Changing a Diaper on an Airplane

New parents who haven't yet flown with their baby for the first time often write in to ask how (and where) to change a baby's diaper on an airplane. My most recent flight was a good reminder of how cumbersome this can actually be! After changing countless in-flight diapers, here are my best tips.

Eilan getting his diaper changed in the airplane bathroom
Eilan getting his diaper changed in the airplane bathroom

Change 'em before you board: If that diaper is starting to get wet and heavy, change it just before boarding. Not only will you avoid one in-flight diaper change, but you might just avert the dreaded in-flight blowout.

Ask for a changing table Most midsized and large airplanes have a changing table in at least one bathroom. The door is generally marked, but if you aren't sure where to look ask a flight attendant

Have a helper Even with a changing table, a slippery surface and turbulence mean that you won't want to root around in a diaper bag searching for the wipes. Gather everything you need in one hand before heading to the bathroom, and if possible have a traveling companion stand just outside the bathroom and hand you what you need as you need it.

Use a disposable changing pad Disposable changing pads are less bulky than cloth pads, and if one gets soiled in-flight you won't be wondering how to manage the next diaper change.

Use your seat When there is no changing table available, the next best option is to use an empty seat. Be sure to cover the seat carefully and raise the armrest between your seat and the "changing seat" to give yourself a little more room. Expect to dispose of that dirty diaper in the bathroom yourself. Remember that a flight attendant might be in the process of handing out drinks or snacks and it would not be sanitary for him or her to dispose of it..

Stand up baby When even using a seat isn't possible, stand baby up on your lap (with the changing pad covering your legs) and do your best.

Don't expect perfection If you are worried about the low quality diaper changes you'll probably be giving in the air, slather on the ointment before you leave home and expect to give baby's bum a thorough cleaning upon arrival.

Bring a Bag Pack a few disposable plastic bags in your diaper bag. Your fellow passengers will thank you for bagging a soiled diaper before you throw it in the trash, and you can also use plastic bags to store any clothes that become soiled en-route.

Bring Your Sense of Humor You'll land soon!

Do you have any other tips or tricks? Tell me in comments.

Related Links
Tips: Bring Diapers For Potty Trained Kids
Airplane Carryon Checklist for Flying With Baby

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  1. Emily E on March 30, 2010 at 6:34 a.m.

    Always bring MORE- a lot more- wipes than you'll think you need. My daughter decided to step in her poppy diaper during an airplane diaper change. Thank god for lots of baby wipes.

    And those little blue diaper disposal bags are a god send.

  2. Sara M on March 30, 2010 at 11:21 a.m.

    I always thought airplane changes were difficult until we had to change an up the back blow-out on a Greyhound bus! Even smaller restrooms, no changing table and a very bumpy ride. Poor little guy was changed on the floor at back of the bus, and at one point was held up by his ankles! Extra bags, tons of wipes and a sense of humor were critical.

  3. Debbie on March 30, 2010 at 12:27 p.m.

    Great point about the extra wipes!

  4. Scotti on March 30, 2010 at 2:01 p.m.

    I second the extra wipes - but also add bring more diapers than you think you'll need (and put them in your carry-on, not your checked luggage!). Airports never seem to have diapers for sale and when I've seen them there is one size available.

    The baby wipes also come in handy for cleaning up any mess on you! I was traveling alone with a cranky 3 month old who had a huge blow-out on my lap while waiting at the gate. Couldn't get him in his messy state, plus the stroller and carry-on to the restroom, so I had to change him on the floor. Had a change of clothes for him, but not for me.

  5. Jeri on March 30, 2010 at 4:05 p.m.

    Definitely only change on the plane when absolutely necessary. A damp diaper is not an emergency! Applying plenty of diaper cream before boarding is essential. My babies have always been terrified when I've put them on the change table in airplane lavatories, so I avoid diaper changes as much as possible during flights.
    Also, when changing on the seat (which I've done), try to have your spouse block the view from other passengers as it can be disturbing to some. Not everyone remembers what it's like to have young ones! :)

  6. Hilarye Fuller on March 30, 2010 at 9:08 p.m.

    Oh the horror. My five month old has been on over 20 flights and we have yet to change a diaper on an airplane. I could only imagine the looks of terror on fellow passengers if I pulled my baby and changed her on the seat. But really- where on earth else would you do it? I honestly wasn't aware they had changing tables on planes! I really try to avoid those things like the plague! My best advice is wait till the last minute and change the baby before the plane. Great article!

  7. Randy @thelollipoproad on March 31, 2010 at 8:11 a.m.

    We've had to change baby on the seat a couple of times because the lav didn't have a changing table. On a long flight, a diaper change is almost inevitable.

    Of course, on one flight an older gentleman across the aisle complained. Luckily, the FA promptly ignored him as she understood our plight.

    Just make sure that you have a change of clothes as those blowouts aren't always contained to the diaper.

  8. Jennifer on April 3, 2010 at 5:31 p.m.

    I always remove as many clothes from the bottom half before carrying the little darling to the lav. It's no fun to be fussing with shoes or pants in a confined space. And besides no one ever minds a little one traveling to and from the bathroom in merely a diaper.

  9. Stephany on April 5, 2010 at 11:06 a.m.

    I always made up a few of what I call "diaper setups":
    1 disposable diaper
    1 disposable changing pad
    3 baby wipes in a zip-top bag
    1 paper towel
    --all this in a quart sized FREEZER bag. (the regular doesn't contain the smell)

    Then I could just bring in my little diaper setup with a small thing of vaseline, and not have to lug my whole diaper bag in there.

    I made up at least 3 of these for my carry on, and had extra wipes, etc. in the big diaper bag. They work well at the airport or mall, too!

    Obviously, I checked for blow-outs before leaving the seat ;)

  10. saigenicoleinfo on April 5, 2010 at 1:54 p.m.

    It's great to have a diaper bag with changing pad included, for at-seat airplane changes. Saige Nicoles has lots of great "designer" looking diaper bags on sale right now.