I hadn’t really thought it was an issue up until then.
“Lots of people live in flats and have babies. They don’t need much space,” I confidently told my husband, which is totally true. They don’t need much space, they need ALL OF IT – at least if our flat is anything to go by.
And, you know what, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
We did consider moving and even had the flat on the market at one point but in the end we decided to stay put. Oh, there are still days where I dream of opening the back door to a garden but I know how lucky we are to have an affordable roof over our heads as well as plenty of gorgeous local parks to enjoy.
However, living in a flat (especially a top floor one) does come with its own set of challenges – particularly if you have an unexpected c-section which means you can’t carry your 10lb baby and the car seat up and down the stairs without your insides feeling like they are about to burst out.
Now she can walk (and more importantly climb) things are much easier but I have learnt a few things in the last couple of years that I thought I would pass on. So, if you’re living in a flat and are having a baby here are my top tips.
1. A good sling/carrier – if you have a sling library near you, I would advise a visit because there are various options and some experimenting is required to find the best fit for you (and baby). I bought three different ones but ended up using the first (and sold the other two on). I couldn’t get on with the Mei Tai or the Babasling (pictured) and so went back to my original Infantino Swift. I found this essential for getting out of the flat, especially when I couldn’t lift the car seat down. Freya seemed to love being close to me and even when she could walk I still used it. (A sling is also great if your baby happens to have reflux and needs to be held upright all the time because it means you have your hands free to do other things.)
2. Lightweight everything – We were lucky in that we both had cars and we used mine almost like a (very expensive) shed, as I tried not to drive it very much. In particular we kept the pram in the boot rather than having to struggle with it up all those stairs. We also got a ‘travel system’ with a car seat that clipped on to the pram. Initially, when I couldn’t lift the seat, I carried her down (and up again) in the sling and popped her in the pram once I’d set it up but eventually, when my tummy had healed, I just clipped the seat on to the base and off we went.
3. Storage, storage, storage – The key to living in a flat, in my more than a decade of experience, is keep clutter to a minimum (easier said than done). However, babies need stuff – although not quite as much as we are given to believe. Think carefully before you buy things (we didn’t need the cot top changing table, for example, as I just changed her on a mat on the floor). Once you’ve got the things you want, the key is having enough storage while at the same time not making it feel like you’re living in a giant cupboard. We bought cubed storage with the canvas boxes pictured, which brighten our living room (not everyone’s cup of tea, I know, but they come in many colours). The idea is that the units can grow with us or if we do ever move and she has a bigger bedroom they can stay with her.
4. White noise – Flats can be noisy, not from people being anti-social, unless you’re unlucky, but just from the everyday comings and goings. If your baby is a light sleeper, a white noise machine or phone app is good for blocking out the background sounds. Also, and I’d say this is an essential, put a sign on your front door asking cold callers not to knock (I learned this the hard way – as did they when they woke her up and faced my full wrath AND a screaming baby).
5. Make friends with your neighbours – Most people accept that babies cry but it felt like Freya cried non-stop for nine months thanks to her reflux. We had (and still have) lovely neighbours and I was really stressing about the noise. I took our then downstairs neighbour a bottle of wine when Freya was about 10 weeks old just to say thanks for their understanding. She was gracious enough to say she couldn’t even hear Freya, which I know is not true, and for us not to worry about it. It made a huge difference.
On the whole I love living in a flat and once we navigated those initial problems things were much easier.
Do you live in a flat (or small house) with a baby? What would your top tip be?