Two areas that often get overlooked are the nappy changing station and the bathing station. I suggest purchasing the essentials and getting these areas setup before the birth, so that you feel organised when you bring baby home.
how to prepare for your baby: changing and bathing station
Becoming a new parent is one of the most amazing, life-changing moments you will ever experience. But while you are preparing the space for your new baby, it can be overwhelming deciding what equipment and stations to set up first.
the nappy changing station
where to set up:
Over the first few years of your baby’s life, you are likely to change 6000+ nappies (no, really!) so it is important to make your nappy changing station functional and comfortable.
When deciding where to put your changing station, consider these factors:
- -where you feed your baby, especially overnight
- - where baby is sleeping most of the time
- - if the main station is in the nursery or parents’ bedroom
- - if there is a second station in the living area
- - if it is surrounded by a warm comfortable temperature
- - if there are safety/raised sides to reduce the risk of rolling off the table
Some families find that having two changing stations can be helpful, one in the living area for during the day, and one in the room your baby is sleeping in, the parents’ bedroom or nursery. This will likely change over time as your baby gets older and won’t require changing as often. Then you may find one changing station in the nursery is enough.
comfort & Safety
Having a table-height change solution is especially important if you have had a caesarean birth or are suffering from back pain (which is common after normal childbirth). Physically, it is also safer rather than getting up and down from the floor after birth.
It is important to think about safety as parents, as you will be spending a lot of time changing nappies while making safety a priority for your baby. Having a nappy change mat or table with raised sides and even a strap across the middle will reduce the risk of baby rolling off the table and falling.
nappy changing essentials
- - change table, or
- - change mat – waterproof/wipeable that can sit on drawers/table
- - change mat cover of wrap – washable fabric x 2
- - nappies - good supply
- - wipes - disposable or reusable
- - barrier cream
- - bin with lid
- - hand sanitiser
- - set of clothes – singlet, onesie, socks
- - burp cloth
- - nappy pail if using cloth nappies
Having everything you need close at hand is important for safety as you can’t wander off to find supplies and leave your baby on the change table as they could roll off. Hand sanitiser at the change station means you don’t have to then go and wash your hands before feeding, which is very helpful, especially in the middle of the night.
I recommend having a back-up supply of nappies and wipes so that you never run out of them unexpectedly. This has been very important over the last few years with supply issues on particular brands and sizes.
Consider storage solutions such as shelving, hooks, baskets, carts, and cubes to store essentials close by.
The cartridge style nappy disposal systems are a nice to have but not absolutely required, simply roll the nappy up and use the adhesive tabs to secure it closed.
the change table
Purpose built nappy change tables are inexpensive and often have a shelf or 2 for storage underneath. Some even house a baby bath under the table section. These change tables are fantastic in the first year to 18 months of age. After this, your toddler will likely outgrow the length of the table and it won’t be able to be used anymore.
Some families find that using a set of drawers can be helpful as you can stock the drawers with all your essentials, and you are able to continue using this piece of furniture into the future.
If using a change table with open shelving, do avoid placing medicines and other potentially unsafe products on the shelves, as once your baby is on the move, they may be able to access these.
the nappy cream
In the first few months, most babies will develop a nappy rash. This is because they are sitting in dirty nappies quite often, and sometimes it can cause the skin to become irritated, or inflamed.
Nappy or barrier creams help heal nappy rash by creating a barrier between the skin and the dirty nappy. Some good choices are zinc-based, and applying a thick layer when your baby’s skin is inflamed will help avoid a more serious nappy rash to spread.
If your baby’s rash is not healing quickly, talk to your child health nurse, GP, or pharmacist for advice. There are some fungal rashes that require antifungal creams and some that benefit from steroid creams.
Changing your baby’s nappy regularly is also important in preventing nappy rash as well as some nappy-free time (proceed with caution, as this can get messy!).
optional equipment for your change station:
- - mobile hanging above for interest
- - small disposable scented bags
- - spare dummies, if using
- - moisturiser cream
- - nail clippers
- - soft hairbrush
- - massage oil
- - small baby rattle or teether – good for distraction & interest
- - laundry hamper for dirty clothes
- - thermometer
- - lamp or night light for overnight changes
- - caddy of change accessories for mobile changes around home
Some nappy changes can be very messy. Heard the term poonami?! Those very explosive poos that escape from the nappy and can go up the front and back or even down between your baby’s toes! Having a clean, wipeable area is much better than having fabric padding that can’t be washed easily. Sometimes you will need to bath your baby if they are very messy.
nappy change and play time
Nappy changes are also playtime for your baby. Your baby will enjoy looking at you and many first smiles occur here because of this. It is a great opportunity to talk to your baby while changing their nappy, you can smile, pull funny faces, and sing to them.
Even after their nappy is changed you can spend some more time here as the distance between yours and your baby’s face is perfect for fun interaction and beautiful bonding in the early months. Having a stash of toys to show them and then give them to play with works well as both a distraction during the change and some more play time after.
As your baby gets older, they will start to roll more and try to flip over while being changed, some parents find it safer to change them on a mat on the floor during this time.
“Never leave your baby alone on a change table, even newborns can roll over and this is a serious falls risk” - Belinda Joyce
the bathing station
Setting up a practical and functional bathing station will make bathing your baby so much easier and safer. Having a bathing area ready with everything you need is important. Again, you can’t go looking for something mid-bath! Babies and young children must never be left alone in a bath.
bath time essentials:
- - baby bath or kitchen or laundry sink
- - warm water
- - wash cloths
- - towel
- - clothes
- - nappy
baby bath options
Some change tables include a bath either under the change table or it slides out on the side. There are also standalone plastic baby baths, these can be placed on a bench or in big bath for use, some even have a stand to make them waist height. Some families move straight to the big bath from newborn age, especially if there are older siblings having a bath.
bath time optional extras:
- - baby bath wash – soap & fragrance free, pH balanced/neutral
- - moisturiser – fragrance free, pH balanced/neutral
- - bath thermometer
- - bath toys
- - baby bath cradle support - plastic or fabric
- - cup of warm water to rinse hair
- - extension hose between tap and baby bath
You need a warm room as you’ll be undressing baby and they can get very cold when they initially come out of the water.
Many change tables are on wheels and can be moved closer to where you are bathing your baby for dressing and undressing. Depending on your set-up, you could use a change pad or mat on the bench next to the bath for this.
There are even ‘in-shower devices’ that your baby can sit in to free up your hands to both shower yourself and your baby.
safety when bathing
It is important to think of your own safety as well as your baby’s. Watch your back and avoid lifting a baby bath filled with water, they become very heavy. Consider using a jug for filling and removing most water to avoid carrying the full bath. There are some rubber hose extensions that can be used between the taps and the bath to help with filling.
While your baby is on the change table, it is a great time to do some baby massage. And after bath is even more ideal. Keep in mind that some short massages after nappy changes are also beneficial, as your baby doesn’t need to be fully undressed and can still have a full body massage every time for a massage to be beneficial. You may just give their tummy a massage, or just their legs, and if they have dry skin, you can also use the opportunity to apply a skin moisturiser.
benefits of baby massage:
- - quiet time- helpful before bedtime to settle
- - touch promotes bonding
- - oil can be good for dry skin - pure, natural oils are best
- - get to know your baby’s body and notice any changes such as rashes, lumps and the like
- - get to know what your baby likes and do more of this.
- - reducing gas, colic, and digestive issues.
- - less crying, reduced stress
- - can be continued into your child’s future as special bonding time
how to massage your baby
Baby massage is a special time with your baby. You don’t have to complete an infant massage course (although they are great) to be able to massage your baby and for you both to gain benefits, as well as for you and your baby’s enjoyment. You don’t even need to be structured. If both you and your baby are enjoying it, then that is fine.
Firstly, make sure you have a warm room, turn off the TV and give your baby all your attention.
Using massage oil enhances the lovely feelings of your hands gliding along their body. It is very important to test a small amount of massage oil on your baby first and checking they don’t have any skin irritation or reaction a few days prior to using it fully. Again, fragrance-free is best and if using an aromatherapy oil, they must be very diluted in a carrier oil, perhaps talk to a professional first. Using pure oils like sweet almond oil, olive oil and sunflower oil are good ideas.
Long, smooth, firm strokes work best, and you will soon learn what your baby likes most. Don’t forget to turn your baby onto their tummy and massage their back, this can be a great way of extending tummy time, especially if your baby dislikes this usually. When using circular massage strokes on their tummy, move your hands in clockwise direction to promote good digestion.
Be guided by your baby. If they are enjoying it, you can keep going and if they are grizzling, they have probably had enough. Even 5 minutes is still beneficial, and may go up to 30 minutes if bub is enjoying it.
Spending time setting up your baby’s changing and bathing stations will make life much easier when baby comes home. After all, you will be spending a lot of time in these spaces, so making them comfortable as well as functional is key.
Belinda Joyce . Midwife, Maternal & Child Health Nurse and Author of Survive and Enjoy Your Baby
Belinda Joyce is a midwife, maternal & child health nurse, author of 'Survive and Enjoy Your Baby' and mum to 4. She has a passion for supporting new parents to find their own path to parenthood, as every Mum, Dad and Baby are different. Belinda loves creating programs and resources for new parents, click here to download a FREE pack of printables and checklists including a feed and sleep tracker, essential equipment, what to put in the hospital bag, nappy bag, childcare and travel bag and a newborn sleep flowchart so you can all get more sleep.