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No Diaper Changes at the Table Please

By paulabernstein |

baby change

Where's the Change Table?

Yesterday, Danielle wrote about a New Jersey woman who claimed that she was asked to leave a Dunkin Donuts because she was breastfeeding in public. Apparently, the police were called over the incident. If that’s what really happened, obviously, I’m appalled. But it seems that there’s more to the story.

As Danielle wrote, there are conflicting reports about what actually happened. One account has one of the mothers changing a cloth diaper on the table at Dunkin Donuts. One of the mothers said she had no choice but to change her child’s diaper on her lap because there wasn’t a changing table.

Now that’s a different story entirely — although it still doesn’t warrant calling the police!

The Globe and Mail reported on the controversy:

While we’d probably lose our appetite for that Boston cream donut if we watched someone remove a soiled diaper from a squirming baby on a restaurant table, we do understand the predicament the mom in question was facing.

The fact is that while there are laws in place in New Jersey to protect nursing mothers, there are no such laws for diaper changes.

I’m ashamed to admit that when my kids were babies and I was feeling underslept and desperate, I changed a diaper or two on a restaurant banquette. In hindsight, I can’t believe I subjected the other customers to the sight (or stench) of my baby’s bottom. Not to mention, it’s unhygienic and no doubt, violates health regulations.

Yes, it’s a drag when there’s no changing table. But it’s not okay to turn your table into a changing table. Instead, put a changing pad on the bathroom floor and change your baby there (I’ve done that too).

A diaper change at a restaurant could potentially get the place in trouble with the Health Department. We don’t know all of the details of what happened in this case. Certainly, calling the police certainly seems unwarranted.

But if the issue really was the diaper change, I hate for this incident to turn into a story about a breastfeeding mom who was mistreated for nursing publicly.

I fully support a woman’s right to breastfeed publicly even if it makes other people uncomfortable. But I don’t think that a breastfeeding mom is allowed to get away with any sort of offensive behavior simply because she is breastfeeding.

What do you think? Is it okay to change a dirty diaper in a restaurant?


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About paulabernstein



Paula Bernstein is a freelance writer and social media manager with a background in entertainment journalism. She is also the co-author of Identical Strangers: A Memoir of Twins Separated and Reunited.

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32 thoughts on “No Diaper Changes at the Table Please

  1. justme says:

    Seems pretty obvious, the answer is – NO NO NO! Do not change a diaper at your table in a restaurant. Gross! I changed my 12 month old standing up in a bathroom where there was no changing table. It never in a million years would have occurred to me to change him on the table where we were EATING! I did make sure to complain about the lack of a bathroom changing table to the manager and told him we would not be back until one was installed.

  2. Rosana says:

    I think is ok to change a dirty diaper at a restaurant, JUST NOT AT THE TABLE PLEASE PEOPLE. I have done the bathroom floor diaper change once with my son but if there was no changing table I will wait and change his diaper in the car. Now with my daughter, I have an SUV so I change her diaper on the back of the truck if I cannot find a changing table.

  3. PlumbLucky says:

    At a table? Um, no. On the bathroom floor on a changing pad or that failing, in the hatchback part of my car (works GREAT as a changing table I’ve found out!).

  4. JEssica says:

    I have never and will never change my child’s diaper on a public bathroom floor. I think changing the diaper on the table would promote restaurants to install changing tables. And I far as I know, there is no law forbiding changing diapers in public places.

  5. paulabernstein says:

    Jessica, I would agree that restaurants should have changing tables. But there is nothing wrong with changing a diaper on a bathroom floor — on top of a changing pad, of course. Diners should never have to be exposed to human waste.

  6. NC Mom says:

    There is never a reason to change your child’s diaper at the table! Go to your car, lie your child down in their stroller in the bathroom, put a jacket or pad or something on the bathroom floor, or go to another store or restaurant near by that has a changing table. There are a lot of options, none of which require you causing a health care violation for a restaurant. If you don’t like that they don’t have a changing table and it was an inconvenience…don’t go back!

  7. Amy says:

    While we’re on the subject, it’s gross to sit one’s toddler on the counter of an establishment while conducting a business transaction. The last thing I want to do is put my hands near where a non-potty-trained child has been sitting.

  8. anna carr says:

    A big NO! I’m a mother of a one year old, and being a mother, I find ways on how to put diapers on my baby even while she’s on my lap. tables are for food, not for changing diapers

  9. Claire says:

    Comments I have to admit that I too have changed my baby in strange places. People with out children don’t always understand the desperation a mother can go through trying to find a place to change a diaper.

  10. MsC says:

    What I did a few times when my daughter was wee and there was no stroller or car option was to sit on the commode of the changing-table-missing bathroom and basically make a table of my legs, put the pad over my legs, and change her in my lap. I understand not wanting to put your kid on the bathroom floor, even with a pad, but I’m actually not sure that there isn’t a law against changing them on a dining table in a public establishment. That does seem like a possible health code violation.

  11. Natalie says:

    Yes, in the bathroom, on the floor if necessary! I’m ashamed to admit that I too changed a few diapers on a banquette seat, but in HINDSIGHT, I would not repeat it if I were to relive my days as a new mom. New moms need to know that while breastfeeding is their right, and that babies should be allowed to eat anywhere, anytime, diapers are a different story. We can eat anywhere we want, after all, but we don’t change our soiled panties at the table, people!

  12. Rosana says:

    When I change my kids on the bathroom floor I use a changing pad on top of several paper towels. Please, who would change their kid on the bare floor of a public place???? When we say at the table we mean while sitting at the table or on the table. Any diaper close to where people eat is a NO!!!!!

  13. goddess says:

    NEVER in the dining (or food prep) areas of a restaurant! EVER. EVER. EVER. Cahnge the baby in your car, in its stroller. Or if you wore it, strap him or her on and leave. Suck it up. Your kid, your excrement, your stink.
    And yeah Claire, did 4 without ever changing inside of a restaurant eating area.

  14. jcm says:

    Never change your child’s diaper in a food establishment, except in the bathroom. Yes, it’s gross to put your kid on the floor, but your child will wash. It isn’t specifically against the law to change diapers at the table (at least not in the federal food code, but there may be something at a local or state level.) The food code addresses requirements that a food establishment must follow in order to protect the public. There are references to preventing cross contamination and the need to clean and sanitize food prep and service areas and if they see you, they will need to do an immediate clean up. There are significant liability issues here for the food establishment. A greater issue is the threat that you pose to public health and safety. Even when careful, there is a risk of bacterial contamination of these surfaces – chairs, tables, etc. – by diaper pads, dirty hands, diapers, as well as fecal contamination … even if the diaper is just urine soaked. If you are sneaky enough and don’t get caught and the next person sits down at that location and gets sick (even if they aren’t immuno-comprimised,) because you are trying to teach the restaurant a lesson about diaper changing tables or whatever reason, then you may not know that you put that next person in the hospital, or killed them, or started an outbreak of illness that killed someone else, but you might have done so. Change your child somewhere else and wash your hands. If I had been the restaurant manager, I would have asked them to leave. If they hadn’t done so, I would have called the police. I work in public health. We investigate illness outbreaks all the time that come down to things like dirty diapers. You would be appalled if you found out your bus boy didn’t wash his hands after he went potty and then touched your table or chairs. Don’t be part of the problem.

  15. michelle says:

    ITA with jcm’s comments. Even if it’s not illegal, it’s rude and beyond disgusting. There is always an alternative to having to change a diaper at the table, people! We live in a big city so we can run down the street to a place that does have a changing table, or we can use a changing pad on the bathroom floor. If you drove to wherever you are you can use the backseat of your car.

  16. paulabernstein says:

    Thanks for chiming in as a public health professional, jcm. And obviously I’m sorry that anyone had the cops called on them — whether it was about breastfeeding in public or diaper-changing on a table, that’s totally over-the-top and excessive.

  17. Snarky Mama says:

    As my grandma always said, “Table are for glasses, not for asses.”

  18. Huh? says:

    I’m kind of amazed that changing tables aren’t more prominent. I think it stands to reason that if a public bathroom is required of an establishment (unless it’s age resticted) then a changing table should be standard. I have one incident of a post-blowout attempt to change a wriggling baby on the top of a TOILET TANK, only to leave the dirty diaper on and get the hell out of dodge. I thought about the bathroom floor, but that’s just not even an option.

  19. Huh? says:

    Obviously I’m not suggesting that changing your kid in an eating area is OK. If nursing shame is one way to push women out of public, this has got to be another head of the hydra. Don’t go nutty on me here, ladies (and guys- all two of you) I know men change diapers too.

  20. Elaine says:

    I’ve never changed a baby at a table, but I’m always annoyed when there isn’t a changing table or changing area. I hate doing it on the floor. It’s so dirty. The back of the car has been my go-to place when there’s not a better option.

  21. Allison says:

    Who the heck changes their baby in the dining area? What is wrong with people?

    That said, I don’t know what types of public bathrooms you guys frequent, but there is no way on earth I would change my kids on the floor of one, even with a changing pad. Disgusting! I’ve had to change diapers in a quiet corner of the Kansas City airport because they refuse to provide changing tables in the restrooms, and I refuse to do the floor thing.

  22. anon101 says:

    This is ridiculous. Can you imagine you’re sitting at a restaurant (fast food place whatever) eating and the person at the table next to you starts changing a poopy diaper? No. Unacceptable, unsanitary. What about the person who has to sit there after you? I wonder what people did before changing tables existed, or before common sense and common courtesy went out of style.

  23. scootercat says:

    This is why parents are so reviled. The sense of entitlement here is ridiculous. Should DD have a changing table in the bathroom? Probably. Does the fact that it doesn’t give you the right to change your baby on the table? No. Look at it this way: if you, as an adult, have to use a bathroom and there isn’t one available, or if it is too disgusting, does that mean you should drop trou in the middle of the dining area? No. Come on, people. Pack up the kid, take her home (or to an available restroom with appropriate changing facilities) and change her there. That’s what I did. Geez, that’s what most of us did. Still have a problem with DD? Speak to the manager or the owner. Rally the mommy bloggers! But don’t do something stupid and disgusting because you feel like you were entitled to a changing table in the bathroom.

  24. andysarah2k says:

    I also agree. No diaper changes at the table. To the person who suggested a small child cannot ever be placed on a counter while I write a check/get out my wallet/sign my name/etc….that seems over the top to me. Children sit on bus seats and are a welcome part of society.

  25. Mamajoy says:

    Ewwww, gross. I say this as a mom of three. I have never had to resort to changing a baby on the table. Worst comes worst, a pad on the floor. I generally prefer the stroller or the car I came in. And yes, I have changed babies in cars in winter…in Canada

  26. MissLadyTay says:

    I don’t change my underwear in the dining area of a restaurant, so I would not change my child’s diaper there, either. Figure out out, ladies and gentlemen. Sit on the toilet and use your lap as a table if you have to. It’s not that hard.

  27. Marj says:

    LOL Snarky Mama, I love your grandmother!

  28. Lula says:

    That this is even a discussion makes me never want to eat in a restaurant ever, ever again.

  29. Mistress_Scorpio says:

    @Snarky Mama: much love to your grandma!
    Yeah, I’m going to agree that changing your child on a table where people eat is some pretty disgusting and trashy behavior.

  30. Kate says:

    Wow. That might be the most disgusting thing I’ve ever heard of. Desperation? Come on, you’re not in the middle of a desert somewhere. As far as the nursing goes, most women who are going out will bottle their breast milk. Nobody wants to eat while you feed another human from your breasts. I’m sorry, but we have gotten a little too P.C. Everyone’s got a gripe. It’s gross. Period. And please don’t tell me about how it’s natural. So is urinating, but I don’t do that in public either!

  31. Danielle says:

    @Kate – While the diaper change may be extreme, for a mother like myself that could sit and pump for an hour with little to no results, pumping a bottle just to leave the house was out of the question. If my son was hungry, I would feed him. I am not going to let my son cry because there may be other adults in the room with hang-ups about feeding a child they are born to be fed. That is just me.
    Those same people are the ones who will sit and complain, stare you down, and mumble under their breath about the crying baby. Maybe people in America just need some more compassion?

  32. JEssica says:

    If there were no bathrooms in restaurants I bet there would be quite a few accidents in those establishments. I have never changed my baby on a table in a restaurant but I still would change my baby on a table before on a bathroom floor. It is beyond nasty and gross. And I think if you get drinks with ice in most restaurants you get a dose of fecal matter anyway.

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