Changing Diapers in Public: Right or Wrong?


We’ve all been there.  You’ve settled down with your nice latte and then you get a whiff of that nutty, warm smell and that sinking feeling in your tummy … even though you just changed your baby’s diaper, she has delighted you with some new “activity” and needs to be changed AGAIN.  If you’re alone, you forego your seat and head to the bathroom with your stroller caravan carrying diapers and wipes, soft books, and activity toys.  You’re balancing your coffee in your other hand and preying you don’t spill on anyone.  If you’re with someone, you park them with your mobile camping site and head off to get the deed done…

changing diapers in public,

This routine is a normal part of being a parent to a young child but last week, the issue of how parents change diapers in public establishments became a national issue when a Seattle couple tussled with Starbucks employees after they changed their baby’s diaper in the restaurants’s seating area.   According to the parents, they were left with no choice since the bathroom lacked a changing table.  The parents also claimed that employees rudely tossed them a rag, telling them to “clean up”.  The situation escalated and ended with the Dad versing his coffee all over the floor and a call to the police!  Sounds relaxing!

Starbucks diaper change

Although I almost invariably side with parents on issues involving the challenges of handling babies and children in public, I have to say that I’m a bit baffled by this one.  I have been in countless bathrooms that did not have changing tables, and have changed my baby either on my lap while seated on the toilet (a delicate balancing act) or on the floor on a padded changing pad placed on top of a disposable Chux changing pad.  In a crunch, I’ve laid down paper towels and put my changing pad on top… None of this is too lovely but I’ve just accepted it as a part of life.

Changing a baby on a chair where someone else is about to sit and exposing all the other latte drinkers to the smell does strike me as inconsiderate.  Granted, it’s not as bad as the mom who potty trained her toddlers in a Texas restaurant.  But still.  Why should the other people who have slapped down $5 or more for an overpriced cup of coffee have to bear witness to a diaper change?

Of course, in an ideal situation all public establishments have changing tables for babies… But in this case, where there wasn’t one?  Who is right?  Was the mother correct in using a chair to change her baby?  Do we parents have a RIGHT to change our babies in public in places where others will then sit moments later?

I’m also wondering whether the woman put anything down under the diaper before she changed the baby, such as a diaper changing pad, a crucial fact that the press did not report on.  This clearly impacts how sanitary the whole thing was.  Shame on you, press, for not digging more into the details of the actual diaper changing event!

Mammas, Papas, Agree?  Disagree?  Weigh in below on your thoughts in changing diapers in public.  Also interested to know HOW you change your babies in bathrooms when there is no changing table.