So how about a room where mums can breastfeed babies?
JULY 15 — These days where I shop is dictated by where the nearest nursing room is located. And lucky me, there seems to be a boom in baby-friendly businesses in town.
This city may not seem to welcome babies and it doesn’t on most counts. I leave my stroller at home because pavements are far too narrow and clogged with pedestrians. Loud noises and bright lights startle at every turn, as if to say NO BABIES ALLOWED.
I occasionally nurse out in the open and while I tend to go unnoticed, I often feel some try too hard to NOT look. Plus as baby gets older and more curious about its surroundings, incidents of accidental exposure increase. And before you say “nursing cover”, it is summer time and way too hot to be underneath one, even if it has a wired neckline to allow air to circulate.
These are reasons why I now sniff out nursing rooms like a hound.
When I nursed my older child four years ago, it was any Starbucks or Pacific Coffee, but at $30 (RM12) a pop and other patrons sharing my table, I would sometimes seek out the privacy of a bathroom stall which was far from ideal.
This time around, with baby number two, I am happy to report that the situation has improved.
Newer shopping malls usually have one dedicated nursing room per floor. Malls developed by MTR Corporation tend to be more family-friendly so one can expect a decent nursing room.
The facility in the Elements mall in Kowloon has a five-star hotel feel to it, with an open section for nappy changing and a cushioned bench as well as a separate room for breastfeeding. The bench is perfect for dads who wish to bottle feed their babies while affording other mums to breastfeed in privacy in the adjacent room. My only gripe was that it was freezing in there.
I’ve also checked out the facility at the Queen Mary Hospital (public hospital) and while sparse, ticks the boxes for comfort and privacy. It is located on the ground floor and anyone can walk in to use it.
Perhaps striking the perfect balance are the two latest baby boutiques on the scene, Baby Central in Aberdeen and Tiny Footprints in Central.
These boutiques have carved out the most charming and cosy nursing nooks within their store’s premises, ensuring mums who pop by to shop can also have a rest and feed bubs.
Baby Central’s Katherine Regan has noticed that Hong Kong retailers are becoming more aware of their customers’ needs and as such an increasing number of nursing rooms are being made available across the city.
Regan, a mother of two, found it virtually impossible to find a comfortable nursing room.
Sharing her experience, she said: “A few shopping malls now provide nursing rooms but they are quite basic and inside the toilets so it’s not the nicest experience. Others are just simply so small that you can feel claustrophobic. I used the hotels if I needed to breastfeed!”
Like Regan, Tiny Footprints owner Caroline Williams found it difficult to find a place to feed her daughter, unlike in Australia where she is originally from.
Naturally, this experience came in handy when conceptualising Tiny Footprints. “We pretty much built the store around the concept of somewhere quiet to feed in the heart of central, and tried to make a sanctuary for parents to relax and pick up essentials at the same time,” she said.
Although there are new shopping malls popping up all the time (and hopefully with better nursing rooms) in Hong Kong, the problem is they tend to have only one nursing room per floor at best. Now what would happen on a weekend when families descend upon malls?
One mother found out the hard way when she found a long queue to use the nursing room. “On average each mum would take 15 minutes. If there are 10 mums ahead of me, my hungry baby would have to wait 150 minutes to be fed!”
When she did get into a room, there would always be someone banging the door, asking her to hurry up. She very quickly gave up using these rooms, opting instead to feed under a nursing cover.
“The people who design these facilities have to understand that babies can’t wait in line. Build more cubicles,” she suggested citing nursing rooms in Singapore malls that feature a row of cubicles.
La Leche League leader Therese Tee is all for new mothers using nursing rooms to gain confidence to breastfeed but stresses that nursing in public is legal in Hong Kong.
“At the end of the day, the more normal breastfeeding is perceived, meaning more mothers doing it and especially in public, the more ‘normal’ it becomes and if everyone is accustomed to seeing it, mothers may not feel like they need to run into a nursing room,” she said.
- For nursing mums planning a trip to Hong Kong, view a list of the best nursing rooms in HK voted by Chatty Brains Hong Kong. See here: (http://chattybrain.com/index.php/hong-kong/changing-nursing-breastfeeding-facilities/)
- The Hong Kong International Airport website lists 32 nursery rooms equipped with changing and feeding facilities. See here: (http://www.hongkongairport.com/eng/passenger/arrival/t1/airport-services-facilities/nursing-room.html)
- Basic baby care facilities are also available at government buildings. See here (http://www.fhs.gov.hk/english/files/reports/babycare.pdf).
1. It’s difficult feeding a baby on a hard plastic chair. Provide a comfortable armchair.
2. Keep the nursing room separate from the toilet. Keep them clean as well. There should be baby nappy change facilities in the same room and a basin for mum to wash her hands. A proper nappy bin should be provided to keep bad odours at bay.
3. Soft lighting instead of harsh bright light. Walls painted a soft pastel colour instead of bright white. Small things make a big difference.
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.