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.

Thanks for stopping by and make sure to check back for more! xo


  • Mercedes

    I have been there too many times! I have changed my son in my lap like you or on the restaurant booth seat quickly. I have also had to do it in my car and in a nail salon once it was in the floor using a changing cover that was portable. You have to do what you have to! I don’t blame that mom… Starbucks should get a changing table then if they don’t want babies changed on their chairs. Or maybe they are sending a message that “no babies allowed”???

    • Maybe Mercedes, I agree with you that they should definitely have a changing table – especially a chain like Starbucks!

      • Jessica

        If there are not changing tables there it means babies are not welcome there! Go to a infant-friendly place! Seriously. Nobody wants to smell your baby’s horrible nappy eating or NOT. Mercedes, that is DISGUSTING. I can’t believe you would do it near people that were eating. Thats not clean for the people that have to sit there after you. Just do it in a toilet cubicle. Put the baby on your legs and CHANGE it THERE.

        • Linda

          Shame on you!

          • Then you won’t mind if we make breastfeeding babies eat in the toilet, right?

    • Linda

      A message of no babies allowed is no moms-with-babies allowed.. And I don’t think they want to send that image & risk losing all that money. Moms with babies are some of the most sleep deprived people out there, thus making them more likely to buy a lot of coffee. Not smart Starbucks! And if they give an attitude, complain to the manager and higher up if needed. That’s not acceptable! Us moms go through enough with raising children and keeping it altogether every day, we don’t need judgment or criticism when we leave the house – especially not for just doing our job!

      • Yes, Linda, because there are only such things as toddlersitters,childrensitters and teensitters.

        Babysitters? Complete gibberish – that doesn’t exist.

        Oh wait.

  • Paige

    We have two schools of thought in our house. I’m the one that will change baby in the car when there is no changing table… My husband however once changed our oldest on the TABLE in a fast food gas station restaurant. Most of this is because of cultural differences, I was raised in the states and taught to be super considerate of everyone around me even if it means in inconvenience to myself and my family. My husband was raised in central and South America where everyone just did what needed to be done, no matter what else was going on. The situation wasn’t handled well no matter what the parents had decided to do. On either party’s part.

    • That is totally true! Can’t believe the father threw his coffee all over the floor!

    • Linda

      Paige, I like the concept of do what needs to be done. We don’t really do that enough here in the States. I figure if an establishment wasn’t considerate enough to install a changing table, they’re pretty much asking for babies to be changed on their seats & tables. I kind of like the tabletop idea more because it may make them uncomfortable enough TO INSTALL A CHANGING TABLE! Go figure..

      • Nope. At least go flaunt baby in the back room since it isn’t other customer’s fault that they don’t have a changing table.

  • spongekathotpants

    I have been upset over this very thing and am VERY glad you wrote an article about it! I should know my momism moments are shared by many; including diaper changing drama!

    I had this (almost) exact thing happen to me recently; at Starbucks w my 3mo needing a diaper change. I did check out the bathroom and notice the lack of changing space. I felt I had no other choice but to use their couch in the common area (with my nursing coverup under my baby).

    I have used my car to change a diaper, but only during the day and when it’s warm (it was neither in this case).

    Another anomaly to public diaper changing spaces is Chipotle. I was ready to change our child on the table (have you seen those chairs? no way, hose). But one of the few booths was available and my partner convinced me to use the seat of the booth instead of a tabletop.

    I have had some luck with sink counters if there are multiple; I can usually fit my baby between the bowls. And once in a hotel lobby I used a cubby cutout for a public telephone.

    I don’t know how I would’ve reacted if Starbucks had given me a hard time. I discussed it with my partner and he suggested we just not frequent places that won’t provide us wuth what we need. But am I really going to every establishment, check out their changing table situation and stay or go accordingly? No. If you’ve ever gotten more than one kid out of a car to go into anywhere, you’ll know you’re not leaving until you got what you came for!

    Again, I thank you for voicing a great topic us parents can seek some guidance from. I love watching your vlogs and reading your articles! My partner saw me watching your tantrum videos and was very impressed by your information. Keep up the good work, momma!

    • On a very rough day, you made things alot better! I am about to go to bed now, HAPPY b/c I got your email. Diaper changing needs to get ALOT easier for moms, but there is complexity to the issue! Sending lots of good wishes your way and stay in touch, xo Melissa

    • Wolf WillKill You

      I hope Starbucks and chipotle banned you.

    • Linda

      Yes! Thank you!!!

  • Zhaddi

    Thanks for writing about this. I’m a brand-new mom, and every time I go out with my 5-month-old it’s a game of “where in the neighborhood is the changing table.” It really surprises me that big chains like Starbucks don’t have changing tables. I’ve changed my baby on the floors of cafes before, and having knee problems, it’s not pleasant at all. I don’t understand why more restaurants and cafes don’t have changing tables. They really don’t take up that much space, and will help ensure a bit of customer loyalty.

    As for this situation, the Starbucks staff should not have been so rude to the customers. I’ve been on both sides of the service counter, and I know that the employees could have handled it much better. I feel for those parents…though I don’t think the dad needed to throw the coffee on the floor. That was a bit much. Just seems like a bad situation on both sides.

    • Wolf WillKill You

      Probably because baby’s detract from cafe atmosphere and Starbucks doesn’t want u lol

  • We were coming back from vocation and the airplane did not have the change table. It was broken and I asked the flight attendant if I could use one of their sits to change my son’s diapers and she said, NO! I needed to use my own sit. I was very frustrated about it and an angel (other mom with a baby at the same age) offered me her sit (she had 3 sits together to herself. It was embarrassing to go through something like that. It is a really good subject and we mothers must be very brave and speak out about it.

    • Wolf WillKill You

      What is a sit?

  • Medic

    I’m a mom and a Medic and I can not believe how many people agree with what she did. I am so tired of people complaining because heaven forbid they should be interrupted from what they were doing. Just because she has a child doesn’t give her or anyone the” right” to be so self entitled. It’s rude to everyone around and unsanitary. Our parents and grandparents didn’t have half of what our generation does and they were just fine.

    • Linda

      Shame on you – being a mom and judging/criticizing other moms!

  • Anonymous

    The sense of entitlement with this generation is amazing! (And I’m 30). Seriously our parents had no changing tables! Is it that hard to figure out? Where theres food= no waste. Point blank period. Go to the bathroom and balance your baby on your legs! That way your kid does not touch floor/toilet/tables and is not exposed. I would NEVER expose my daughter! Never and I would never expose eating patrons to her diapers! shame on you guys!

  • Amethyst

    The sense of entitlement with this generation is amazing! (And I’m 30). Seriously our parents had no changing tables! Is it that hard to figure out? Where theres food= no waste. Point blank period. Go to the bathroom and balance your baby on your legs! That way your kid does not touch floor/toilet/tables and is not exposed. I would NEVER expose my daughter! Never and I would never expose eating patrons to her diapers! shame on you guys!

  • ic2much2v

    It is NEVER right to change a diaper in a place where people are eating or drinking! Nobody wants to see someone changing a diaper no matter how discreet you are. No matter if it’s just a pee diaper. DO NOT DO IT! Anyone seen doing it should be promptly asked to leave. No ifs, ands or buts!

  • ic2much2v

    If people don’t know a way to change a diaper without having to do it inside a restaurant/cafe, whatever, then they shouldn’t be going in to them! Stay out! No diaper changing. Boy this yanks my chain!

  • Maddie

    If there are NOT changing tables, it means babies shouldn’t be in there! I went to my sister’s sports day and we have a nice picnic. There was a mum and a baby and she thought it was alright if she changed the baby’s nappy on her picnic blanket. You could smell it. Disgusting. We moved far away from them. If I saw someone changing a nappy in public, I would give them a glare. Breastfeeding isn’t alright aswell. Places have ROOMS for you to DO it in.

    • Linda

      You’re an idiot. So moms/babies can’t have picnics nowadays either???!!! You people make it so hard on us moms. Guess what- we get to enjoy our lives just the same as you and yes that means WITH our beautiful baby! I wish that mom would have been me, I would have given you a piece of my mind!! Shame on you. Have a compassionate understanding heart instead and the world would be a much better place.

  • Steve

    Great post!!! My wife and I are first time parent and we have a 10 months old daughter. We are still learning about being a parent since we have no family help at all. We ran into a similar situation today as well. I parked very far from the supermarket as we were trying to do grocery shopping. (I took the blame from wife after the fact that should of parked closer). Our daughter need a diaper change as we were leaving. She gets diaper rash easily due to her sensitive skins. My wife took her to the bathroom (waited 10 minutes but couldn’t find a place to change the diaper. We saw a resting/dinning area where people were reading books/newspaper and some of them were eating snacks. I told my wife to change the diaper on a chair. We put on the changing pad and did it quickly. Afterward, I used the wipes to clean the chair. Not sure if I did this wrong, but I really hope the public can give a little more support and understanding to the parents, especially mothers. Not everyone is smart and have the knowledge or skills to do things ideally. What if you don’t have good balancing skills? What if you don’t own a car? What if you have no support from you family or husband and still have to raise the baby on your own? It may seem common sense to a lot of people where you eat/drink/rest in public= no diaper. What if the mother who didn’t sleep all night and just couldn’t think straight during that time? There are time that we just do things to get it done and won’t think or don’t even have the luxury to think about proper or more considerate ways to do things. I’m not trying to make things more complicated or finding excuses for what I did. I really hope more places will be family friendly and provide areas for nursing/ diaper change.

    • Linda

      Good job Steve!

    • Hey, at least the food’s not going to get served onto the seat.

  • Linda

    First and foremost, we do not have to defend our actions as parents doing what we need to do. But it is hurtful to see so many negative comments on here, it’s reflective of the societal judgment out there when we are faced with these situations/challenges. I was at a restaurant with my father two days ago. It was one of our regular spots while I was pregnant but it was my first time going since having my son. He is 11 weeks old. I didn’t even think of checking for a changing table before ordering. I was just out to lunch with my dad and son, he was enjoying his grandson for one of the rare occurrences we go out to grab something to eat. So I gave my son 2 ounces of formula then had to check his diaper. My dad went to the bathroom first – no changing table. All these thoughts run through my mind.. I’ve spoken other moms who change their babies on the bathroom floors but talk about GROSS!!! I don’t want my 11 WEEK OLD son anywhere near the filth on that floor. Some change them on their lap… If you’re a new mom like me, holding a newborn is challenging enough, let alone balancing the baby, a diaper bag, and retrieving/using any of the diaper bag on the baby… It’s hard enough with a changing table, well it’s even harder without one. I’m clumsy and not going to ever risk dropping my baby. So then I look at my dad and said “here we go, I’m going to change him right here at the table then”. I could feel myself building a think mom skin as I sat there. I’m like ok I have to do this no matter what and I’m just going to take on any critics should they say anything. I feel like restaurants should have a changing table if they don’t want babies changed in the dining space. I had a plastic changing pad that I put down before my baby. My dad and the car seat created a visual barrier from the cashier’s counter & other the seats. Luckily he wasn’t even dirty so I just closed him right back up. But I was proud of myself for taking care of business and not keeping my son potentially dirty because of the fear of societal judgment.

    • You know…my grandfather keeps dogs. Always has done, always will until he dies. Strictly speaking, not dogs though because they are all female.

      I remember a particular female spaniel he used to have. She was a lovely affectionate dog and was friendly and you really couldn’t ask for a better-natured dog – she had one litter and she was a fantastic mother. But in all honesty, she really wasn’t all that bright.

      She didn’t poop where she ate either. Now, remember she was a female dog and not a particularly clever one. In other words, she was a literal dumb bitch who knew not to poop where she ate.

      If you do something dumb bitches don’t, then yes, you’d better expect judgement. The fact is that you made it everyone else’s business when you created a public health issue by attending to your kid’s business while people were eating.

  • Emily

    If you change your baby at a table where people eat, you need to be shot, you must really enjoy giving people eating a meal a nice view of your babies shitty pissy diaper and private parts, nope if you do that, you are worthless scum and frankly should be banned from the place and taken out right away, but I mean? Nah who gives a shit, apparently baby shit and piss doesn’t violate the health code rightttt? All of ua’ll saying it’s okay need to have a plie of crap throw on to whatever it is you eat food off of, see how you like it 🙂

    • Brittany

      Someone sounds a little disgruntled..lol

      • Brittany

        Get over it! And maybe go have some kids of your own to gain a little more wisdom before you voice such a classless opinion.

    • And you certainly lose the right to use the “Would YOU eat in the bathroom?” counter if someone suggests you nurse in there.

  • oh I totally agree with you. When my two were in diapers, I was known to head to my car to find a semi-flat surface upon which to change diapers. That couple at Starbucks was incredibly rude. People can be so clueless!! No, you don’t have a right to do anything in Starbucks. You don’t even have a right to be in Starbucks at all. They can kick you out. It is a private business. Good grief.

    • Heck, even dogs know that you don’t poop where you eat.

  • Geoff

    Shit happens.

  • Mark

    The thing is Starbucks sells themselves as a family establishment. And let’s face it, most of their drinks and food can be classified as junk food, whether or not Norah jones is playing over the speakers. All parents have bad days with their children, and they don’t want I change their children in a public place, but they have to. You can’t lock em in a cave for having kids. I for one am disgusted starbucks can’t spend the little bit of extra dough on changing tables. I’m also disgusted with the lack of empathy on other people’s behalf. You all had yourself wiped at age 1 in public. Accept it.