If you’re a parent, chances are you’ve changed your baby’s diaper in some interesting places. You’ve likely also taken advantage of wall-mounted changing tables in public restrooms. However, those convenient changing stations haven’t always been around – in fact, they’re fairly new!
In our You’ve Come a Long Way Baby series, we’ve covered car seats and cribs. Now it’s time to shine a light on the short but intriguing history of the changing mat.
Changing Tables and Mats Over the Years
For most of modern history, parents didn’t change their children’s diapers in public if they could avoid it. Instead, they limited what they did away from home. In some cases, they’d even cut activities short just to go home and change a diaper. Thankfully, Robert Moses, a New York urban planner, addressed this issue when he learned that mothers would abandon their strolls in Central Park every time there was a need for a diaper change.
Moses created diaper-changing rooms, which were first available in 1929 on New York’s Jones Beach. These were the first public changing tables, and unfortunately the only ones for many years to come. As many families operated with one breadwinner and one person staying home with the children, there still wasn’t much demand for public changing tables.
However, the standard family structure began to change in the 1960s and 1970s. During this time, families began to need two incomes to support their households, divorce rates rose, child care became more expensive, “absent fathers” became more common, and women needed to enter the workforce. Additionally, parents wanted to be able to spend their now limited free time with their children, so they began choosing to bring their babies along to restaurants, shopping malls, and grocery stores.
Many parents would change their babies’ diapers in the backseat of their cars while out and about, though this was never a comfortable or ideal solution. Finally, in 1986, we saw the first installation of public restroom changing tables. This was the work of four Minnesota businessmen who formed JBJ Industries, which is now called Koala Corporation. Today, you can find a Koala changing mat in the vast majority of women’s public restrooms around the US.
Baby Safety Regulations in Changing Stations
Surprisingly, there aren’t many regulations in place to ensure that baby changing stations are safe for the child or parent. However, there is some safety assurance built into the Koala baby changing stations. For example, they feature a safety belt to hold the baby in place, as well as rounded edges to avoid any potential injuries. They’re mounted to the wall using steel hardware. They also come with a list of safety inspections, which ensures that they are in good, safe working order during installation.
Changing Designs for the Changing Mat
The design of the public changing mat hasn’t changed much over the years. The station you use today looks just like what parents used in the 80s when it first came out – a wall-mounted table that folds down for use. It’s still made of molded polyethylene and steel. The changing mat includes rounded corners for baby safety and is small and compact enough that it can fit in just about any restroom.
Still, there are much more stylish alternatives to the Koala changing station. The Matty changing mat is made of soft PUR foam to offer your baby a much more comfortable experience than the polyethylene of the Koala station. The Matty also has a timeless, functional design and comes in a variety of appealing colors, like rose, blueberry, sage, cappuccino, and pearl.
Additionally, the Matty Changer has a variety of baby safety features and certifications. It’s free of endocrine disruptors, as well as being tested and certified according to European standards for child safety and dangerous substances. The Matty changer is also TÜV SÜD safety certified. Plus, while men’s restrooms tend to lack the Koala changing station, you can take the Matty anywhere.
Ultimately, we’re thankful that changing stations have become fairly common in women’s restrooms. While there is still room to grow in terms of availability and baby safety, these stations allow us to bring our little ones everywhere. And, whether there’s a restroom changing station or not, you can always depend on the portable Matty changing mat for unexpected diaper changes.