baby proof: living in a walk-up apartment.

October 29, 2014

When James and I finally finished our apartment hunt last winter and signed our lease, people who we told about our new place were considerably less shocked by the fact that we would be living in a one bedroom apartment with a baby on the way than the fact that we’d be huffing it up to the top floor, sans elevator. Thankfully, I had a sister in the city—doing the same thing with a toddler—to show me the ropes.

Some of you have written to ask for the verdict now that we’re a few (five!!!) months in. Here’s the how-goes-it, and few tips for surviving life in a walk-up with a baby.

1. Invest in a super-simple carrier. I’ve mentioned before that we use this Baby Bjorn and that we love it. But for times when I was trying to get Faye out of the house when she was really tiny, I felt like I needed something less bulky (and that she would fit in before she hit the recommended eight pounds for the carrier). The Baby K’tan that I borrowed from my sister Cait was crucial. It’s a cloth baby carrier sling that doesn’t require any tying or readjusting and it can be looped onto the stroller handle or tucked into a bag really easily. It’s super, super simple to use and I loved that I didn’t have to worry about any kind of bells or whistles when maneuvering Faye up and down the stairs in those early weeks.

2. Embrace the bare necessities. No surprise, I fall into the camp of less is more when venturing out of the house with Faye. Yes, there are lots of things that can be helpful when you have a baby. But there’s also a lot of stuff that can end up being a burden if you have to lug it around yourself. More often than not, we’ve simply decided against using something because not having it felt simpler than having it. By way of example:

a. We never toted Faye around in a car seat. Car seats are heavy. And there was no way I was lugging baby + car seat up four flights. So we stuck to the wearable carrier instead—and the stroller once she was big enough. (We borrowed a car seat for her inaugural taxi ride home from the birthing center.)(Three cheers for borrowing.)

b. When I bring Faye to my sister’s place for babysitting (she’s five flights up), I choose what I bring carefully. So far I haven’t worried about chill packs for frozen milk, or special blankets, or more than a tiny toy or two. I bring only as many diapers and wipes as I think she’s gonna need. No disasters so far.

c. When I’m bringing Faye to the grocery store, or out for only an hour or two, I don’t bring anything with me at all. Sacrilege? Sanity. There’s only so much weight I can carry on my person, and for me these short trips feel like delicious freedom.

3. Don’t sweat the stroller. We’ve loved our umbrella stroller. It stands on its own when folded which means it’s easy to stash in our downstairs hallway. It’s lightweight which makes hauling it up and out of our building manageable, but it’s still too heavy to haul up four flights regularly (we keep it locked to the banister downstairs…). The other two babies in our building have much (much) larger strollers. They’re super heavy, but they have wheels large enough to bounce up and down the front steps where the brakes on our stroller wheels get in the way of doing this. Across the river, my sister Cait recently swapped her lightweight umbrella stroller for one like this after finding it on Craigslist. It’s awesome for toddler naps, definitely heavier to haul up the front stairs, but it closes up to be small enough to keep in a very narrow hallway so that she doesn’t have to lug it up to the top floor. Are you exhausted yet? Here’s the takeaway: There is no perfect stroller. Get one you can afford, that fits in the space where you need it to, and that you like the feel of. And then ask (or beg) your landlord for permission to stash it downstairs (or just take your chances and do it anyway.).


4. Vigilance. My nephew runs everywhere. Five flights up is a scary place to let the little guy loose, and so he doesn’t get let loose. We hold his hand. We carry him when we need to. Back at our place, four flights up is equally scary. I have no intention of ever letting Faye into the hallway by herself. I tend not to be too much of a scaredy cat, but some things are just not worth it.

NOTE: Parenthood pretty much means exerting maximum effort most of the time. There is not a single product or rule of thumb that’s going to make living four or five flights up easy, but these are a few tips for making it easier.

More baby proof, HERE.

Photo from James’s instagram account.

PS. The links in this post were updated after the birth of Erin’s second child (January 2017).

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  • Reply Rachael October 29, 2014 at 1:46 pm

    Love this. Pinnacle of wisdom: you. And are you and Kate trading sitting? I would like to hear about that too. Sounds dreamy.

    • Reply Erin October 30, 2014 at 1:31 am

      We're sharing her AMAZING babysitter three days a week, tapping into our AMAZING mom one day a week, and swapping a few other hours between the two of us! A leeetle complicated, but working so far!

  • Reply Katie October 29, 2014 at 1:51 pm

    "(We borrowed a car seat for her inaugural taxi ride home from the birthing center.)"

    I have been wondering how this works for us non-car folk. Hopefully I can find a car seat to borrow when the time comes.

    • Reply Erin October 30, 2014 at 1:32 am

      Good luck! Was such a nice thing to not have to worry about buying right away!

    • Reply Chrystene February 12, 2016 at 12:35 pm

      I know this response is super late and probably no one will see it, but I will post it anyway. My partner and I do not have a car and could not find a car seat to borrow. So as insane as it sounds, we walked home. Three days after giving birth, we tucked our little one (who was born three weeks too early, but otherwise healthy) into our carrier and headed out. We did live near the hospital, so what was normally a 10 minute walk probably took 15-20. It was honestly not as bad as I was expecting. I just took some painkillers and went slowly and gently. And honestly, I was too worried about the new baby to notice my discomfort much. I did rest a ton for the next few days, but it worked really well for us.

      • Reply Erin Boyle February 12, 2016 at 1:07 pm

        Love that!

  • Reply nyclilsmartass October 29, 2014 at 3:10 pm

    I do not have a baby on the way or on the mind yet, but I find your tips for baby proofing and for living in a small apartment to be super helpful for easing myself into a more minimalist lifestyle. So far we have been luck to have first floor apartments, but living in a studio still makes keeping unneeded items a challenge.
    Thank you for helping us along in our journey.

    • Reply Erin October 30, 2014 at 1:30 am

      Thanks for your kind note!

  • Reply Liv October 29, 2014 at 3:44 pm

    I have also been borrowing a K'Tan and I love it. I used a Moby with my first and loved it at the time, but I've found the K'Tan much less cumbersome. I was especially great traveling cross-country with my new baby this summer.

    • Reply Erin October 30, 2014 at 1:29 am

      Glad to hear it!

  • Reply Abigail October 29, 2014 at 5:30 pm

    Any diaper bag wisdom? Trying to schlep and juggle the baby plus the bag (plus the carrier) in the city can be a sweaty endeavor, and he needs less stuff now that he's a little older. I always trust your taste and am wondering if you've found something good.

    • Reply Erin October 30, 2014 at 1:29 am

      I agree with EmGem down below! We use a SkipHop changing pad thingy! Just stuck into the same bag I was using before!

    • Reply Abigail October 30, 2014 at 3:13 am

      what bag is that? and do you find it easy to carry both it and babe? i ask b/c i do use one of those nappy wallet things (patem…it's awesome), but am ready to downsize the bag we throw it into. any ideas are welcome!

    • Reply Erin October 30, 2014 at 12:05 pm

      Mine's a simple tote from Forestbound that I bought during one of her awesome $50 black friday sales three years ago. If I were to upgrade to a devoted bag though, I'd get this one! Snaps!

    • Reply Abigail October 30, 2014 at 5:09 pm

      thanks so much!

  • Reply EmGem October 30, 2014 at 12:44 am

    Totally agree with comment that parenthood means exerting maximum effort most of the time! Certainly feels like that some days.
    We're all on one level so never had to consider these things- but agree with a minimalist approach!

  • Reply EmGem October 30, 2014 at 12:48 am

    Oh and to Abigail (above) I recommend a nappy wallet, to fit inside you're regular bag. (Sorry I realise you weren't actually asking me for advice but have found these really good for reducing the amount of stuff I lug around.. and saves spending money and time spent trying to find attractive diaper bag)

  • Reply Neurotic Workaholic October 30, 2014 at 3:12 am

    At least climbing all those stairs every day is a good workout, though I must confess that I'm too lazy to climb the stairs of my own building most of the time, except when one of my drunk neighbors throws up in the elevator (which, alas, has happened more than once).

  • Reply Emily Lowrie October 30, 2014 at 11:58 am

    I agree. With one child it is totally doable. Throw 3-4 in there and, well, good luck…

  • Reply Cynthia October 30, 2014 at 2:55 pm

    I would love someone such as yourself to explain to all of us across America why staying in NYC is so important when there are so many obstacles raising children there. The small apartments, the steps, not being able to open a door and let your child run out into the grass…I don't get it. And I live in a major urban center myself but one with plentiful nature and single family homes with greenery and garages for the cars.

    • Reply Erin November 2, 2014 at 11:51 pm

      Hi Cynthia: For us it's where our jobs, families, and friends are!


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