Traveling with a baby on an airplane for the first time is already hard! To make it a little more challenging, you might end up taking an older, smaller, regional jet that doesn’t have a baby-changing table in the lavatory. How do you change a diaper on a plane without a changing table? Here’s everything you need to know.
- Does Every Plane Have a Changing Table in the Lavatory?
- What to Pack: Diaper Changing on a Plane
- Logistical Tips and Tricks for Changing a Diaper on a Plane with No Changing Table
- Advice From Parents Who Have Been There
- Things You Should Never Do When Changing a Diaper On a Plane
Let me paint the picture for you: You spent days, maybe even weeks or months, preparing for the trip. You arrived at the airport on time, made it through security with your baby, and now you’ve boarded. Your little one is comfortable and you’ve even made it through the ascent without the pressure on their ears bothering them much. You’re almost home free. Then your baby poops. You get to the lavatory with your baby and diaper kit in tow. That’s when you realize there’s no changing table in the tiny airplane bathroom. It’s every traveling parent’s worst nightmare.
If you’re like me, you wipe down the toilet seat cover and lie your baby across the seat while doing a deep squat in order to create a place for your baby’s head to rest on your knee. It’s basically a Crossfit exercise of muscle endurance, and it’s hard to pull off for much longer than a few seconds, but it’s the best way you can think to do it at that moment. If you’re lucky, it’ll be the quickest diaper change of your baby’s life. But if it’s a blowout? You’ve got a stinky diaper dilemma on your hands.
For those of you who travel a lot with your baby, you’ll eventually board a plane that doesn’t have a changing table. I asked the helpful parents in the subreddit community, /r/askparents, to share their helpful information for changing a diaper on a plane with no baby-changing tables. Keep reading to see what they had to say.
Does Every Plane Have a Changing Table in the Lavatory?
The short answer is no. Not every plane has a baby changing table in the lavatory. However, the good thing is that most plane types do.
If you’re on a larger airplane, there’s a good chance the aft lavatory (the one in the back of the plane) will have a changing table if the one in the front of the plane doesn’t.
According to a flight attendant friend of mine, it’s the smaller, older jets and regional airlines have to worry about. Those are the planes that might not have a changing table in the bathroom.
My first piece of advice is to choose an aisle seat when booking your flight, if possible. Once you board, check the airplane lavatories closest to your seat before take-off to note the location of the changing table. If they don’t have one, check the other lavatories. This will help you know which lavatory to use when the time comes. You don’t want to wait and discover your lavatory doesn’t have a diaper-changing table when you’ve got your soiled baby in one arm and a diaper bag in the other.
What to Pack: Diaper Changing on a Plane
When traveling with a baby, you should always be prepared for a worst-case scenario. Keeping the right supplies handy is going to make everything a lot easier–and more sanitary.
Essential Items for Diaper Changing on a Plane
When packing for your flight, make sure you have the following items in your carry-on bag:
- Diapers: Pack at least one diaper for every hour of travel time, plus extra diapers in case of delays.
- Wipes: Additional wipes can usually be purchased in an airport during a layover if you happen to run out.
- Changing mat: A portable changing pad comes in handy in case you need to change your baby on your lap or on a changing table that has seen better days.
- Wet/dry bags or plastic bag: Use these or a sick bag to store dirty diapers and wipes until you can dispose of them properly. Never put a dirty diaper in the lavatory trash bin. It’s not big enough to accommodate them.
- Hand sanitizer: Keep your hands clean before and after changing your baby’s diaper.
It’s also a good idea to bring a change of clothes (or two) for your baby, just in case of a blowout.
Logistical Tips and Tricks for changing a diaper on a plane with no changing table
Changing your baby’s diaper on a plane is tricky because the lavatory is such a small space. It’s even more challenging when there’s no changing table available. However, with a little creativity and resourcefulness, you can find suitable spots and techniques to change your baby’s diaper while flying. In this section, we will explore the various places and best ways to change a diaper on a plane, including bathroom options and alternative locations.
The airplane’s lavatory is the most obvious place to change your baby’s diaper on a plane. However, not all airplane bathrooms are equipped with changing tables. Therefore, it is important to know what to do when there is no changing table available. Here are some tips:
- Use the Closed Toilet Seat: Sanitize the toilet seat cover and/or lay down a changing pad. Prepare your diaper and wipes in advance and lay them across the sink area for easy access. Lie your baby’s body across the toilet seat and do a deep squat to position your knee under your baby’s head for support. If you can hold the squat, quickly change the diaper in that position. If squatting isn’t an option, lay the changing pad on the floor and kneel on it. Step the other leg forward to use your bent knee as a support under your baby’s head. It should look similar to a runner’s lunge, minus the lunge part. Airplane bathroom floors are disgusting so I don’t recommend kneeling unless you have something to place between your knee and the floor.
- Sit on the Toilet Seat and Use Your Lap: Using your own lap while sitting on the toilet in the lavatory affords you more privacy and space than doing it in your seat. Have the clean child’s diaper, wet wipes, and a disposal bag ready to go before you get started.
- Ask for Help: If you are traveling with a companion and you think you could both fit in the lavatory, ask them to hold your baby while you change their diaper. Flight attendants are more than happy to provide you with a sick bag to put the poopy diaper in so they can dispose of it properly as well as sanitizing wipes to clean any surface needed to change your baby.
If the airplane bathroom is not an option, there are other locations on the plane where you can change your baby’s diaper. Here are some alternative options:
- Empty Seats: If there are empty seats on the plane, you can use them to change your baby’s diaper. Make sure to lay a changing pad or a clean blanket on the seat before placing your baby on it. Also, make sure to always sanitize the seat afterward as a courtesy.
- Your Lap: Depending on your baby’s size, you may be able to change the diaper by lying your baby across your lap. Prepare your diaper, wipes, and a sick bag in advance to make it as easy to access what you need as possible.
- Your Airplane Seat: If there’s enough room, scooch to the front edge of your seat and lie your baby down in the space you’ve created on your seat to change the diaper.
- Master the Standing Diaper Change: If your baby is strong enough to stand, this can be done in your own seat. Have your baby stand on your lap and work quickly. Pull the baby’s dirty diaper off, wipe them down, and place the new diaper on your thigh. Then sit your baby down onto the clean diaper and fasten it up.
- Ask a Flight Attendant: If you’re not sure where you should change your baby’s diaper, get the attention of the flight crew and ask. They know their planes inside and out and should be able to make a recommendation.
- The Aisle Floor: I consider this a last resort, and I only recommend it if you have a diaper bag with an expandable changing station built-in or a changing pad big enough for your baby’s whole body because airplane floors are gross.
Advice from Parents Who Have Been There
Here are some tips and tricks from parents who have experience changing their babies on an airplane without a changing table:
“I always carried a large folding changing pad to keep him safe and clean in improvised conditions. Squat before toilet, changing pad across toilet and knee, baby on toilet lid.” – Reddit user
“Some airlines have a disposable ‘basinette’ for changing larger kids. My son was too long for the bathroom on a transatlantic flight when he was 2 ½ and they gave me something I could use in the bulkhead area instead.” – Reddit user
“I changed my now 12 year old in my seat. The woman next to me was kind enough to let him rest his head on her.” – Reddit user
“Get all your gear ready, sit back down on your seat, put a portable changing pad on your lap, and put baby on lap (head at parent’s knees). Change baby, bundle used items together inside old diaper, and ring flight attendant to bring a garbage bag.” – Reddit user
“So this one is something we’ve done! She was already standing at this point though. I pulled her onesie up over her arms so she wouldn’t touch anything in there and pulled her diaper off and had her step into a pull up. I’ve also not had pull-ups, so I hold her against me and slipped the diaper in between and sat her on my thigh (the diaper under her/on top of my leg) and pulled it up to get the straps on (I had my foot resting on the wall like when you’re trying to shave your leg in a small shower or on the toilet). Pain in the ass to do but doable!” – Reddit user
“If the stewardess can’t offer something suitable then I would use the seat or the floor (not in the lav, just at my seat) I’m not picky. I understand many people would be appalled by using the floor, but that’s what a changing pad is for.” – Reddit user
“If it’s a small baby (0-4 mos), I’d change it on my lap in my seat. for a bigger baby (4mos+) in their seat/my seat while sitting on the edge of my seat.” – Reddit user
“On the aisle floor, of course.” – Reddit user
Things You Should Never Do When Changing a Diaper on a Plane
Don’t Use the Seat’s Tray Table
Never use a seat’s pull-down tray table to change your baby. There’s several reasons for this:
- It’s rude and gross. Airplane passengers use the tray tables to eat.
- It’s not safe. The tray tables aren’t intended to hold much weight and even small babies weigh more than a tray table is built to withstand.
Don’t Leave the Dirty Diaper in the Seat Pocket
After changing your baby’s diaper, it’s important to dispose of it properly. Leaving the dirty diaper in the seat pocket is not only unsanitary but also inconsiderate to the cleaning crew and the next passenger who sits in that seat. The seat pocket is meant for storing magazines and other reading material, not for disposing of trash. Instead, ask the flight attendant for a sick bag and place the diaper inside. From there, the flight attendant will be more than happy to toss it for you or you can throw it in their garbage bag when they come around to collect trash after the drink/meal service.
Don’t Dispose of the Diaper in the Lavatory Trash Bin
The lavatory’s trash bin isn’t big enough to accommodate used diapers. Instead, ask the flight attendant for a sick bag to dispose of dirty diapers.
Changing a diaper on a plane without a changing table can be a daunting task, but with the right preparation, mindset, and a little flexibility, it can be done! We recommend always bringing a portable changing pad, a wet/dry bag for soiled diapers until you can dispose of them properly, and plenty of wipes.
Additionally, it’s important to communicate with the flight attendants and ask for their assistance if needed. They’re more than happy to offer suggestions, ideas, and sanitizing wipes but they won’t know you need help unless you ask.
Remember to always be respectful of your fellow passengers and the cleanliness of the airplane. With these tips in mind, parents can confidently navigate a day of travel, a long flight, and handle any diaper change situation during air travel.