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Space-Starved Parents Move Their Babies Into Bathrooms and Closets

By Emily Frost | April 28, 2014 6:50am | Updated on April 29, 2014 11:07am
 Parents are putting kids in bathroom, closets and master bedrooms in an effort to save money and stay put. 
Parents with Limited Space Get Creative
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UPPER WEST SIDE — This ought to speed up potty-training.

Space-starved parents are finding relief by using a new source of alternative bedroom space for their babies: their bathrooms.

Downtown parent Joanna Goddard, who lives with her husband, 3-year-old son and 10-month-old baby boy, recently wrote in a post to her popular blog that in a bid to help her youngest get as much sleep as possible, she moved his crib into a bathroom of her two-bedroom apartment.

It felt like a lightbulb went off in Goddard's head when she realized her family's little-used second bathroom could be the baby's new bedroom.

"Babies love cozy spaces. Kids always want to build forts and cuddle up in corners... I think he really likes his teeny space," she said. 

But Goddard said she felt sheepish to reveal this last week to readers of her site, A Cup of Jo.

"As long as you don't judge, haha ... O.K., here's how it works. We gave [our son] his very own room...our second bathroom!" Goddard, 35, wrote under the headline, "How our kids sleep (it's weird)."

"During the day, he shares the nursery with [her older son] when they're playing, but for naps and bedtime, he cuddles up in his travel crib in the bathroom."

To make the extra bathroom comfortable for sleeping, Goddard places a travel crib in the center of the clean, white-tiled room and wedges a pillow between the crib and closed toilet. She places a white noise machine on the toilet lid to create a soothing mood.

It's a choice she now recommends to other parents, she said.

"I'm sure we'll move [the baby] into the bedroom soon enough...But for now, this setup actually works really well for us," said Goddard, who previously wrote about a search for a larger apartment in Brooklyn that went nowhere.

"Funnily enough, [the baby] actually seems to like his little space. As soon as we carry him in there and begin singing "You Are My Sunshine," he'll immediately lean his head against our shoulders and start sucking his thumb. :)" she wrote on her site.

But the practice raises concerns about both safety and building codes, critics say. Under city building code, rooms without windows cannot legally be used as bedrooms. In addition, experts warn that toilets can be a drowning hazard for young children. There are special locks to keep toilet lids from being opened by young children.

An ACS representative said the agency's safety criteria largely focuses on ensuring babies sleep in their own crib or bassinet to prevent SIDS and suffocation. The absence of windows was not deemed a potential threat to babies, the representative said.  

Still, more than a hundred readers shared supportive comments, lauding Goddard for her decision to give both her toddler and baby son their own sleeping spaces. But other corners of the Internet weren't as charitable about the decision.

"I know NYC is expensive, but there are other buildings in other areas," one commenter sniped on a message board, where dozens reacted negatively to the news.

Others took Goddard's admission as an opportunity to confess to their own "bathroom baby" situations.

"We have stopped using the bathroom since the baby began to sleep there — no using the toilet, no showering. We don't even brush our teeth there any longer," one parent claimed anonymously via a message board.

This kind of workaround is one many space-squeezed New York City families find themselves employing as rents continue to rise, while incomes fall. 

Upper West Sider Natalie Holbrook said she created a nursery inside a closet of her 350-square-foot apartment.

Holbrook, 31, who blogs about parenting and life at Hey Natalie Jean, told DNAinfo New York she was delighted to find more space in her small home. The closet perfectly fit her son Huck's crib, and decorating the space became a fun project.

"I could hang photos, bring in a little side table, stack his favorite books just so, it was kind of an exciting little challenge," she said. 

She said that even if more space had been an option, she'd still have chosen to put her son in the closet. 

"When they're little, they don't need a ton of space. Babies, all creatures really, love the comfort of a nest, a space just their size," Holbrook said. 

The family has since moved into a larger apartment in the neighborhood, but it still has only one bedroom. Huck now sleeps in a walk-in closet in the living room, said Holbrook.

Closets are "the perfect in-between space for that short time when they're not a newborn anymore but they don't yet need a ton of acreage to play around in," the mom said.

She advised parents to invest in wardrobes and armoires to free up room in their closets for their children.

When her son gets older — he's now 3-years-old — Holbrook said she'd consider sacrificing more than storage space by giving up her bedroom. 

That's a strategy Upper West Side mom Sharon Schanzer uses for the one-bedroom apartment she shares with her 5-year-old son, Remy.

"If somebody handed me a two-bedroom apartment, would I take it? Yes," admitted Schanzer. 

But until that day comes, Schanzer, 50, lets Remy use the apartment's bedroom, while she sleeps in a makeshift bedroom that doubles as their living room and her home office.

"I live in a studio apartment and my son lives in a one-bedroom next door," she said she jokes with friends.

Rather than creep around the house after her son's 7:30 p.m. bedtime, Schanzer is free to have friends over for takeout. With his bedroom door closed, Remy sleeps through it all, she said. 

Legos and other toys are kept in the 5-year-old's room, away from the rest of the home and Schanzer's queen bed is tucked against a wall in the living room, she said. 

"I wanted him to have his own space. It seemed important from a philosophical standpoint that a child have his own room," Schanzer said, emphasizing that she recognized this isn't possible for all families. 

"He has so much pride in his room."