When people ask me what it is I enjoy about living in Japan, my mind always shifts to my appreciation for Japanese infrastructure. I’ve written about it before, how much I appreciate the accommodations made for parents and senior citizens. Elevators everywhere. Diaper changing tables. These things matter for parents of small children.
What you might not know, is that there are also facilities set up in shopping malls and plazas where mothers can nurse their children. They’re often marked with a bottle icon.
Of course, public breastfeeding is okay in Japan.
However, I’ve never seen a mother openly breastfeed uncovered. That’s just not something that happens here. Moms will often use a blanket that cover themselves and the child. My wife uses a cover in densely populated areas like restaurants, but prefers not using it if possible.
That’s where these family rooms come in. I haven’t seen any at parks or shrines, but you can definitely expect them in shopping plazas.
Essentially, they’re private areas where mothers can nurse their children in private.
Admittingly, my wife and I were worried. While pregnant with our son, we noticed a lack of public breastfeeding in Japan. Coupled with the presence of these breastfeeding facilities, we got the feeling we were expected to use them. Our first child was born in Italy, where it was natural to see uncovered breastfeeding in public.
Italians aren’t as prudish as Americans, you won’t be asked to breastfeed on a toilet in Italy.
With that being said, breastfeeding is not easy. For women like my wife, there’s anxiety associated with doing it in public. Get the cover. Put it on. Calm the baby down. Get the baby to latch. Pray nobody’s paying attention to you.
These facilities are awesome because they provide a comfortable environment for breastfeeding mothers.
It’s less about banishing mothers to a cave and more about providing a comfortable setting for moms and their babies. The facilities get quite fancy.
Some have hot water dispensers for putting together bottles with formula. Changing tables and scales for measuring your kid’s growth. And of course, individual rooms for feedings.
Check out this video from my friend Kali. She gives a tour of one of the more high end facilities.
Amenities like these make traveling with my little son more enjoyable in Japan.