Since becoming a parent in August last year, I have a new level of awe and respect for people who choose to have a baby in a tiny house.
Although we never lived in a tiny house with a baby, I wanted to share some key things that come to mind when I consider what it would be like. This list applies more to newborns and would be relevant to anyone preparing to have a baby in a small living space (tiny house, caravan, apartment, etc.)
Please note none of this constitutes parenting advice. Sean and I had (and still have) no clue what we’re doing, we just did what works for us and our son, Finley. Do what works for your family and situation, tiny house or no.
New babies can be noisy, at all hours of the day and night. Managing noise was our number one issue in the tiny house even without a baby. Most tiny houses are completely open plan, with the only closing door in the house in the bathroom. I remember trying to make a cake for work one night in the tiny while Sean was on a phone call. Usually one of us would step outside, but being a rainy cold night I ended up standing in the shower trying to quietly whisk my eggs.
If possible, tag team care for your baby with a partner and try to ensure you have a quiet space available for sleep while you’re not on duty. Things to consider might be a good pair of noise cancelling headphones, ear plugs, accepting offers of help in the early days (we stayed with family for the first three week’s post-partum, extra support is always welcome on top of the extra space!)
Following on from the noise issue, think about how to manage sleepless nights without disturbing your partner. One of the rooms in our house was quickly set up as the ‘all-nighter’ room: doors shut to keep noise in, heater on, snacks a-plenty, change table within reach and TV and couch ready to go. As a breastfeeding mother this was particularly important because I often found myself feeding for long hours at a time. As Finley got older and slept better in his bassinet I stayed in bed a lot more. But having a comfortable space to ride the nights out when I needed to helped my sanity and having a separate space for Sean to take the baby in the wee hours so I could get some sleep was a life saver.
Recovery after childbirth wasn’t a huge part of the conversation or my thought process while I was pregnant. Obviously, there is recovery involved after childbirth, but I didn’t expect my own to be so slow or significant. I didn’t expect it to take 2 weeks to be able to walk to the mailbox and back. I don’t know how long it would’ve taken for me to comfortably climb stairs, nor how long it would’ve taken to do that with a baby in my arms. Again, depending on the design of your house, think carefully about how you will manage the early days of recovery in your space. Can you create a comfortable space with everything you need without climbing stairs or navigating tricky spaces? Are there steps you need to climb to get into the house? Do you have a comfortable place to sit and feed, that’s supportive of your healing body? Everyone’s birth experience and recovery is different, but don’t underestimate what your body will be going through in the first months after giving birth.
Laundry and washing
We didn’t have a washing machine in our tiny house but we were committed to using cloth nappies from day one. If you don’t have a laundry in your house this might prove challenging (though not impossible I’m sure!). Washing increases significantly once solids come on the scene (not till after 4 months) but if you plan to use cloth nappies, plan ahead for how you are going to manage loads of dirty nappies every day/every other day. A baby bath might also come in handy for washing your bub, but as a newborn this was more like a weekly, than daily activity for us.
Baby stuff and storage
Finally, there’s the ‘stuff’ that comes with new babies. Truthfully, like with everything, there is more than enough stuff out there for new babies and you don’t need to buy anything new. We were given more second (and third and fourth) hand clothing and items than we could possible use for one baby from friends and family. The desire to say no and avoiding ‘stuff overload’ may be there, but I found the challenge was knowing what to say no to! As a new parent it’s hard to know what you’re going to need when you’ve never been in that situation before. My advice is to start with as little as possible. New babies don’t need much at all and you’ll figure out soon enough what you want to try/use.
The biggest challenge with ‘stuff’ is that when things get hard, and they do get hard – fast – I was willing to try almost anything to make things easier. Including lots of different ‘stuff’. Breast pads, swing chairs, slings, different slings, bottles, dummies, comforters, the list is endless. It’s all little stuff but it adds up to clutter in a small space. It’s a tricky situation. When you’re tired and sore and don’t know what you’re doing, you do what you have to to survive. I guess my advice is to be kind to yourself. You won’t always look like the parent you thought you would be, and that’s ok. Try anything and everything and find what works, then do a clean out of what you don’t need.
Overall things change quickly with a newborn and you adapt to your situation, whatever that is. Babies don’t need much more than you. While living in small spaces poses its own unique challenges there’s absolutely no reason you can’t thrive as a family in one.