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Have babe, will fly? How to clean the bum & the bottles

We are very much planning for summer travel season 'round here.  An urbanMama seeks your words of wisdom when it comes to traveling with a 9-month old:

How do you change a baby's diaper in the most sanitary fashion, and how do you clean the baby's bottles on the plane?


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I haven't changed a diaper on the plane, but I would try to avoid it if possible. Change the diaper right before boarding. As for cleaning the bottles, I would also just wait until I deplaned and rinse them in the sink in the airport (or you could rinse them in the sink in the airplane if it's going to be a long flight). Bring enough bottles for the entire plane ride and clean them once you get to your destination.

Ditto meg's comments.

If you can't pack enough bottles to make it through the flight and are worried about re-using one, pack a few extra nipples. It's not ideal but at least it's a little cleaner and not a bad idea anyway, in the likely event that the bottle is thrown to the floor -- you can just switch out the nipple and hand it back to baby.

I also over pack bottles. In a pinch you can ask a flight attendant to give you a cup of the really hot tea water and rinse out the bottle with it or rinse the nipple. It is not as good as a good cleaning but kids have lived through worse.

To change a diaper, you need to go to the floor of the front of the plane near the food prep station. It is impossible to change a diaper on the toilet seat of the world's smallest bathroom. Be sure to ask for a blanket at the first of the flight for a 'clean' surface.

Some planes have changing tables in the bathroom - basically a table folds down over the toilet. I've found it to be easier to use than I expected. Now my toddler just stands on the table and that works fine too.
Ask a flight attendant if there's on on the plane (they also have special stickers on the doors).
You can also change them on your seat - I know it's not ideal, but would seem better to me than the floor.

I got scolded by a flight attendant for changing a five-month-old's diaper on the floor of the plane. And it was only pee! But it was in business class, so maybe the sight of a naked bum offended the frequent flying elite. However, they were so nice the rest of the time (passengers and flight attendants) that it didn't matter.

When we traveled in the bottle years, we actually used a slightly different bottle system with disposable liners, so we didn't have to give the bottles their own carry on. (I think it was called tempo?) We also traveled with a teeny tiny bottle of dishwashing detergent and the nipple brush from the handle of the bottle brush, so we could use the sink to wash. I don't think they'd let you bring the detergent on anymore, and I think regular soap would leave residue?

As far as the bottles, Medela makes a bottle wipe that is designed to be used to clean pumps in situations where you can't clean your pump between sessions. I would think you could use those to clean the bottles. At least worth checking out, I would think.

As far as the dipes, I found the bathroom on the plane had a changing table above the toilet that folded down. It could be a struggle if your babe is pretty mobile & fights changing, but it was there on an NWA plane.

When I travelled on an airplane for the first time with my 3 month-old daughter, she managed to have a blow out the minute that we were settled in our seats on 3 of the 4 legs of that trip. Since she was still so small, we just put her changing pad across my husband's and my laps and changed her right there in our seats. Now that she's 2 and been on a plane a couple of times, we've encountered quite a few situations dealing with changing diapers, including changing her on the floor at the rear of the plane (not recommended because the floors are REALLY dirty), and also changing her on the top of the toilet seat. I think that the only way that I was able to fit in the bathroom with her and change her that way was to leave the bathroom door open. I noticed on the last flight that I was on that the ADA bathroom had a changing table in it, but that's the first time I've ever seen one.

As for cleaning bottles, what's worked for us has been to bring a 3oz container with dishsoap and a bottle brush along, and then we washed our bottles at our final destination. You might have to pack a few extra bottles, but I wouldn't trust the water sanitation in a plane bathroom. You'll probably need extra bottles on your trip anyway if you're going to be out and about a lot.

In the bathrooms, above the sink of every flight I've been on has been a sign warning to NOT drink the water or something to that effect. So don't wash baby's bottle with it either (or brush teeth...or wash face, etc.) A rinse with bottled water or drinking water from one of the flight attendants would be the best alternative. You can bring dish soap as long as you bring less than 3 ounces of it in your liquids carry-on bag.

I traveled a lot to and from the east coast alone with my little guy in his first 3 years. I always brought a diaper bag changing pad when he was really little, and only ever changed him in the seat.

When he was still a lap baby, I would arrive at the gate and try to talk my way into having them keep the middle seat next to me open, if possible. That was often successful. Then I'd have the space of both my seat and his to lay him down on. If you have just an aisle seat, you can lay 'em down in your seat and stand yourself in the aisle to change them.

To avoid societal disapproval: Be quick as possible, use excellent hygeine (lots of wipes for baby/ toddler and then hand sanitizer for yourself), and bag everything up in a gallon-sized ziploc and stick it in your diaper bag. Then give your seatmates a sweet and appreciative smile. Don't give them a chance to protest by apologizing beforehand. Typically I've found that people just glance over, see what I'm doing, and glance away--back at their movie or book or whatever.

We never had a poop blowout on a plane once he was a toddler, but I did change plenty of pee diapers/wet clothes with him standing on the floor in front of his seat and me crouching/leaning down to him from my seat.

As far as washing bottles, I'd recommend bringing extras and hoping you don't have to. But, if things go awry and you have to (my daughter didn't want some bottles and then became hungry later), just talk to the flight attendants...they can give you bottled water to wash the bottles out. But generally it's a pain to juggle bottle pieces and stuff while washing them, so I don't recommend it...but it's not that bad if you have to do it.

I heard Daria on the radio talk about some mom who changed her baby's diaper in an aisle of the grocery store and left the diaper in the aisle! This led to a flood of phone calls about bad diaper etiquette, including one from a flight attendant...after hearing that, I wouldn't really recommend doing a diaper change on the seat unless you had no other choice. I found the changing table in the bathroom to be really quite acceptable as long as you have a diaper pad to lay down.

Good luck! And my best advice to give you is to introduce yourself to the flight attendents as soon as you board the plane...ask questions if you need to (like if there's a changing table, and if not, where to change) I found them to be really great in looking out for me, which helped a lot!

I should clarify the floor changing- we were encouraged by the flight attendants to change our boys on the floor with a blanket and a changing pad- I guess I thought that went without saying. Of course, they also carried our youngest around with them during the flight encouraging people to charm a smile out of him. They loved on our boys like they were their own. We've had three great flights with them!

I flew with my daughter a few times while she was still in diapers. I never would have dreamed of changing her on the floor or in the seat. The lavatories are cramped, but even if there's not a changing table, there was always room on the closed toilet lid.

We flew with our then 6-month old on several domestic and one international flight. We use cloth diapers and breastfeed, so no bottle advice. But, for changing diapers, we used the fold down table over the toilet with a Skip Hop changing pad beneath her without a problem. For diapers, we used G-diapers while in flight, since we could just toss away the inner pad. For wipes, we bought those blue thick paper towels from Home Depot, cut them into wipe size, and wet them as we needed them in the airplane sink. Then just tossed away. I would think you could easily wash bottles in the sink, but I don't have any experience with that. Have fun and good luck!

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