I’m on a mission to make Edmonton more baby-friendly. But what does “baby-friendly” really mean?
Have you ever had to change your newborn baby on the dirty tile floor of a restaurant or coffee shop? What about the seat of a booth or a hard, water-covered bathroom countertop? Or on the display bed at a department store? (Guilty…) Or gone to a swimming pool, community hall, or public washroom only to find the change table was falling off the wall by one hinge? Have you ever used one installed so close to the door, that when the door swings open, it bumps the change table with baby on it? (That happened to me… and the handicap stall had a ton of room!) Or used one that was way too high (bulls-eye!), way too low (ducking diaper change), or one that could have been fastened on the wall in a much more convenient or private area?
Have you ever been to a family restaurant that had a change table — but no high chair? Or a high chair, but no change table in either washroom? I have, and I’ve spent a good chunk of time wondering how each was forgotten.
New babies do not wait for moms or dads to enjoy their hot coffee, finish their shopping, try on clothes, or pay for their groceries or lunch tab. They require on-the-spot attention, whether or not there is a place to sit, feed, or change them comfortably. Have you ever had to sit in the back of your hot car to breast or bottle feed? How about in a dressing room, with the attendant wondering why it’s taking so long to try a shirt on? Have you had to houdini a dirty diaper on the tailgate of your truck or backseat of your van? Or try on a new pair of jeans in record time because baby is tired of shopping?
If you said yes to any of the above, you’re definitely not alone.
… friends, I really want to change this.
So I have defined five elements of being baby-friendly.
Are you a business owner, manager, or caretaker of a business that wants to attract new clientele that will regular your establishment and recommend it to their network?
If you build it, [they] will come. ~ Field of Dreams ~
New moms, dads, and caregivers of babies and toddlers, are the biggest advocates of big and small businesses that make their lives just a little bit easier. These clientele, although messy or loud at times, love getting out to shop, eat, and enjoy time with baby (and kids) in tow. Making simple, inexpensive changes or additions is sure to attract parents by the pack. And it’s easier than you think.
The 5 Elements of Being Baby-Friendly
Change Table or Pad
Accessible Entry and Aisles
A Place to Sit
Some thoughts on each of these five elements:
1) Change Table or Pad
If you’ve got one, you’re golden. In fact, both the women’s and men’s washrooms should have one. Yes, men change diapers, too, and many are the primary caregivers of newborns, older babies, and toddlers. It doesn’t matter if it’s mounted on the wall, if it’s a second-hand change stand, a brand-new, state-of-the-art one from Buy Buy Baby, or an inexpensive change pad on the counter. What matters is that it’s there.
Want to go even further? Provide a hook or shelf for a diaper bag, a box of sanitizing wipes, and install/place the change table or pad in a place that is accessible and away from the flow of bathroom traffic. Extra points for a clean surface.
2) High Chair(s)
You need more than 1 or 2. Think… mom groups… twins… more than one family. Keep them handy. Keep them clean. Not forgotten and gooey in the corner.
Want to go even further? Select high chairs that can pull-up to the table, so that baby can easily eat, or that have trays, to catch mess. Babies want to join in!
3) Accessible Entry and Aisles
New sleep-deprived moms pushing a stroller appreciate a bit of help. Make sure your automatic door button works. Make sure there is enough room to maneuver around with a lot of extra gear. Do a test-run! Ask new moms if they are having trouble walking through your store. Watch your patrons as they come in with their strollers. If you are a store that sells baby gear, like strollers, furniture, and clothing, this should be your first priority.
Want to go even further? Grocery stores, if you provide carts with places for infants and children to sit, make sure the safety straps aren’t broken.
4) A Place to Sit
New moms and dads who need to feed or settle a baby really appreciate a comfortable spot to sit down. Wouldn’t it be impressive if all grocery stores created a “rest area” type-of-thing in an accessible area, where a weary new parent could happily sit with baby?. Imagine the possibilities. Anyone with mobility issues would appreciate it, too.
5) Compassionate Staff
Recently, I went to a restaurant where one of the staff approached me as I walked in and asked if she could get me a high chair. First time in my 365 days of motherhood. Mind. Completely. Blown. The simplest of gestures are the most impactful.
Here are some limitations and solutions that came to mind:
Are you limited by bathroom space? Invest in a simple, small, rolling change table from IKEA, a furniture store or Kijiji.
No room for a table, but do you already have a large countertop? Buy a $25 change pad and set it aside for parents.
Are your change tables frequently dirty? Provide a cheap box of sanitary wipes. We’ll take care of that.
A Baby-Friendly Legend: Pasta Pantry & Trattoria
Today, Alex and I visited Pasta Pantry, one of our most favourite restaurants. We will travel all the way from Downtown Edmonton to Sherwood Park for it. It is a family-owned-and-operated business that does baby-friendly very well, in my opinion. (*PS…This is not a sponsored plug*)
Their staff are fast, polite, and prepared. They have large pans of homemade pasta and sauce ready when you walk in. You do not have to wait for your meal, it’s dished at the counter. All ingredients are made fresh every morning. Alex was famished today and started to fuss, but we grabbed lunch and a clean high chair right away, and I avoided a hungry baby. He loved the cheesy, baked Pasticcio with extra sauce, and gobbled up the giant meatball I bought on the side. Their change table is spotless, brand-new, and mounted at the perfect height in a large bathroom stall. There are soft, comfy booths along almost every wall, so new moms can sit comfortably and set their baby car seats beside them. We saw a brand-new baby there today!
The owners, Nathan and Carissa Satanove, take great pride in their quality of service and cater specifically to busy families. They support the Stollery Children’s Hospital and recently hosted an appreciation lunch for the local firefighters.
I love this restaurant. I go often, and I never, ever leave without a huge piece of Death by Chocolate.
See my list of baby-friendly restaurants in Edmonton.
What is your definition of baby-friendly, and which restaurants and shops are your favourite?
Comment here or on Facebook!