In 2006, SM set-up its first breastfeeding center in SM Megamall. SM currently has 24 breastfeeding stations in its various malls nationwide. In fact, in March 2010, SM even won an Anvil Award of Merit for its Breastfeeding Program. Among the 24 stations, I’ve had the opportunity of using only the one in SM Mall of Asia. It used to be located inside the main mall, near the ATMs. I’ve used it several times and I really wasn’t too happy. Sure there was a private room, but it wasn’t too clean. Some moms reported that there were cockroaches and creepy crawlies there, although I’ve never seen any when I was using the room. The room is quite small and once, I had to share it with another nursing mom, her yaya and her mom. I was there with Naima and Naima’s yaya and it was a tight fit for all of us. Previously, the glass door was covered with blinds. But some of the blinds got ripped off so management decided to use gauzy curtains instead – which to my opinion was a big mistake because I could see people lining in front of the ATM trying hard not to look inside the breastfeeding station. If I can see them, I’m sure they can see me.
Recently, a new wing in the Entertainment Mall opened – with shops focused on kids and families. During a visit, I saw a “breastfeeding station and mall clinic” sign. I was pleased that there was going to be a 2nd station. But, it turned out, they were closing down the old clinic. Now, with 390,193 m² of retail space, Mall of Asia is not exactly small. I’m happy that they have 1 breastfeeding station but was actually hoping that they would maintain 2 – one for each wing. Plus – what I didn’t like about this breastfeeding station is that it is located inside the mall clinic! Sure there was a nurse on duty all the time and the breastfeeding room was enclosed with walls and a real door. But before you get to the breastfeeding room, you’d have to pass through the clinic examination area. Seriously, would you want to bring your baby to an area where there is a possibility for him/her to be in close contact with sick people?!
To give them credit, the room was better furnished than the old breastfeeding station. There were 2 sofas and some plastic chairs. Plus there was a clean sink, with thermos. What I didn’t like was that when not in use, the breastfeeding room was being used as a stockroom. You can see from the photo that wheelchairs, extra toilet papers and boxes are being stored there.
Also, the new breastfeeding was cleaner. I told the nurse on duty about my observations and she admitted that the breastfeeding room now was better maintained than the old breastfeeding station because there were doctors and nurses constantly in the room – thus, maintenance cleaned it more often.
The nurse also mentioned that they had brought up with SM Management the issue of having a breastfeeding room inside the clinic. SM Management was non-committal on whether they would be transferring the breastfeeding room to a separate location. But from the looks of the breastfeeding room and the set-up in other SM malls, I would think that SM Management is planning to combine breastfeeding rooms with their mall clinics permanently. I hope SM Management will realize the importance of why breastfeeding rooms and clinics should be in separate rooms. The SM’s breastfeeding program is laudable but there just has to be some tweaks to make their rooms responsive to the nursing mom’s needs.