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Public Restrooms & Kids

Baby changing, potty training and going to the bathroom by themselves

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Public restrooms can be the bane of a family outing. Parents are constantly on the hunt for clean, quiet bathrooms where they can change baby, keep a potty-trainer on track or ensure the safety of an older child who insists on going himself. 

We asked our Facebook friends about their favorite area public restrooms. Here's what a few of our readers had to say.

“Barnes & Noble in the Neshaminy Mall is always clean, fully stocked and close to parking.” —Katherine D.

“Ikea always has a family bathroom with a harnessed seat for the little ones and little sinks.” — Melinda M.

“I love the Bensalem Babies R Us nursing room. I have a preschooler and a toddler with autism, and this room is a lifesaver as a cool-down spot.” —Dena K.

Baby in the public bathroom

It’s rare that moms get stuck in a place where the women’s room isn’t equipped with a baby-changing table. (Bonus if the bathroom incorporates a lounge with a chair or couch to nurse or feed baby.) Men’s rooms, however, are another story, which leaves dads at a disadvantage when it comes to public baby-changing — until, that is, the state bill requiring all men’s rooms to have changing tables expands from California to the rest of the country.

The best public-bathroom baby-changing station has a table with built-in harnesses and hooks from which to hang a diaper bag. But the condition of this table varies wildly, depending on age and maintenance frequency. Therefore, never leave home without a diaper bag stashed with:

  • a changing pad (who knows when the table was last cleaned?)
  • multiple diapers (what if baby wriggles and causes you to drop a nappy on the restroom floor?)
  • wipes & ointment 
  • a change of clothes (in case baby poops through)
  • hand sanitizer (for you, after baby’s changed; there’s no guarantee the soap dispenser will be full)

Potty-trainer pointers for the public restroom

Public bathrooms are often scary for potty-training kids, full of bright lights and strange sounds that can impede the flow, so to speak.

“It’s a big job to find a bathroom without automatic hand dryers,” says MK mom Jennifer S. “My son is scared of them and won’t even enter a restroom if he sees one.”

Furthermore, self-flushing toilets are known to startle, often whisking contents away noisily before kids have a chance to stand up. When taking a potty-trainer to a public bathroom:

  • Use a family restroom if available.
  • If not, pick the largest stall and go in with your child.
  • Tell her it’s OK if nothing comes out; she’ll get used to going to the bathroom in a strange place.
  • Keep the routine as close to regular potty time as possible; if you usually read a book, make sure you’ve got one in your bag.
  • Cover the automatic sensor on a self-flushing toilet with a paper towel.
  • Help your child reach the sink to wash his hands.
  • Praise the effort, no matter the outcome.

Next page: How old should kids be to go to the public restroom by themselves?

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