A wet or soiled diaper, according to Dr. Sears (my all time favorite online resource when it comes to pediatric questions or general parenting questions), is one of the main causes of discomfort for a baby. An uncomfortable baby means a fussy or cranky baby… A cranky baby means a stressed mom, and a stressed mom means an annoyed dad.
Cranky babies, stressed moms and annoyed dads are the last things you want when you are traveling. Changing diapers frequently, especially when traveling, is important for everyone’s peace of mind!
But leaving your baby in a dirty diaper for a long period of time is not just annoying to your baby and therefore to you and your whole family, it is also dangerous as it can damage the baby’s skin and cause painful rashes. Moreover, a severe rash could leave your baby susceptible to bacteria and yeast, which would only make the problems and discomfort even worse! (source).
In newborns, diapers should be changed around 10 times a day. In babies under six months of age, the average changes per day should be around 8. By the time babies reach 18 months of age, diapers can be changed 4 to 5 times a day (source). Of course, no one knows your baby better than you do, and you will surely be more familiar to the exact amount of diaper changes your baby needs, despite these recommendations.
Bottom line, you should change your baby’s diaper regularly, and, in the case of number two, you should do so immediately.
So… how do you go about this when you are constantly on the move?
I often get asked if I only visit places that are baby-friendly and that have fully equipped family bathrooms. In fact, I have recently returned from a trip to Japan and must say that I was absolutely surprised at how every single place has an awesome baby-friendly bathroom — at times even better than my own bathroom at home! Super modern changing tables with shiny clean mats and safety straps, hypoallergenic disinfectant to wipe the changing mat, sink at my toddler’s level for hand washing (although I think these were originally thought of for handicapped, not babies), and of course, a child safety seat where you can place your baby while you use the bathroom.
However, this bathroom heaven is not the norm. Especially in China, where we live, I would say it is the complete opposite.
How do I deal with diaper changing while out and about? I IMPROVISE!
It has become a need for us to be totally flexible and open minded. We no longer mind if there are people watching or if the place is appropriate or not… basically, you gotta do what you gotta do… Sorry over-lookers (or smellers)… but when my baby needs a diaper change, no matter where we are, we have to change him!
With this mindset we have changed diapers in some very weird places, and we have ended up in very random situations… Here’s my countdown of the most random diaper changing situations I’ve been in!
Random situation #5: A wall at a park in Shanghai
Thankfully it was a nice spring day so it didn’t really matter that we were leaving our son butt naked out in the open! There was a comfortable wall nearby that was just the right height for my husband to do the dirty job. People passing by stared, but then again, in China, we usually get a lot of stares no matter what we are doing…
Random situation #4: In a restaurant, at our table, while in Bangkok
It was scorching hot and we were at the terrace of a very hippy – backpacker style restaurant. My son was already wearing only diapers and shorts because his shirt had been wrenched in sweat, so we figured no one would mind him being a little more naked! And by the way, it was just a wet diaper so, really, it wasn’t that rude!
Random situation #3: On a train, in our seat, while traveling from Hangzhou to Shanghai
We were on a train ride between these two cities, which takes between 45 minutes to 1 hour. My son needed an urgent diaper change. I went to the bathroom, but there was no place whatsoever where I could have changed him! The toilet seat did not have a cover (which i have used many times as a changing table), and of course there were no counters or tables or anything. So, back to our seat it was… sorry passengers sitting behind us! The truth is that it turned out to be quite discreet, even though that sounds hard to believe!
Random situation #2: While waiting to see fireworks in Seoul, South Korea
This one was especially random because not only did we change the soiled diaper while staying in the crowd (we didn’t want to miss the great spot we had found for seeing the fireworks!), we had also ran out of diapers! I decided to be a risk-taker and approach the nearest mom I could find, and using sign language I asked her for a diaper. Of course, she gave me one immediately (thank god!) and no one seemed to notice that we were changing a very dirty diaper in the middle of the crowd.
Random situation #1: In the middle of a crowded airport, surrounded by people who were changing too
This is the number 1 most random situation, mainly because it was the most uncomfortable and awkward. We had been to the Harbin Winter Festival which is held way up north in China, in the middle of winter with an average of -15 degree Celsius. We were at the airport getting ready to fly back to Shanghai, where it was much, much warmer. Like us, many people had to figure out what to do with their clothing and their suitcases, because we were all wearing so much clothes and traveling somewhere with a different temperature. There were several people organizing clothes and changing, right there in the middle of the airport waiting room. Although, there were changing rooms, like with everything else in China, there were also long lines of people waiting for them to become available. This meant that people were literally changing their clothes in every corner. So, I ended up changing my son’s diaper and all the rest of his clothes in the middle of the hallway, next to other people who were also changing their clothes. It was truly very random and awkward!
Some people may shun me for being so “liberal” about where and how to change my son. The truth is I started out being very respectful and careful and tried to only go to places where I knew I would have somewhere to change him, but I quickly realized that if I wanted to continue traveling, I would have to be more flexible with where and how I would change diapers. It may be bothersome to some people, but the truth of the matter is, and I hope I don’t come across as rude… I don’t care! The diaper changing will only last a very brief amount of time, and chances are, the strangers that see us will probably never run across us again!
So if my son needs a diaper change, look out because I will change him — anywhere!