When you first bring your baby to a restaurant at a young age, chances are she will simply fall asleep in her car seat while you eat. But as baby grows, dining out can become a bigger hassle than it’s worth. If you don’t want to give up on restaurant dining, you can still enjoy a meal out without major stress if you go prepared and make a few adjustments to your usual routine.
Choose Your Destination Wisely
Unfortunately, now that you are a parent, some restaurants are probably not a good choice unless you leave the baby at home with a sitter. While most restaurants are somewhat child-friendly and offer high chairs, there are some choices that are better than others. You have every right to have your child in a restaurant, but just as you would expect consideration from other diners, you need to give the same consideration.
Choose a restaurant where you won’t be the only one with a child and aren’t likely to disturb anyone attempting to have a quiet night out. With plenty of family restaurants in all types of cuisine available to choose from, it’s not hard to find a place where your baby will be welcome even if she is a bit on the noisy side.
Restaurants that are accustomed to serving families will also have staff prepared for the special pleasure of having a baby at the table. They will have plenty of high chairs, not mind a little mess, and even offer entertainment options for little ones such as crayons.
Feed Baby First
Depending on how old your baby is, odds are you won’t be ordering baby food from the menu, so there is no real reason for her to wait to eat. When you are seated and have placed your order, go ahead and feed your baby so that she won’t be hungry and therefore fussy. If you are ordering something off the menu for baby, put the order in as soon as you arrive and request that they bring it out as soon as it’s ready.
Reserve some small finger foods or snacks to offer to baby while you are eating in order to keep her occupied, but offer the bulk of her meal early on so that she will be full and satisfied.
Keep Baby Entertained
Showing up at a restaurant without anything to occupy your baby is a recipe for disaster. Keep a variety of toys on hand so that you can dole them out slowly as they are needed. Toys that can be attached to the high chair or table to avoid having to pick them up from the floor repeatedly are a good idea. Keep some toys that are only for eating out so that your baby will be excited to see them and they aren’t old news. It might mean carrying a lot of stuff around, but if the payoff is a relatively peaceful meal, it’s well worth it.
Remember that eating out with a baby will never be quite the same experience that it was before you became a parent. It’s a little more rushed, a little louder and a little messier than it was before. You can still enjoy eating at a restaurant, however, if you go in prepared and are able to take a little chaos in stride.