Diaper changes on the ground can sometimes be difficult with a wriggling infant or active toddler-changing a baby’s diaper in an airplane at 30,000 feet can certainly be a feat! Even if you are lucky enough to fly an airline with baby changing stations built into the bathrooms-there are a few tips that can make a diaper change during flight a little more bearable for parents and babies!
Ask questions before booking your flight. Large airlines will generally have a restroom with a diaper changing station-but, some may not. There is also always a chance that your large, commercially known flight will be serviced by a smaller, partner company for a leg of your journey and those planes may not be equipped with convenient changing stations. During booking, you will likely be discussing infant seat discounts, carry-on restrictions, and the availability of assistance or services if your flight requires connections-add diaper changing and in-flight amenities to that list of questions and concerns! You may even ask for bulkhead row seats-there will be less space for carry-on storage but more room to stand and maneuver little ones! Depending on the flight and your family’s needs, you may consider planned layovers. These often break up the trip and allow time for diaper changes, feedings and down time for family members-but, also create the need for lugging baby and carry-on gear off and on the planes.
Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. If your flight has a diaper changing station consider yourself lucky and blessed. If not, be glad that you had prepared a battle plan! With no diaper changing station available, you will either need to be a quick change artist with a wriggling little one on a closed toilet seat lid in the cramped airplane bathroom-or use your seat, your lap or an empty seat near you. It never hurts to be overly friendly and outgoing with the flight attendants-they just may let you change the little one in an open area of the floor or at least be more attentive to your needs!
Have a diaper change supply kit ready. Diapers and wipes are obvious-but, for an in-flight diaper change, make sure that you have a waterproof changing mat, gallon zippered storage bags, and extra pacifiers for the inevitable “dropped pacifier on the dirty floor trick”. Parents of toddlers may consider pull-up style diapers even if a toddler generally still wears a traditional diaper-stepping into a pull-up style diaper instead may be easier in a cramped airline potty if the child is large enough to wear one. If you forget the zippered storage bag, you can make do with an air sickness bag-but, expect to dispose of the dirty diaper yourself as the FDA restricts the flight attendants from handling garbage waste during times when they are handling food and drinks in flight.
Expect non-parent snobbery-and take it with a grain of salt. Yes, there will be passengers on the plain who think children should be hidden away until they are 25 or 30 years old-but, remember that the odds are great that you will not encounter them off the plane as you will be living and interacting in very different circles. Certainly, you should be respectful of other passengers by not uncapping a stinky, messy diaper in the seats next to them-but, do not let others dictate your flight experience or your baby’s comfort. As with many natural, child related activities such as diaper changes or breast feeding, the parent notices the surroundings far more intuitively than the surroundings notice the activity!
Remain patient, relaxed, and sane no matter the conditions of the diaper changing environment. The experience will be new and different for the little one-and he or she may not react as hoped. If a diaper needs changed during flight, so be it! You will get through it-and adjacent passengers will get over it-if it even bothers them! Remember that the dignified, aging businessman in the window seat may be a father of 6 who accomplished many such child related feats in the past-and is likely applauding you for your skill! Being prepared for a quick diaper change will let you and your little one pass the event test with flying colors and move on to the other more challenging aspects of the flight-such as entertaining a little one for hours!
Family travel is a lot of work-but it is met with a lot of enjoyment as well. Travel experiences provide pictures on the beach or in snowcapped mountains, those memories of insane giggling when a 3 year old met ocean waves for the first time or the awe of city skyscrapers or natural wonders. You will never replace the memories of your children as infants and toddlers-but, you quickly forget some of the strife such as dreading and successfully maneuvering those airline diaper changes!