Helen O’Callaghan says research shows that 64% of parents have left a venue because of a lack of baby changing facilities; it can be even worse for men alone.
ACTOR Simon Delaney doesn’t mind changing nappies.
Acknowledging the “fair degree of pungency involved”, the TV star says he has “a very strong stomach”.
But, as ambassador for Sudocrem’s just-launched Baby Changing Room Awards, he says public venues must up their game when it comes to facilitating dads to change their babies’ nappies while out and about.
Recent research reveals lack of support for fathers with more than 80% having difficulty finding baby changing facilities in male bathrooms.
“The majority are in the ladies’ toilets, which is awkward when I’m out on my own with the baby,” says Simon, whose fourth son, Lewis, is just two months old. But needs must, so he isn’t put off going into the women’s bathroom.
“If he has to be changed, he has to be changed.”
Simon and wife Lisa Muddiman’s other sons are Cameron, nine; Elliot, eight, and Isaac, four.
Baby Lewis is getting great help from his three brothers, says Simon, who adores fatherhood.
Having a biggish family (by today’s standards) was always a dream and he has long adjusted to “sleeping with one eye open and swallowing food while feeding someone else”.
And it’s not just women who multitask.
“Yesterday, I cooked dinner, while wheeling the buggy [to and fro] to rock the baby to sleep.”
But it does feel a bit like he and Lisa have been changing nappies for nine years.
“It’s like we just put the changing station away and now we’ve had to get it back out.”
While Simon has never met any raised female eyebrows when venturing into women’s toilets to change Lewis, Sheena Crean’s husband, David, has.
“He has once or twice encountered ladies who weren’t happy to find him there. It’s a most awkward situation,” says Sheena, an IT project manager, who has two children, Noah, two, and five-month-old baby Rua, both of whom are in nappies.
While research shows 64% of Irish parents have left a public venue due to lack of baby changing facilities, Sheena finds in cities like Dublin and Cork, she doesn’t generally get caught out.
“At a very minimum, 90% of places would have a drop down changing table,” says the Blackrock, Co Dublin-based mother.
But out recently for a Sunday carvery lunch, she and David had to resort to changing Rua on a couch in the restaurant section of a bar.
“I blocked him [from view] for the sake of his dignity. It was quiet so we could do it. Otherwise I’d have changed him in the boot of the car, which I’ve done an amount of times.
"Nobody wants to see a number two in the middle of lunch and, of course, it can fumigate the whole place.”
While 30% of parents have changed their baby on a bathroom floor, Sheena wouldn’t because she feels bathroom floors are “filthy”.
She finds airports are good when it comes to baby changing facilities but “petrol stations in the middle of the country are a disaster — I wouldn’t even go into them, I’d be changing them in the boot of the car”.
And a big problem she finds — even in high-end venues — is the infrequency with which nappy bins are emptied.
“You go in and the place is stinking. There’s faeces down the side of the bins. And there’s nothing worse than another baby’s poo — you can kind of cope with your own child’s. You wouldn’t want to be taking a newborn into somewhere so unhygienic.”
Eight-five per cent of parents surveyed say a poor standard of baby changing facilities will influence whether they return to a venue. Simon Delaney feels the same.
“As a parent, I soon realised that when we were planning a trip out one of the first things to consider was whether the venue had good baby changing facilities. If they didn’t, we’d choose somewhere that did.”
Likewise with Sheena: “I remember the good places and I go back. And I avoid the bad places.”
For Sheena, the ideal baby changing room is unisex — so dads feel welcome too. She also likes a dedicated space for nappy changing.
“It shouldn’t be an adult toilet or a baby feeding room. A lot of places have the two in one, so you could have a mum breastfeeding next to a mum nappy changing. There’s a fantastic baby changing room in the Dundrum shopping centre.
"It’s beside the feeding room, so nothing else goes on in there besides nappy changing. Baby changing facilities should also have room enough to bring a buggy in, so you don’t have to leave it outside and carry your child in.”
Bringing about change with Sudocrem
Research commissioned by Irish brand Sudocrem found parents rate Irish baby changing facilities at 5.5 out of 10.
To celebrate its 85th anniversary, Sudocrem is launching the Baby Changing Room Awards to commend venues for providing warm, clean, safe facilities for parents and their little ones.
Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, child-minders and anyone using baby changing facilities in public venues, are invited to vote for the best baby changing facilities they’ve used at www.sudocrem.ie
There are seven categories for entry: Best hotel, best restaurant, best coffee shop, best big shop (supermarkets, toy stores, clothes shops), best shopping centre, best changing facilities in a male bathroom and best service station.
Voters are asked a series of nine yes/no questions about the baby changing facilities provided by their nominated venue.
Among questions included are: Is there a private area in the main bathroom for baby changing? Are the facilities clean? Is the changing table at waist height? Is the changing area at arm’s reach to the sink? Is there a dedicated bin for nappies? Is there a safety belt within the changing unit?
Once venues receive a minimum number of votes they’ll be in the running to receive an award.
The number of facilities a venue provides (e.g. breastfeeding facilities as well) will decide on the number of stars it’s awarded. Venues receiving enough votes will be awarded one, two or three stars with three being the top award.
* Visit www.sudocrem.ie to register your vote. Each vote received will be automatically entered into a prize draw. Closing date for entries is Friday, September 30, 2016. Prize-winner will be announced after close of voting.
Sudocrem was developed by Irish pharmacist Thomas Smith in Cabra in 1931.
Made in Baldoyle, more than 34.5m Sudocrem pots are sold annually worldwide.
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