Travelling with Cloth - Short Flights

Today we have a guest blogger. This post was written by my friend, Jessica. She has a daughter named Eleanor and they've done quite a bit of flying in Eleanor's short life. They've mostly flown domestic flights within Australia and have tried both cloth nappies and disposables while travelling. The topic of travelling with cloth is brought up so often and not all of us are jetting off on long-haul flights, so I thought a special blog about short flights and focusing on the actual "being on a plane part" would be useful. Hopefully, it is to you.

You’re a reusable nappy user. You are flying a short distance. Are cloth nappies too hard? Do you switch to disposables everytime you get on a plane? Taking your modern cloth nappies Australia wide may not be as hard (or as crazy) as you think.

You may remember Jenna’s blog a few months ago mentioning a friend who was interchanging between disposables and modern cloth nappies to fly and ending up in a bit of trouble. That friend was me. And that trouble was poo. Lots of it. ???

Mother taking selfie with baby in a carrier

We started using cloth nappies when Eleanor was 7 weeks old and started travelling on planes regularly shortly after that. My husband lived in Canberra and she and I lived in Brisbane. Cloth nappies were always on my radar but as we were flying most weeks, I had been hesitant to transition to reusable nappies. Big nappy bags to house my unused AND used nappies! Harder to fit! More frequent changes! The smell of carrying used nappies! These were just a few of the things that went through my head. Needless to say, I opted for disposables to “make my life easy”. How wrong was I?!

My daughter was always hard to fit in disposable nappies, to begin with. We tried every brand. Up a size, down a size. Tighter here. Looser there. We opted to transition to cloth nappies because of this problem. That and the incessant nudging from a certain friend (thanks Jenna). We ended up very easily transitioning from disposables to modern cloth nappies. Cloth worked well for us at home and in hindsight, I’m not sure why I ever thought switching back to disposables on the plane would be a good idea.

Fast forward to our first flight since transitioning to cloth nappies at home... We had been in cloth for a few weeks now. As you all know, or will soon know, babies grow at a rate of knots! So I opted for the size up from what we had been using as I had tried a few before starting our cloth journey and it seemed like the right move, yeah? Boy was I in for a world of hurt.

Poo up the back. Poo down the legs. Poo on my hand. Poo everywhere. I had to hold a newborn while getting all my nappy changing paraphernalia out of the overhead locker. Find all the necessary bits and pieces including a full change of clothes (in winter, in Canberra). Try not get poo all over everything, well over more of everything. Then make my way to the back of the plane to stand in line for the one change table-equipped toilet to be free.

Tip 1: Pack mini nappy bags in your big bag. Pack a wetbag for general changes that has wipes, a nappy, change mat etc. Also make sure it's a double zip wetbag so there's a section to put the dirty nappy. Then pack a change of clothes in another wetbag in case the worst happens. This will make your life easier when you do have to do a change.

This is where it got interesting. Pants off. Socks off (she had a knack for getting her feet in her dirty nappy). Onesie over the head without getting poo in her hair. Ok done. Near naked baby in a freezing cold plane. She loses it. When your child is screaming in a normal situation, you tend to lose all ability to think straight. Add the stressful situation of a confined space and hundreds of people listening to you completely terrorise your child and you forget your name, let alone how to change a nappy.

Wipes out. Clean the bum. Put the new nappy on. Ok clothes. Now I’m not sure why but for most children getting dressed at that age is pure torture for them, my daughter was no exception. And she made her opinion known... loudly...

Tip 2: Stick to what you know works. I had trouble getting the size right on disposables and we had only been out of them for a matter of weeks. If you do switch to disposables to travel I'd recommend testing them at home beforehand. Also, just stick to what you know. Why use something you’re unfamiliar with in a high-pressure situation? It's amazing how muscle memory can take over when our babies scream. Use what YOU know and what you know WORKS.

Finally the new outfit is on. Not nearly as cute as the one picked out for the flight, but they are clothes. Now for the disapproving stares. We walk out of the toilet after what feels like 2 hours and there is a line half the length of the plane waiting to get into the toilet. The stewardess, who looks all of 18, turns to me and says in the most condescending and pitying voice “Do you have someone waiting at the gate to help you once we land?”.

Now I'm sure this young lady meant well but if I'd had a spare hand I would have ripped her a new one, fortunately for her, my hands were quite full. Instead, I just smiled and said, “Yes I do, thanks.” Knowing full well my husband was only getting me from the pick-up zone (because paying for parking is far too convenient) and that he is ALWAYS late.

Tip 3: Don’t stress. Easier said than done, I know but who cares what strangers are thinking about you? Chances are they are sympathetic because they’ve been there, are there or really just don’t care. Just do what you need to do and don’t worry about how long it’s taking. You and your baby have a right to exist in public, remember that.

Red haired mother with baby in a carrier smiling at the camera.

After a good 15 minutes and some boob, I had a happy baby again. I look down at the time and we are only 40 minutes into the 1 hour 40 flight. Excellent. ?‍♀️

Now if you thought the madness was over, you’re wrong. As we descended, I felt that rumble again. Not only was she pooing again but I couldn’t get out of my seat. Luckily this one didn’t make it up her back and I thought we were ok. (Hint: we were not ok) I bundled her up in my carrier. Headed out to the waiting area. Pulled her out of the carrier to get her changed and realised that we have had another leak in the time it took me to disembark, grab our luggage and head outside.

Tip 4: Don’t rush and have a plan. It’s a good idea to check out the airport map before your trip and find out where the change tables are. For example, the toilets near the baggage collection area in Canberra do not have a change table. Know your options and go and change your baby rather than rushing to get to the car. Your loved one can do another lap or pay an extra $10 in parking to ensure you, your baby and your carrier don’t get covered in poo.

I persisted with disposables for the next two flights and all my experiences were similar. Having learnt my lesson, here are my takeaways.

Stick to what you know. What is easy for you at home will be easier when you're on a plane. I have never *touch wood* had a leak in cloth on a plane. I know what snaps she is on, how many inserts to use, how long they will last and how to very quickly get one on and off again. Just because it’s not the norm doesn’t mean it isn’t your norm.

Also to answer some of my previously stated concerns; your nappy bag for a plane trip will be no different to when you are going out for a few hours so there will be plenty of room. Just don’t keep unnecessary things in there.

Using cloth nappies you are used to will be easier to put on a baby in a tiny plane bathroom than a foreign piece of plastic. You know how long your bub lasts in a nappy so can plan the changes accordingly. If the usual time between changes is 3 hours, maybe go with 2 so you aren’t dealing with the risk of a clothing change.

If you use wetbags there will be no smell. If you have a particularly smelly poo and are worried put your used nappy in a mini wet bag and then a bigger one.

Sleeping baby in mother’s arms on a plane.

Travelling a short distance with cloth nappies is not a big drama at all. It’s really down to preparation and sticking to what you are comfortable with. Really it’s no different to spending the day out at the park or at the shops.

Next time you’re taking a short trip, know that cloth while travelling is as simple and as easy as you want it to be.

Update: Having travelled again with my baby recently I would add one more thing. If you're not used to changing side-on it might be worth practising. I find it really hard and practising even two or three times before I was exhausted and stressed out in an aeroplane bathroom would have been helpful.

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