Friday, July 23, 2010

Baby Accessible

I never gave much thought to the accommodations of many places as regarding family-friendliness prior to having a baby myself.  The first time these particular thoughts crossed my mind was when I went out to lunch with friends of ours who had recently had their first baby.  His dad took him to the restroom to change his diaper, but returned to the table because the restroom did not have a changing table facility.  And so, the baby's mom took him instead.  I remember thinking to myself, well, in today's world, there should be a changing table in the men's room too.  What if dad had been out to lunch or dinner with baby by himself?

When I had a baby of my own and was confronted with such realities on a daily basis, it was quite eye opening.  I wanted to share some of what I found in regards to the family friendliness of different facilities and what makes them more (or less) family friendly.  Any time there is a family restroom, that is generally best because mom or dad can take baby there, any time that family restroom also has a chair for nursing even better.  And the all star is most impressive.  In the world of malls, Neshaminy (surprisingly) has the best facility - they have a whole suite!  The first time I went to Neshaminy Mall with Cecelia was in the morning for a One Fit Mama class and I went to the women's restroom and was appalled to find it had no changing table and it was quite difficult to navigate a stroller even into the restroom.  An employee who just happened to be in there (thank goodness) informed me that there was a (really nice) family restroom area.  I found it after class to check it out.  There were two family restrooms with changing tables, two changing tables outside the family restrooms, and a nursing room with three or four chairs.  Impressive.  Another good feature was the door-less-ness of this area, so you don't have to maneuver opening a door while either backing up with a stroller or pushing one forward.  Neshaminy gets the all-star in my book.  Montgomery Mall also has door-less restrooms, but are more traditional in that there are bathroom stalls and then a changing table at the far end.  The changing table is very nice and built in with a pad and a dispenser to lay down a paper liner.  Tricky thing here is getting your stroller all the way to the end - can't even imagine if the restroom was full and I have run into the situation where others are waiting since there is one changing table per bathroom.  As a mom of an EC baby, I even prefer to have the changing table as a drop down inside the handicapped stall so that you can discreetly undress baby, potty baby, and re-dress without having to go in and out of a stall.  Willow Grove mall's bathrooms have a door making them least friendly in the mall department.

Ikea has a super friendly set up, which is no surprise because it's Ikea and they're pretty awesome at most things.  They have a nursing room and changing table connected to a kid-friendly sized bathroom.  Only thing is, again, that there's one chair to nurse in, one changing table, and one bathroom, so there could be a line if it's a particularly family busy day.  Whole Foods has a nursing bathroom with a comfy chair in the corner and also has a changing table.  Now the trick is, I can't remember which one - one has it and one doesn't and I'm thinking of North Wales and Jenkintown - will have to check back about that.  Babies R Us, not surprisingly, also has a pretty good set up with a nursing room with comfy seating and two changing tables.  This is entirely separate from the bathroom, which is good in some ways but a minus for an EC mom.  Fortunately, there is also a changing table in the bathroom as well.

Another surprise to me was places that were just plain lacking a changing table.  It seems like a pretty inexpensive addition to make a place all the more appealing to a person with kids.  Off the top of my head, the park in Horsham where we had Cece's birthday, Everybody's Playground, has no changing table in the bathroom.  Also Baja Fresh (random, I know, but fresh in my mind).  And our condo association pool, where they indicate you must take baby to the bathroom to change a diaper.  Well, guess what - until they put in a changing table, I'm not taking her there to change her diaper.

I've gotten quite adept with changing her on my lap when needed, but to the chagrin of anyone who's witnessed the phenomenon and think Cece's going to launch off my lap and crack her skull.  She's totally fine and we've done it a million (well probably not a million..) times.  I realize that you don't always need a changing table to change a baby, but it is nice.  I do wish that so many weren't made of plastic, but I'm not sure what the best alternative would be there.

Being a mom with a stroller made me all the more aware of the wheelchair accessiblity or lack thereof of many places.  It also made me grateful that I had the option to sling my baby rather than using the stroller all the time.  While in a department store in the mall or at Target or Kohls for example, (oh - Kohl's also has a chair in the bathroom for nursing - purposes as does Macy's) it is much easier to navigate the racks with baby in a sling instead of a stroller.  You can't even get through the aisles with a stroller, so I have a tough time imagining what that might be like in a wheelchair.

Throughout the post, I've mentioned places where one might nurse a baby as well.  When Cece first arrived, I was very conscientious of being discreet while nursing in public.  I've gotten to the point, personally, where I find it more discreet to just feed her when needed (which isn't often in public at this point anyway).  She covered the area better than any cover might and most people do not realize what is happening unless they are waiting for me to feed my baby.  With that said, it is nice for places to offer a private and comfortable area for mothers, especially when baby is young and might eat for 45 minutes or more.  To sum up those places: Ikea, Whole Foods, Babies R Us, Neshaminy Mall, any Motherhood Maternity store, really any store with a fitting room, Kohl's bathroom, Macy's bathroom (both of these were just a regular chair in the corner - better than nothing), any department store with a "waiting room" just inside the bathroom - with a comfy couch or chair.  And really, remember you can nurse your baby law.

And thus finishes my rant - this is a post that had been brewing in my brain for quite some time and I'm glad to have "gotten it down".  Hopefully it is a help to someone.

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