After visiting some of the most disgusting baby changing rooms I’ve ever seen, I’ve been inspired to write about how awful these amenities can be.
Baby changing rooms aren’t required by law or by any regulation that I know of, however most businesses who provide toilet facilities and would like to cash in on the mummy (or daddy for that matter) pound, do provide them. The fact that they are purely a cutesy is perhaps why the majority of them make Glastonbury porter loos look clean!
Take the changing facility I visited in Debenhams, Bath city center today. This was a lovely modern store, clean bright and fashionable. Yet, the baby changing facilities, which were hidden around the corner from the regular toilets, were horrific. There were dents and holes in the walls, the edges of the room were discolored with yellow and brown urine stains and the corners of the counters were encrusted with dirt. Besides the general dirt and disrepair, both the paper towel dispenser and the changing table paper dispenser were empty, so I found myself using half a packet of wet wipes to clean the area before I was willing to let Grumpy Baby touch anything. For someone who was using a travel changing mat and who generally feels that babies should be exposed to regular dirt and germs, this is saying something.
I wish I could say that this was an isolated case, however the baby changing facilities in Debenhams Swindon store are in a similar revolting state of disrepair. With the added bonus that there are no toilets in the baby changing room. One assumes that should the mother or father be alone and want to go to the toilet, they are either expected to leave their baby unattended or go elsewhere. Personally, if I’m required to leave a large store because my baby needs changing or I need the loo and the facilities aren’t suitable, then I will leave without buying a thing.
Sadly, the poor baby changing conditions are not limited to Debenhams. When I visited the Lydiard Beefeater restaurant the staff had no idea whether they had changing facilities at all. Once they were located in the disabled toilets, I found that the room was so small that I needed to wedge myself in to a corner once the changing table was down and to my delight I found that the changing table was creatively decorated with, I assume, the results of a nappy explosion which had happened several days previously at best. Another entertaining location had the changing table in the communal area of their small ladies loos, which while not unacceptable in itself, made it impossible for anyone to enter a cubicle or wash their hands should someone be using the table. Of course, the law of sod required that on the day I used this changing table, baby seemed to have an endless supply of bodily fluids to rid herself of the moment I put a clean nappy anywhere near her. 10 nappies were sacrificed to the poo gods that day!
Although I despair of the general state of cleanliness and disrepair of most changing facilities, I must admit that there are some venues which have impressed me.
Dobbies garden center in Cirencester have some of the most pleasant baby changing facilities I’ve used. There is plenty of space for a pram, a changing table that is clean and easy to access and a toilet for the parents to use. Cabot Circus in Bristol likewise has very good facilities. With several changing rooms which are spacious, include toilet facilities and even provide a comfortable (if slightly tatty) chair for mothers to feed their babies should they want to.
Baby changing rooms may not be a legal requirement and I am always grateful to see that they have been provided. However, I would argue that if the facilities can’t be kept clean at the very least, they may as well have not been provided at all.
UPDATE: Since writing this article I have been contacted by the manager of Debenhams Bath store to discuss the current state of their baby changing rooms and the actions they are taking to improve their condition.