This article was first published in 2013 but has since been updated. It is courtesy of Alexis Barad-Cutler.
Sometimes when I look back at what it was like to take my son to a restaurant when he was really, really little, I think about how good I had it. He basically snoozed in his stroller. The only food he needed at the time was milk — courtesy of Yours Truly. Over the past year, however, things definitely, um, changed -- especially when he started on solids. I remember the moment when I thought, "What? You mean I have to make sure he eats too, now? I can barely shovel the food into my own mouth!"
I know that the mere thought of taking a shower and getting dressed is pretty overwhelming when you have an infant, but believe me — if you can just get yourself together enough to step out of the house and into a little cafe, you'll feel pretty great. If you have the sleepy kind of infant (unlike me), you'll be able to actually enjoy your food, because your baby will likely be sleeping. If your baby is fussy (like mine was), you'll still feel great, because you made it out of the house and are actually out in the world and not burrowing an even deeper dent in the part of your couch where you and baby mainly hang out.
Tips for Dining Out with a Younger Infant
- If you're a nursing mom, try to nurse your infant before you leave the house. If you're not nursing, feed your baby a bottle before you go.
- If you're nursing, and you're a rock star mom who is totally down with nursing in public, bring a nursing cover. Or, if your baby takes a bottle, bring one.
- If you are not going far, a carrier or wrap is probably the best way to go. Sure, your infant might catch a few of your crumbs while you're eating, but it is less overwhelming than lugging around your stroller. But if that's where your baby is most comfortable, bring the stroller.
- Repeat this mantra: Everyone was a baby once. If your baby cries, well, that's life. Of course, if your baby is wailing bloody murder, consider taking your baby outside until he calms down.
- If you are out by yourself, order something you can eat with one hand. But if you are out with a child-free friend or your partner, order something that you actually can use a fork and knife to eat vs. the kind of thing you usually scarf while standing over the sink. And if you're really feeling like living, a glass of wine. You deserve it.
Tips for Dining Out with an Older InfantYour baby is starting solids. Congrats! Now things are going to get messy. But also kind of fun. Word to the wise: You'll need a longer list of things to leave the house with.
- Food to pack for baby: mashed avocados or yogurt with fruit blended in were always my go-to items because they required very little preparation. And squeezy food packs can be fantastic. Also, a little baggie of puffs. I found it much easier to just keep a whole container of puffs in the bottom of my stroller so I always had some to share with friends.
- Bring a bib or two. And a change of clothes in case things get really fun/messy.
- Bring a friend with a baby. You'll feel less like The Town Hunchback.
- Now you will likely need a high chair, so make sure to for restaurants with highchairs. If not, then your baby will likely be happy to sit on your lap and throw all of your cutlery on the floor.
- Bread is always a handy toy/something to suck on (I know! Clutch your pearls! I gave him bread before he had teeth!), so make sure there's some on the table. Better yet, ask for some on your way to be seated.
- Make sure to clear all the cutlery and breakables from out of baby's way. Waitstaff have a tendency to put the steak knife right in front of your kid, so be on the lookout. No one has to get hurt!
- My baby has always needed entertainment. He has never, ever, been the baby that's happy to entertain himself looking at a spoon. So, I brought toys that I could attach to the high chair, like a cloth book with little touch and feel tags. And always, ALWAYS a pacifier on a string.
- Remember the mantra: Everyone was a baby once. If your baby throws food on the floor, smile apologetically and ask for extra napkins so you can clean up. Try not to be That Mom.
- Leave a nice tip!
More on Dining with Kids
- Online Community: Dining Out/Restaurants with Children
- The Family Room Blog: Tips for Bringing Homemade Baby Food to Daycare
- The Family Room: Tips for Toddler Table Manners