Where SHOULD You Change the Baby?

My Facebook feed has been blowing up this morning.  The mommy groups, the cloth diapering groups, and my friends list are all talking about the same thing: a mother decided to change the baby at the table in a restaurant.  She and her family were booted.

Okay, in all fairness, she didn’t pop her newborn baby on the table and change the diaper right in plain view.  She made the decision to put down the change pad and change the baby on the chair at her table.  Regardless of how one wants to justify the decision, the baby was changed in the dining area.

So, moving on…  I’ll be direct on my feelings on this.

Where Should You Change the Baby? Cloth Diaper Addicts Answers

Don’t change the baby in the dining area.

No, really.  Just don’t.

Why not?

You know the old saying, “You don’t s*** where you eat,” right?  There’s a reason for that.  Defecation, regardless of who does it, is not clean.  You can have the sweetest child in the world, the tiniest newborn ever, and poop will still not smell like roses.  In fact, my precious flower of a daughter has produced diapers that had me sniffing around trying to figure out what died.  I couldn’t figure out where the smell of decomp was until I sniffed her.  (No, this really did happen.  No joke or exaggeration.)  Fecal matter contains all sorts of things that can cause food-borne illness.  E.Coli, for example, is found in feces… and think about how many food recalls there have been over the last few years due to E.Coli being found.

Let’s Use Some Breastfeeding Logic

We get pretty choked when someone suggests that a nursing mother should breastfeed in the bathroom.  Not going to happen.  It’s gross.  There’s poo molecules flying around, etc.  Using that logic… it only makes sense to change the baby in the bathroom.  After all, bathrooms are for poop and tables are for food.

But we tell people if they don’t like breastfeeding, don’t look at it… why shouldn’t that apply to when we change the baby?

I’ve stated that I worked hard to overcome my own discomfort with other people breastfeeding… but even when I had that issue, I’d never, ever tell someone that they couldn’t breastfeed because of me.  I’d rather carefully ignore a feeding than hear a kid shrieking.  When you change the baby?  Sure, I can look elsewhere, but that doesn’t make it a.) more sanitary or b.) less smelly.  You can’t get away from the stench or the bacteria all that easily, just like you can’t really get away from the screaming of a hungry baby who goes unfed.

So Where Should You Change the Baby?

You change the baby in the same place where the rest of the waste management happens: in the bathroom.  Don’t like the provided change tables because they are perceived as gross?  Use a baby wipe or a disinfecting wipe to wipe it down.  As the restaurant if they can send someone to the bathrooms to clean it right quick.  And, of course, use the changing pad.  (Or use another location mentioned further down.)

They didn’t have a changing table!  It’ll serve them right to have me change the baby in the dining room!

No.  Just, no.  I talked about the unsanitary aspect of that above… combined with a lack of soap and water at the tables to wash your hands after changing.  (And I don’t care how cute and little your baby is, or how not messy the diaper was.  You wash your hands after changing a diaper, no matter what.  It’s just gross not to.)

There are some other options.  Really.

Change the baby in the car.

No, really.  I prefer to change my children in our own vehicle, barring stupidly cold temps (or stupidly hot ones) because I know the cleanliness of my own vehicle.  I know that it’s free of poop.

Use the Stroller

If you brought a stroller in, then just wheel the stroller back  to the bathroom and change there.  Occupy a handicap stall if necessary.  (But, of course, get out as quickly as possible in case someone who is handicapped really does need to use it!)

Ask a staff member where you can change the baby

I’ve been in a situation where I’ve had to ask for a space to change my child.  It happens.  I have always, even in high-end boutiques that aren’t actually considered child-friendly by North America, been offered an alternative location to change the baby.  If they give you no alternatives and the bathroom doesn’t have an appropriate place, then it’s up to you to decide where to go from there.

Things that are still left that I’d never do

If you’re comfortable with changing the baby on the bathroom floor or on the sink counter, those are still options available to you.  However, neither of those two options are things that I feel are truly optional.  It’s just too gross for my tastes.

What If They Offer No Place to Change the Baby?

You still have options.  If none of the above work for you (you didn’t drive, didn’t use a stroller, or it’s just horrid outside and you’re not interested in changing your baby’s bare tush in sub-zero/heat stroke temperatures), then you’ve got one other option that remains: vote with your feet.  If you haven’t received your food yet, then you tell the manager that you are leaving the restaurant because they’ve created an environment that is not welcoming for your family.  Let corporate know that this is a problem if it’s a chain or franchise.

If you’ve already received your food, inform the server or manager that you will need your food boxed up to go.  Still let corporate know.

Notice that noneof these options include “just change your kid in the dining area.”  There’s a reason for that.  Gross, health code violations, rude to other diners, whatever you want to pick.  Just don’t.

Have you ever run into an issue when you needed to change the baby?  How did you handle it?

Image credits: Serge Bertasius Photography

About Suzi

Suzi is an American ex-pat living in British Columbia. She's a cloth diaper addict, wife, mom of three, and President of the Prince George chapter of Cloth for a Cause.


  1. Anastasia says:

    If they have no appropriate facilities, go somewhere that does & spam the HECK out of their services. I’d rather support a great business (That actually mops their floors) the one that can’t get the basics right.

  2. We changed our son on our laps in the airplane once and were told after that we weren’t allowed. In hindsight, it wasn’t the best decision!!! We didn’t make any mess and hand sanitizer was used after… (and it was breastmilk poo… if it had been normal poo we would NOT have considered it.) All I was thinking about was that if we didn’t change him right away (the seatbelt sign was on) things were going to get much worse…. but ya, I understand now why I should’ve waited.
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  3. We just ran into this tonight, actually. We went into a sports pub that was pretty fancy (if that makes any sense) and there was no change table in the large washroom. The floors were actually really clean looking…so I changed my son there, outside of the stall areas. I guess it’s gross, but I can’t see it being any more gross than the change tables.

  4. Alicia Owen says:

    Completely agree. I’ve worked plenty of restaurant jobs that health code violations are the first thing that pop in my head when I read things like this. I’m a bit of a germophobe, so even if I DO use public changing tables, I am SO thankful I got a nice changing pad at my baby shower. Most of the time (even if there is a changing table) I opt to use the stroller or just do it in the car before we go in somewhere.

  5. Genevieve says:

    Why should you have waited? it is almost impossible to change a baby in an airplane except on your lap. And your son shouldn’t have to have a rash because the seatbelt sign is on. I’m sorry, but I would completely disagree that you should have waived.

    • Depends on how long we’re talking about. Are we talking about “a couple of minutes until they’re up to cruising altitude” or “it’s going to be a while?”

  6. I change my daughter in our van when possible when we are out. I hate public bathrooms and avoid going in as much as possible.
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  7. I don’t understand mothers who are defending the practice by saying “no one saw me do it.” That doesn’t make it any less unsanitary or inappropriate. Nor is it reasonable to blame the restaurant for not having a changing station in their bathroom. If you want change, advocate for it. Don’t commit a health code violation.
    Anne Sweden recently posted…Imagine Cloth Diaper GiveawayMy Profile

    • I’m reminded of the old saying “Right is right, even if no one does it. Wrong is wrong, even if everyone does it.” Are we okay with teaching our kids that it’s okay to do things that are wrong just because no one is looking?

      No one saw me run the red light, so it’s fine? No one is on the road, so it’s okay to go out for a drive when you’re already drunk? I realize that this is a slippery slope fallacy, but we’re laying down the foundation of what kinds of things our children will think are okay, and if what’s okay and isn’t changes if there’s no one to “catch” us.

      • Anastasia says:

        Just a friendly reminder, I’m out WALKING at 2 in the morning so be CAREFUL! I definitely see stuff when I’m out that late. So I definitely SAW you (right before the next guy pulling the same shit crashed at an intersection 5 minutes later)

  8. I changed my 1 year old at the time in a change room of a ladies clothing store once. I put my coat under her head( i had a change mat). I’ve used the car too.

  9. I think I have changed my youngest in a booth seat. I always used a changing pad and wiped it with wipes after I was done. I have also done the lap thing and stroller change. I think it should be mandatory to have changing stations.

    Taco Cabana is one of those places that dont have a changing table. Thankfully, they had a huge sink area and I changed him there

  10. I changed my son on the bathroom floor several times when he was a toddler. I have also changed a wet diaper in the booth of a dirty Dairy Queen too.

  11. thank you Suzi. I completely agree with what you said
    Rebecca Flook recently posted…The Joys of Statutory holidays or Fireworks go Boom, Baby goes wah!My Profile

  12. Blech! Babies should not be changed where you eat. Changing tables are a great place. Even in a vehicle or a stroller is good. Just no poop where you eat.
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  13. I would never change a child in the dining room. That is what the bathroom is for.
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  14. Shilo Wheatley says:

    Changing a babies diaper on the table is just wrong in my opinion! I have changed my babies many times on my lap sitting on the toilet in a public bathroom because there were no changing tables. I also would never nurse my baby in the bathroom… I can’t even carry a covered drink into a restroom because the thought of germs disgust me.

  15. When my daughter was about 7 months we were in a local restaurant that didn’t have a changing table. I opted to use the counter, in between 2 sinks. Moving as quickly as humanly possible, she starts to cry (she is so not a crying baby). I began to move quicker, consoling her “mommy is almost done, blah blah” then to notice she wiggled her head into the hole you throw the trash into! Panicked mom, and several employees didn’t think to grease her head, within minutes she wiggled it out on her own but of course a night in the ER was mandatory BC she could have had head trauma. She thankfully was fine 😉 and I vowed to always bring her carriage to give me an option when there isn’t one.

    • Oh my goodness! Hopefully they installed a change table in the bathroom after that, too! Glad your little was all right.

  16. I hated changing my boys in public. It grossed me out. We usually used the back of my SUV.
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  17. Thanks for sharing this….I didn’t really have strong feelings about the issue (unless I smelled someone changing the baby, I guess) but you’re right that it’s a health hazard. I wish we could find some way to make sure everyone washed their hands after using the restroom, too, though!

  18. I hate public changing areas. I use the back of my SUV whenever possible.

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