When my son was little and I started taking him to museums, I quickly realized that I was spending most of my mental energy on logistics. What door could I get the stroller in? Where could I change him? Where could I nurse comfortably? Each new museum meant that half my time was spent hunting around for these amenities, just so we could both enjoy the trip.
So, I started writing down where I found the accessible entrance and the comfortable places to nurse in the DC area museums I visited. Now that my daughter has joined the family, I am continuing to add to the list, with the added bonus of trying to find places where my now 3 year old can’t get into too much trouble!
This list is not meant to tell you where you HAVE to nurse. 49 states now have laws that allow women to breastfeed in any public or private place (sorry Idaho, maybe you’ll join soon?- source). This is just meant to give you a guide to finding a comfortable spot or some privacy if you are looking for it. Also, don’t hesitate to ask the front line staff at the museum. They can tell you if there is a dedicated baby care area or even a gallery with less traffic so you can get a little quiet.
I don’t have as good a read on how museums feel about bottles. Most people I’ve talked to haven’t had a problem giving their child a bottle in the museum, but I can’t guarantee it. I can tell you to please keep snacks/drinks for older children out of the museum, it is for the protection of the objects!
This list was originally on Your Family Adventures in Washington, D.C., which is another site that I run. I am woefully behind on updates but I haven’t given up on it yet! Let me know if there is something you want me to review.
- Stroller Accessible Entrance: Constitution Avenue. Throughout the building there are lots of elevators to bypass small stairwells. Prepare yourself for a roundabout trip!
- Changing Table: After entering at Constitution Avenue, take the elevator directly to your right up one floor. To the left is a sign for the women’s restroom. There is a…lobby of sorts…outside of the women’s room with a changing table. Since it is really separate room it would be possible for men to use this table as well.
- Nursing: In the same room as the changing table there is a bench along one wall. It isn’t the most private (since it is leads to the bathroom) or the most comfortable (a chair rail hits just across your back) but it will do. There are also benches throughout the museum that you could use.
(CURRENTLY UNDER CONSTRUCTION SO INFO MAY CHANGE)
- Stroller Accessible Entrance: If you are coming from the East building you will need to take the elevator in the large auditorium (follow the signs). From outside the main entrance is accessible.
- Changing Table: When you come through the walkway from the East building the bathrooms are just to your right. There is a counter through the door to the women’s room that you can use.
- Nursing: There is no dedicated spot but there are benches throughout the building. The gentlemen at the information desk was very friendly and told me to go wherever I wanted and make myself comfortable.
- Stroller Accessible Entrance: All entrances are accessible
- Changing Table: None available…this one is alfresco!
- Nursing: No dedicated spot. There are benches throughout the space and also in the cafe, but like changing you will most likely be outside.
- Stroller Accessible Entrance: Constitution Avenue side of the building. There are elevators throughout, but the biggest one is the glass elevator near the IMAX and Cafeteria.
- Changing Table: The bathrooms just after the accessible entrance have a counter for changing
- Nursing: The same bathroom that has the changing table also has a bench that could be used for nursing. Not real comfortable or too private but it is there!
- Stroller Accessible Entrance: Both sides of the building are accessible.
- Changing Table: Each level has a family restroom that has a changing area in it
- Nursing: There are benches in the family restroom that you could use for nursing. There are also benches throughout the museum, but they are in the main path. Another good spot would be the “Object Project” exhibit. There are a number of tables and chairs, it is a little out of the way and if you have older kids there is stuff for them to explore
- Stroller Accessible Entrance: The entrance is accessible and there are ramps to get down to the main floor. Elevators are also available if you aren’t comfortable with the ramp or if you want to go up to the second level “catwalk.”
- Changing Table: At every set of restrooms (of which there are many!) there is a “baby care” room. It is large enough to pull a stroller into, has a door that locks, includes a large counter, sink, soap and even paper towels! All the ones I peeked into (or used) were very clean.
- Nursing: In the “baby care” rooms there is a small padded bench. It isn’t hugely comfortable, but it worked quite well and it was nice to be able to be alone and behind a locked door. There are also benches all over the museum that you could use, although there aren’t very many spaces that are not overrun by crowds.
- Stroller Accessible Entrance: The main entrance is accessible and you take an elevator down to the bottom level. There is only one elevator, and it is not huge, so if there are lots of school groups there for Discovery Theater it might take a while.
- Changing Table: So, in the hallway that leads to the African Art museum there are a number of tables that are the perfect height for changing on! I didn’t see an “official” changing table in the one bathroom I went into, but there are plenty of benches to use.
- Nursing: There are lots of benches, not incredibly comfortable but they work fine. Unless there is Discovery Theater going on the area is pretty quiet, a particularly good spot is the hallway leading down towards the African Art Museum
- Stroller Accessible Entrance: All entrances are accessible and there are ramps and large elevators to get you where you need to go.
- Changing Table: There are “Companion Care” restrooms that have a changing table and are big enough to pull a stroller into.
- Nursing: The curvy design of the building means there are lots of great nooks and cut-outs on the different levels. They have helpfully filled these with comfy chairs that have nice wide arms and are perfect for nursing! Of course, it is only sort of private but you can find an out-of-the-way bench somewhere if that works better for you.
Mt. Vernon Estate, Museum and Gardens
- Stroller Accessible Entrance: If you have a hearty stroller that can do a little off-roading, you will be able to take it almost anywhere on the property. The museums, shops and food court are all stroller friendly. The paths and gardens are dirt but well graded so you can get around fairly easily. The only time you can’t have it with you is to tour the house itself. However, they have a “stroller parking” area where you can stash it until you are done.
- Changing Table: The bathrooms in the museum/orientation/shop and food area have changing tables in the women’s bathrooms. The one near the entrance to the museum and education center is right by the door so it is a little tight and there isn’t really room for a stroller. Out in the grounds there are plenty of benches that you can use in a pinch.
- Nursing: If you are comfortable nursing “al fresco” then there are plenty of benches throughout the property that you can use. Inside there are a few benches, but nothing really private that I could find. Near the museum and education center there was one bench just outside the bathroom and at the base of the stairs…not the best set-up. Honestly, when it gets really crowded your best bet would be somewhere outside.
- Stroller Accessible Entrance: The entrance on G Street and the side entrance on 5th street are both accessible. The Great Hall is wide open with plenty of spaces for strollers and most of the exhibits can be comfortably navigated with even a double-wide. For the “hands on” exhibits there is plenty of space to stash your stroller off to the side while the kids investigate.
- Changing Table: I wasn’t able to check the men’s rooms but changing tables are available. There is also plenty of “out of the way” floor space if you prefer to use that.
- Nursing: Private space is a little hard to find in the museum. There are plenty of tables and benches, both in and out of the exhibits, that you could use. On the 2nd floor there is the “Pension Commissioner’s Suite,” which generally is empty, out of the way and has a few chairs stashed in it.
- Stroller Accessible Entrance: The entrance on G street has a ramp. There is plenty of space to navigate inside and elevators sprinkled throughout the building. There are also lockers you can use near the entrances.
- Changing Table/Nursing: There are family restrooms throughout the museum. The one I used near the Luce Center had a chair in it for easy nursing, which was nice. There are a lot of quiet galleries with chairs/benches if you need a place to nurse.
- *Stroller Accessible Entrance: The main entrance on Pennsylvania Avenue has a flight of stairs up to it. The accessible entrance is on 17th street, and you will have to take an elevator up to the main level. Take note, Friday-Sunday and on busy days you will be asked to leave strollers at the entrance.
- Changing Table/Nursing: A changing table is in the accessible bathroom in the basement, bathrooms upstairs are quiet small/tight. The galleries are also small and don’t have many places to sit down. On the second floor near the top of the stairs there are a few benches and the large gallery at the top of the stairs would offer the most room to sit down.
- Stroller Accessible Entrance: All entrances have a ramp leading into the building and. There is a ramp between the ticket counters and the main floor so you can easily access the tickets no matter what door you come in. The hallways and exhibit rooms are wide enough to maneuver strollers through and the elevators are easy to find. There is a coatroom near the ticket counter where you can store bags/coats (it is unlocked)
- Changing Table/Nursing: There are restrooms throughout the museum with changing tables. The bathrooms on the main level also have a stool near one of the sinks for easy access. In the exhibit specifically for kids 0-8 there is a family restroom as well as a comfortable chair for nursing in the baby/toddler area. There are benches throughout the museum that can be used for nursing, although they wouldn’t be the most comfortable or private.