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How Did Baby Changing Stations Transform Family Life in the 1980s?

Baby changing stations revolutionized the 1980s by empowering parents to confidently venture into public with their little ones. These convenient fixtures symbolized societal recognition of shared parenting responsibilities, making outings less stressful and more inclusive. How has this shift impacted modern family dynamics? Join us as we examine the ripple effects of this pivotal change.
Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman

These days, most moms and dads don't think twice about leaving the house to go to a restaurant or shopping mall with their small children in tow. Of course, getting out the door without forgetting anything is its own challenge, but once you're out in public, you'll most likely have access to baby changing facilities – at least in women's restrooms (though this is changing). But just a few decades ago, baby changing stations were far less common, making it more difficult for parents to go places with their children.

In fact, the commercial changing table as we know it only came onto the market in 1986. The Koala Bear Kare Baby Changing Station was created by four Minneapolis businessmen who recognized a need for such a product. With far more women working outside the home and also wanting to spend time with their children, there was more demand for bringing children along to run errands, go shopping, and enjoy social activities. Yet the lack of places to change an infant or toddler – other than the cramped backseat of a car or a dirty restroom floor – was a major drawback that made it difficult for mothers to spend much time outside the home.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

And although it has taken quite a few years, the landscape of baby changing facilities is finally becoming more in tune with gender equality, as more and more fathers take on a central role in childrearing duties. In 2016, the federal Bathroom Accessible in Every Situation Act was passed, requiring changing stations in both men's and women's restrooms in federal buildings that are accessible to the public. Many states have gone even further, requiring new or newly renovated buildings to include baby changing stations in both men's and women's restrooms, allowing fathers and other male caregivers to take on a more active role in baby care.

Time for a change:

  • Urban planner Robert Moses installed diaper-changing rooms on New York's Jones Beach in 1929, but they didn't catch on for decades.

  • Taking babies and toddlers out in lightweight strollers or strap-on baby carriers further necessitated the need for changing places, as parents no longer had spacious prams for discreet baby changing.

  • Koala Corporation has continued to turn the needs of families into successful products, including wall-mounted child protection seats, booster seats, high chairs, play equipment, and more.

Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman is a teacher and blogger who frequently writes for WiseGEEK about topics related to personal finance, parenting, health, nutrition, and education. Learn more...
Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman is a teacher and blogger who frequently writes for WiseGEEK about topics related to personal finance, parenting, health, nutrition, and education. Learn more...

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