The idea for Baby Havens was born out of my terror of leaving home with an infant. When little O was tiny last year, I worried about going out for more than an hour, knowing he would need to be fed, changed, soothed and fed again in short order. I wanted to be able to get out and run errands and participate in public life, but didn't want to sacrifice my child's comfort and safety to do so. I wanted to find clean, quiet, comfortable, dignified spaces to retreat and tend to O's needs and my own while away from home. But I didn't know where they were.
One day when O was about four months old, we went to exchange something a friend had bought us at the Real Baby store in Denver (about a 30 minute drive from home). I got caught up in browsing all of the cute clothes and toys at the store, and O started crying uncontrollably. I didn't know what to do - I was trying to pay for the things I had chosen while soothing O and figuring out what had upset him. The store's owner, John Horan, kindly pointed me toward the women's restroom and told me to take my time.
In the restroom, I found a chair and a clean, soft changing pad next to a sink - two basic essentials I realized everyone with a crying infant needs. It turned out that O had a big BM and needed a serious cleanup, and I needed the space to change him, wash up, then sit and soothe him and compose myself for a little while in private. It was an incredibly stressful time for me, but the simple fact of this room made it easier.
We found exactly two other such "baby havens" on our outings while O was still nursing. One was the lactation room at Whole Foods Market on Pearl Street in Boulder.
I liked this room even more than the one at Real Baby, because it features comfortable glider armchairs, a table on which to set one's drink or bag, a changing table integrated with the sink and trashcan, and it is detached from the women's restroom, so one never needs to feel rushed while using it. The lactation room is separated from the hallway to the women's room by a curtain, so it feels private.
The other "baby haven" we discovered was the lactation room at Buy Buy Baby in Westminster - a store I frequented for things like wipes and bottles and teething rings, much more often than I'd ever have anticipated. The lactation room features a glider rocker with ottoman and a changing table with disposable pads, but no sink. Because this store is a 30-minute drive from home, I would typically retreat to it for a quick feed and change before the drive home.
There are many ways to create a true Baby Haven, but the quick and easy approach that Real Baby took - simply adding a chair, a changing table with cleanup supplies and a diaper caddy to an existing restroom - is the most replicable model. Any business owner can commit to adding these few features to their women's restroom - and, ideally, to their men's room, too. Baby Havens should be accessible to moms and dads equally, so a baby's care can be distributed among family members, thereby easing the stress of any one parent trying to do it all.
Check out the videos in the "Projects" section of this site for more insights into what makes a place a Baby Haven and why we need more of them!