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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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The times they are a-changin’: More baby-changing stations appearing in men’s restrooms

As a stay-at-home dad of a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old, Jake Davis has changed his fair share of diapers. But, he said, finding a baby-changing station in a men’s bathroom in Spokane is still a 50-50 shot.

“My wife and I are usually together when we’re out, and more often than not, there’s one in either bathroom,” Davis, 30, said. “But it’s definitely still weighted to the ladies’ rooms.”

In places like public parks, Davis said, he’s had to “just plop the kid down on a blanket” for a diaper change.

That balance is tipping, however. In the five years he’s been a dad, Davis said, he has seen an increase in the number of changing stations in the city’s men’s rooms.

The issue caught national attention last month when a New Hampshire dad posted a picture of his baby on a blanket on the bathroom floor. The post went viral with almost 145,000 “shares.”

Since then, the conversation has been ongoing, with restaurants adding more stations and new laws in the works to make men’s restroom stations mandatory.

That’s not the case in Spokane, although a bill introduced in the Washington state House of Representatives last session seeks to solve the problem in restaurants.

The legislation would require any of the state’s restaurants that hold 60 or more people – and offer a kid’s menu – to have a changing station available to both genders, whether that’s a changing station in each gender’s bathroom or one in a family bathroom.

Monica Stonier, D-Vancouver, was one of the sponsors of the bill, and said it would likely be reintroduced in January.

The bill wouldn’t apply to restaurants that don’t have the space to install a baby-changing station.

“It’s good to know that there’s something in the legislature that’s going to help,” said Lisa Breen, the Washington Department of Health Food Safety Program technical adviser. Her job includes giving restaurants recommendations on best sanitary practices.

Breen said sometimes the floor is the only choice.

“If you know that you’re going someplace, just make sure that you have a cloth or something that you can use on the ground,” she said.

The federal government has also taken steps to help out dads. In 2016, then-President Barack Obama signed a bill requiring bathrooms in federal buildings to have changing stations. The federal courthouse in Spokane is in compliance.

Most Spokane parks still don’t have baby-changing stations in either the men’s or women’s bathrooms.

“Generally, baby-changing stations are not common in neighborhood parks,” Fianna Dickson, spokesperson for Parks and Recreations, wrote in an email.

But when Spokane Parks and Recreation builds new restrooms, Dickson said, baby-changing stations are a priority.

The improvements are a sign that being a stay-at-home dad is becoming more normalized in a society where women have careers, Davis said.

“Everyone who I’ve told that I’m a stay-at-home dad has given me a really good response,” he said. “I don’t get any weird looks.”

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