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November 15, 2023

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There’s room for improvement when it comes to babycare facilities

AS Shanghai is growing more pedestrian-friendly by improving its public spaces, some people are considering ways to make it easier for young parents to walk their babies.

Xu Anlu, a lecturer at Shanghai International Studies University, is one of those campaigning for a better travel experience for babies.

“Infants and young children cannot express their thoughts well, but their needs should not be ignored,” she told Shanghai Daily. “A babycare room where they can have their milk, get their diapers changed and even sleep can help.”

But not everyone agrees with her. A staff member of a district service department told Xu that in most cases, people don’t take their children out until “they are 3 years old.”

Xu approached the department with her research team, I & U Future, to discuss the need for babycare rooms in public places.

“What the staff member said shocked me,” Xu said.

Some people believe that newborns and small children would disrupt them in public, while others worry that public services cannot accommodate babies’ travel demands.

Improving babycare rooms

“I will not take my 1-year-old son out in the winter because many babycare rooms do not have warm tap water,” said Sherry Guo, a junior high school English teacher. “My son hates freezing water to wash his buttocks when it’s time to change diaper.”

Recently, a woman who was photographed breastfeeding her infant on a train and another parent who changed diapers in a public area came in for criticism online, making the need for babycare rooms all the more important.

Xu’s research team of 12 students has studied over 100 babycare rooms in Shanghai and interviewed over 1,200 parents since last year. Based on the findings, up to 94.8 percent of respondents believe that relevant departments should improve local babycare rooms.

“Many parents always say ‘Lump it’ when they take children out,” Xu said.

Tan Shiqi, the research team leader and a junior at SISU, said that “many places, even in the city center, such as the Museum of Art Pudong, do not have babycare rooms.”

Interestingly, the museum cooperated with a British art museum in February to promote children’s self-expression and artistic growth. But the basic needs of the children are not addressed.

I also discovered that neither the Shanghai Culture Square, which has staged concerts for children, nor the Disney Town, a commercial block of the Shanghai Disney Resort outside the theme park, offers a nursing room.

“Our analysis shows babycare rooms are affordable. Diaper-changing tables, washbasins and sofas cost as little as 2,000 yuan (US$274.26),” Tan said.

As a mother of a 2-year-old daughter, I make it a point of checking whether nursing rooms are available at places we plan to go with my child.

However, even though research suggests there are nursing rooms in places we plan to visit, it can be hard to locate them.

According to a poll by Xu’s team, 42 percent of respondents have experienced difficulty finding a nursing room. The reasons for this include a lack of location direction, insufficient job training for relevant staff and remote locations.

Oftentimes I would spend a good 30 minutes looking for nursing rooms in parks and scenic riversides but with little success. When I did find one, it was invariably closed with signs saying, “equipment damaged, temporarily closed.”

Additionally, I’ve seen a man sleeping, a cleaner drinking tea, a young woman applying makeup, and someone charging an electric bike in a nursing room.

In 2016, the Shanghai government proposed the “15-minute community life circle,” in which residents can have easy access to major amenities associated with a good quality of life.

“But currently, it is difficult to find a nursing room within 15 minutes,” argued Xu.

However, most babycare rooms in local shopping malls can accommodate people’s needs. Warm water, free diapers, a refrigerator for storing breast milk, a bottle warmer, a dedicated breastfeeding area and even a children’s slide are available on practically every floor.

Richard Shen, a father of an 18-month-old infant, said that he is “always moved by these facilities and items.”

“A separate breastfeeding area for mothers also makes me feel at ease when I take my baby to the room,” he added.

In February, the Shanghai Health Commission mandated babycare spaces at shopping malls and cultural and sporting venues where parents and newborns frequent.

However, I discovered that the electronic map of Shanghai nursing rooms on the Suishenban app — the city government’s public service platform, still had numerous vacant places.

Implementing the commission’s stated objectives is challenging in the absence of laws and regulations with penalties like fines, accountability and rectification, according to Xu.

Nursing rooms and other babycare facilities are available at some venues for babies under 2.

Guangfulin Relics Park


Although the park’s exhibition halls (including the underwater museum) do not welcome baby strollers, the outside area is baby-friendly, and has wheelchair access and a children’s park.

A restaurant in the park provides baby highchairs, baby utensils and diaper-changing tables.

Shanghai Blooming Garden


The 82-hectare park is a great place to admire flowers and plants throughout the year, like cherry blossoms in spring, lotus flowers in summer, red maples in autumn and plum blossoms in winter.

Qibao Old Town


Small bridges and flowing water are typical Jiangnan (regions in the south of the lower reaches of the Yangtze River) watertown scenes. But I often feel helpless when I have to cross the river with bags, a baby stroller and my daughter.

Qibao Old Town has two modern bridges with no steps, making wheelchairs and baby carriages more accessible. Although this ancient town is small, it provides adequate space for a baby to explore the traditional Chinese landscape.

Rabor Nova


It is a new art and culture attraction that opened in 2019, and features a variety of art galleries, reading rooms and entertainment venues.

When I went there with my daughter in August, I met three families with little children.

“For adults, this place is small. However, if you crouch down and look at the place through a child’s eyes, you will find many interesting things, such as stones of various shapes,” a visitor surnamed Dai said.

Shanghai Powerlong Museum


The museum has 10 galleries with various themed exhibitions that vary on a regular basis. Some are appropriate for children.

In July, I took my daughter to see a Florentijn Hofman exhibition, “Celebrate Together!” She was fascinated with the animal-shaped artwork made of balloons and also used colorful paper and playdough to experiment with art.

The exhibition ended last month, but there are other exhibits for children, such as the Hello Kitty-themed exhibition celebrating the cartoon character’s 50th anniversary. The exhibition is underway until January 28 next year.

Guangfulin Country Park


Many activities are offered in the park, such as horseback riding, bicycle riding, fishing and kite flying.

Adults and children can pick fruits and vegetables such as winter jujube, cherries and strawberries. Camping and picnicking on the lawn or in the woods are other viable options.


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