Real Life Support for Moms

Babies on a Plane!
Mastering the Diaper Change at 30,000 feet

by Melissa Stanton
www.lifesupportformoms.com
 
You needn’t have ever seen the film Snakes on a Plane to know that loose snakes on a plane would be terrifying. But ask any parent trying to care for and calm a baby on a plane, and chances are good that mom or dad would rather take on the snakes.

With flight delays, bathroom malfunctions and passengers being stuck for hours inside parked planes, when traveling the not-so-friendly-skies with a baby, it’s actually wise to plan as if the flight will take 20 hours instead of two. That means enough pacifiers (sucking and swallowing help prevent painful ear popping), teethers, baby food, snacks, toys, sippy cups and, if needed, fixins for bottles. (It’s smart to have at least two bottles and nipple sets on board: One is for using, and the other as a back-up in case the first is lost or accidentally melted when warmed in the airplane microwave oven.) And then there’s the diaper detail.

While international flights often keep an emergency supply of diapers on board, domestic flights generally don’t. Accordingly, parents traveling with little ones need to be prepared with wipes, a changing pad, a few outfits and lots of diapers (for before, during and immediately after the flight). How many diapers? You know your child, but for guidance keep in mind that the American Pregnancy Association estimates that “babies urinate approximately 20 times a day for the first several months of their lives.” Bring plastic bags for containing the debris, but also ask the flight attendant for a handful of motion sickness bags, which are often more effective at sealing away odors.

Most large airplanes—as opposed to smaller, commuter aircrafts—are now equipped with changing tables in the lavatories. (It’s a good idea to keep a small tote handy so when you and your baby head for the plane bathroom, you can carry only the items you’ll need right then instead of your entire supply.) When a diaper changing station is available on a plane, it’s expected that a parent will use it. If you don’t, be prepared for nasty looks from your fellow passengers or a reminder from a flight attendant about the plane’s facilities.         

When a changing table isn’t available, “Mothers are very ingenious,” says Sarah Anthony, a spokesperson for Continental Airlines. If a baby needs to be placed on a seat, the floor or a lap, that’s just what needs to occur. For many reasons (safety, hygiene), diapering on a tray table is frowned upon. But if you have no other options, and your child is small enough, you might choose to give it a try. After making sure the coast is clear of possible tsk-tskers, support the pull-down tray with your knees or a carry-on bag propped on your lap, and cover the tabletop with a folded blanket (for cushioning) and a changing pad. Then keep one hand securely on the baby while you work very quickly with the other.

Leeann, a frequent flying mom from Atlanta, suggests that parents flying with an infant “book seats in the two-seat side of the plane, and change the baby in the seat.” While a pee diaper is no problem, she warns that a smelly poop requires lightening fast clean-up work and waste containment. (Now’s the time to break into that supply of sealable motion sickness bags!) Daryl, a mother of two who has taken numerous flights between New Jersey and Arizona with babes in tow, recommends that if you’re traveling alone with an infant and can afford the ticket, buy your less than two-year-old child a seat even though it’s not required. “The more space you have for maneuvering with a baby the better,” she says. “Flight attendants either aren’t willing or able to help, and fellow passengers don't want to be bothered, so you’re pretty much on your own.”

And how does a parent traveling solo use the airplane bathroom? By trusting the baby to a fellow passenger or else wearing the child in a baby carrier.

Good luck with your trip!
 
melissa stantonAbout the Author:
Melissa Stanton is the author of The Stay-at-Home Survival Guide: Field-tested strategies for staying smart, sane, and connected while caring for your kids, published by Seal Press/Perseus Books (www.stayathomesurvivalguide.com). Prior to becoming an at-home mother of three, Stanton was a senior editor at LIFE and People magazines. Her articles have appeared in The New York Times, Glamour, Parenting and MotherVerse, among other publications. A New York native, she has a bachelor’s degree from Fordham University and a master’s in public health/community health education from Hunter College. Stanton is the founder and editor of “Real Life Support for Moms”  (www.lifesupportformoms.com) and lives with her family outside of Washington, D.C.
 
Copyright 2008 Melissa Stanton