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Published February 29, 2012, 11:30 PM

West Acres gets it right with new mothers' rooms

FARGO - About the only thing I used to appreciate about the mothers’ room at West Acres mall was its existence. I was grateful to have a private place to nurse my baby while strolling or shopping, starting with daughter Eve in 2008 and again with son Owen in 2011. But the room left a lot to be desired.

By: Sherri Richards, INFORUM

FARGO - About the only thing I used to appreciate about the mothers’ room at West Acres mall was its existence.

I was grateful to have a private place to nurse my baby while strolling or shopping, starting with daughter Eve in 2008 and again with son Owen in 2011. But the room left a lot to be desired.

The long, backless bench was uncomfortable. The décor was juvenile. The triangular corner shelf was impractical.

I’d often muse about what changes I’d like to see as I used the room. First and foremost was the addition of a second room dedicated to breast-feeding mothers. I disliked waiting for the room to be free, and even more so, disliked monopolizing the room when others were waiting.

Even though I never verbalized my wishes to mall management, a recent remodel of the family bathroom area near the customer service desk addressed every one of my complaints.

The five-month construction project, completed in mid-February, added a second mothers’ room and created four family bathrooms in total.

Each family bathroom has a regular and child-sized toilet, a changing station, a tall and short sink, and a padded bench. They’re roomy, well-suited for families, and visually appealing with a contemporary design scheme in green and turquoise.

The same décor carries into the two mothers’ rooms. And the amenities offered in each are a nursing mom’s dream.

A sleek glider is a comfortable place to breast-feed. A small coral-colored bench is the perfect place for an older child to sit.

There’s a stainless steel changing table and a sink, both are features sorely lacking in the old room.

The lighted mirror and dimmable lights add great ambiance. And the rooms are still big enough for a stroller.

The only negative I can note about the new bathrooms is that my daughter now needed extra assistance washing her hands.

She had difficulty getting the motion-activated faucet to turn on and stay running, but I’m sure she’ll master the sink eventually. And she couldn’t reach the paper towel dispenser, though limiting a preschooler’s access to paper towels isn’t the worst thing.

Mall manager Rusty Papachek says when the family and mothers’ room were first installed in the mid-1990s, they were on the leading edge of shopping room amenities. Based on customer demand (“We saw they were always busy,” Papachek says), mall management knew it was time to invest in that area again.

An awkwardly shaped men’s room was downsized to create the extra family and mothers’ rooms, Papachek says.

Mall officials toured other shopping centers and department stores, picked the best of what they saw, and solicited customer suggestions in a comment box, he says.

Papachek says based on those comments, forced air hand dryers and automatic flushing children’s toilets were removed, as parents said both can scare children, which I’ve personally experienced.

“It’s all about the experience and trying to appeal to families and everyone,” Papachek says.

And the changes to the mothers’ and family rooms certainly appeal to me.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Sherri Richards at (701) 241-5556

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