When you have a baby on the way, the task of making your registry and gathering all the baby essentials can be overwhelming. There are so many baby gadgets out there! It can be tough to know what you really need and what you can skip. Many parents question changing tables – do you really need a whole separate piece of furniture just for diaper changing?
Changing tables are not necessary but they can be a useful tool for keeping your diapering supplies together and your baby in the right position for a diaper change. Most babies will outgrow a changing table by around 9-12 months but they will often last long enough for multiple children.
Let’s get into the details of whether or not a changing table is for you, and what you might want to use instead.
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Are changing tables worth it?
Whether or not a changing table is worth it for you depends on your situation. A big one is the cost relative to the amount of use it gets.
A new changing table costs about $100 on average, but you can probably only use it for a year or so for one child. Because it has such a specific purpose, a changing table can’t usually be repurposed once you are done with it.
So once your kids are out of diapers or have simply outgrown the changing table, you have to get rid of it.
Also, many parents don’t end up using the changing table as much as they expect to. Unless your changing table is on the main level of your house, you’re going to end up doing a lot of diaper changes elsewhere. Often parents have a changing table that serves as storage in the baby’s room, but the bulk of the diaper changes are happening on the couch, floor, in the bathroom, wherever they happen to be when the job needs to be done.
Based on my personal experience, I only used the changing table pad in our nursery occasionally with all of our babies. Usually, I just did it wherever!
If you live in a small space, it might not be such a hassle for you to use the changing table for most changes, so it may be worth it for you. If you use cloth diapers, you will have more bulky diapers to store, so a changing table can provide the space you need.
Personally, I think they are handy in the nursery to diaper and lotion baby after a bath, but I almost never use it otherwise.
How much does a changing table cost?
Like with most things, changing table prices vary.
The the average cost of a standalone changing table is about $100. If you go for a smaller, more basic style, you can spend less. The bigger varieties that include more storage or features, or those from high-end retailers, can run up to $200-300 easily.
Here are my favorite examples in the various price ranges:
- Best changing table under $100 – This changing table from Badger Basket looks great and features versatile storage options. I especially like how there are raised bars along the side to help keep your little one safe!
- Best changing table under $300 – This changing table doubles as a full dresser with three drawers. Even after your baby is finished with the changing table you will be able to get a lot of use out of this!
- Best corner changing table – Sometimes it can be difficult to wedge everything you need into a nursery! This changing table is designed to fit in a corner without compromising storage options!
Because changing tables aren’t used for long periods of time, they can be easy to find second hand for much cheaper than new.
Changing table pad vs. standalone station
A standalone changing table is more than just a surface to change your baby on – it also provides a ton of great storage and can help keep you organized. Because it’s made for this exact purpose, it usually has shelves and drawers that are the right size for diapers and diapering supplies. This convenience comes at an increased price, though, and you’ll need to buy a changing pad separately to place on top.
On the other hand, a simple changing pad may be all you need. You can place it on the floor or on top of another piece of furniture that you already have. Changing pads are significantly cheaper than a full table, and still provide you a safe changing surface. In fact, we’ve only ever used changing pads in my house because for us they are simply a better value. Here is the exact one we’ve used for years!
Can any dresser or table be used as a changing table?
In most cases, yes. You can set a changing pad on top of a dresser and use that as your changing table. Just make sure that the pad fits completely onto the surface of the dresser. Since you won’t have the safety rail that a traditional changing table has, be sure to always keep a hand on your baby! You might also want to add a non-slip pad under the changing pad to keep it from sliding around on the dresser’s top.
What age do babies use changing tables?
Even though it would seem like your baby should be able to use the changing table from birth to potty training, that isn’t always the case. You’ll probably be able to use it from birth through the first birthday, but after that will depend on your baby.
A cooperative, mellow baby or one who is small for his age will be able to use the changing table well into toddlerhood if you want. But a bigger baby, or one who hates diaper changes, may need to be moved to the floor sooner.
When do babies outgrow changing tables?
Most changing tables have a weight limit of about 30 pounds, but your baby will probably be done with it before they reach that point. Sometime around a year old, maybe 15-18 months if you’re lucky, your little one will start resisting diaper changes and trying to get away. At this point, you will need to stop using the changing table for safety reasons.
You may also find that your baby is just too heavy for you or other caretakers to lift on and off the table, even if they haven’t reached 30 pounds yet.
Changing table alternatives
So you’ve decided a changing table is not for you. Now what? There are plenty of alternatives to the traditional changing table.
One simple option is to use a dresser or other sturdy piece of furniture that you already have. You can place a changing pad on the top, and use the top drawer for diapers and wipes.
Folding Changing Table
Rather than using a traditional changing table, you can try a folding changing table. These are much more compact than a larger table, so it could be a good option if your space is tight. Plus, they are much cheaper than a piece of furniture! Here is a great example that you can get for less than $65!
Portable Changing Station
If you are changing your baby in more than one spot in the house, a portable changing station might work for you. These are typically used for travel outside the house, but many parents find them very useful at home too. This one includes storage for diapers and wipes, looks cute, and snaps onto a stroller or diaper bag!
Pack ‘n Play
Many Pack ‘n Play models have the option to have an attached changing table. This is a popular choice if you plan to use a portable crib anyway. But with this option, your changing table goes away once you transition to a crib, so you’ll have to be prepared to switch to another alternative at that point. Most of the top brands offer a pack and play with the changing table option.
Crib/Changing Table Combination
Some cribs have attached changing tables, which can save you some space while still giving you the benefits of a full changing table. Crib/changing table combinations can be pricey, but will definitely save you money over buying a separate crib and changing table. If you haven’t seen these before, here is what I’m talking about:
Why not skip it all and just use the good ole floor?
With a basic setup, you can easily change diapers on the floor and avoid the hassle of needing to switch gears later when your baby outgrows the changing table. There are many great ideas for setting up floor changing stations in the bathroom or bedroom and you can get as fancy with it as you want (or don’t want) to!