Before I had a baby, I used to be able to get ready and leave the house in less than five minutes.
The first time I ventured out to the local shopping centre with our newborn, however, it took me over an hour and a half to prepare. Not only did I have to get the baby dressed and fed, I also had to pack the changing bag with spare clothes, nappies and baby wipes, set up the pram and anticipate the bus schedules. And then, just as I was heading out the door, I realised that, should I need to change our baby’s nappy while we were out, I had no idea where to go.
Presumably there was a baby changing room somewhere in town – but it wasn’t something I had really paid much attention to before I had a child of my own. So, aware that I was going to miss the next bus, I turned to Google and searched for a website which would list the changing facilities in or around the shopping centre. I couldn’t find one. But now, four months on, I’ve found an app.
Developed by Axon Publishing for the NCT parenting charity, the Babychange application allows UK mums and dads to find their nearest baby changing facility. It draws on your phone’s GPS function to position you on a Google map, with green and amber pins showing the facilities in your area.
When I first opened the application yesterday morning, there were only two or three pins nearby. These marked venues such as Nando’s or Debenhams: the sort of chain stores where every branch has a changing room. As a mother of a four month-old, I already knew about those facilities – and many more besides. The strength of this app is that it allows parents like me to submit these additional venues ourselves.
So, when baby and I were out and about yesterday, I added in a couple more – at a local cinema and play café – entering in their addresses, a hygiene rating and indicating whether or not I’d use them again. These were then added to the map as amber (‘requiring confirmation’) pins.
It’s not a perfect system. My mobile internet is notoriously slow, and there doesn’t seem to be any indication from the app that it’s processing data. As such, over the course of twenty minutes, I managed to add the same venue three times. There isn’t any way for me to remove the extra entries, but the developers say that if two other people click on the incorrect data button then it’ll disappear. I’m not sure how many other people in my area are using the app, but my guess is that those extra pins will be hanging around for a while yet.
There’s also no way to add a comment to your submission. This meant that I wasn’t able to let other parents know that to use the changing room at the cinema, for example, they’d need to have a movie ticket.
Despite its flaws, this is a free application which will only become more valuable as more people use it to submit and rate the facilities in their local area. I’d encourage all new parents in the UK to give it a try. I may never again be able to leave the house in five minutes, but having the information about changing rooms on my phone means one less worry as I head out the door – and that can only be a good thing.