about 15 months now and our tall changing table just broke! I was trying to decide if we actually really needed another one, or if it was really even necessary. I ended up keeping the whole changing station in tack, since we do cloth, and putting the pad part on top of a toy chest that was just the right width. It’s lower to the ground so if he rolls off he is no danger! After reading your post, I truly think my need for organization in his room subconsciously led me to still have a need for a changing area.

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  24. I have 6 month old baby…. I am also planning to have one Changing Table for my daughter.

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Hi, I’m Kate.  I love medical freedom, sharing natural remedies, developing real food recipes, and gentle parenting. My goal is to teach you how to live your life free from Big Pharma, Big Food, and Big Government by learning about herbs, cooking, and sustainable practices.

I’m the author of Natural Remedies for Kids and the owner and lead herbalist at EarthleyI hope you’ll join me on the journey to a free and healthy life!

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