Here you are, 30,000 feet above Oklahoma, when you get a whiff of an all-too-familiar scent: Yes, your bundle of joy has just pooped their diaper while you’re still at least two hours from your destination. So, what do you do now? Where do you change them, and most importantly, once they’re changed, where the hell does the diaper go? Do you have to hold it the rest of the flight? And can someone please bring you another Bloody Mary?
“Please don’t change your baby at your seat,” is the very first piece of advice offered up by Anna B., an NYC-based flight attendant. Even if your kid is small enough to change on the seat or tray table, Anna says, “it’s very unsanitary and it’s so important to be clean on a plane.” She adds that most planes have at least one changing table onboard, so look for a symbol outside the door or ask your flight attendant which one has it. A smaller plane may not have one, but Anna says you’ll still have about the same amount of elbow room if you change them on the toilet seat cover, so again, she says, please don’t do it at your seat.
When you head to the bathroom, there are a couple of things you can do to make your life a little easier. Leslie, of the travelling blog Trips with Tykes, recommends in a blog post that you should have a tiny “to go” diaper kit to allow for maximum elbow room in that phone-booth sized bathroom. Also, bring a toy for your kid to fiddle with so they don’t touch the disgusting bathroom walls. You know, the usual restaurant bathroom routine, only smaller.
What do you do with the diaper itself? Well, don’t ask a pilot, because they definitely don’t know. Pilot Dave Claisse, who flies for a major airliner, says simply, “No clue,” when we ask him where it should go. Pilot Anthony Fesce had no idea either, and after a little digging into his airline’s policies, he found that there’s “no official policy.” Honestly, though, pilots probably have more important things to worry about, whatever.
For more helpful advice, flight attendant Shoshanna James asks that you don’t put it in the garbage that the flight attendant carries up and down the aisles, explaining that, “depending on the airline, some [flight attendants] sort the garbage we collect for recycling.” You don’t have to hold onto it, though, as James says to place it in the bathroom trash can. This is by far the best location, as no one has to sort through it and it’s conveniently located in the bathroom. If you’re worried that your tot’s colossally stinky poops are going to smell up the whole plane that way, wrap it up in a plastic bag, and if you don’t have one, James says to use the barf bag.
This made perfect sense, but being that there was no “official” word on the matter, I decided to call Delta, too, to see what they say. The phone attendant promptly answered that, “you’re going to place it in the garbage receptacle in the bathroom.”
One last thing: Whatever you do—and we mean this in the most serious way possible—whatever you do, DON’T DON’T DON’T try to flush it down the toilet. A parent recently did this on a flight to Hawaii, which clogged the toilet and forced everyone else on board to pee in plastic bags or bottles. Horrifying.
So yeah, don’t flush it.