Going to a restaurant with a baby can be the worst nightmare or a pleasant family experience…
Believe it or not, the scenario largely depends on a little planning on your side…
Life doesn’t stop when you become a parent, but the lifestyle does change. To what extent – it is up to you to choose. You may decide to give up some of the “old” little joys of life, but your child doesn’t really need this sacrifice from you.
If eating out used to be a nice family tradition when there were just the two of you, nothing prevents you from having those special outings along with your little one.
Agreed, a relaxed two-hour dinner in a posh restaurant may not always be possible when your baby is around (then hire a babysitter instead), but with a bit of careful planning, eating out can still be a wonderful experience for all of you.
Here are a few things you should consider if you want to go to a restaurant with a baby.
Tips for Going to a Restaurant With a Baby
- Choose a child-friendly restaurant. Often, smaller family-run establishments welcome parents with babies and have everything to please a little client, including a special menu for kids. The presence of high chairs is usually one more positive sign; a good playground is like an answer to your prayers if you have a toddler or older child.
- Make sure that your kid is not too hungry or tired (and awake) when you arrive at a restaurant. For that, choose the timing wisely (late dinner is generally a bad idea) and have some snacks or milk ready. With a really young baby, nap time can be a fantastic time for going to a restaurant if your baby is not too sound-sensitive.
- Formal dining with a kid who is too young is likely to be a disaster, but if your child is a little older to understand and learn table manners, it can be a fun experience.
- Choose establishments with a higher noise level (but not music that is too loud!) if you know that your child can’t keep quiet for more than a few minutes. Nevertheless, encourage him/her to speak in a lower tone and avoid clanging with a spoon. Bringing your own plastic baby cutlery can be a good idea for babies who love banging with whatever he or she can reach.
- Buffets and cafeterias, not to mention specially themed restaurants for kids, are a surefire option for children of any age. Even for babies that won’t actually eat the buffet food, a restaurant themed for children is more likely to have visitors that are children (obviously), and young people, in general, are often found very interesting by babies.
- If your child is still a young baby who can’t sit in a high chair but rather lies in his stroller, ask for a table where you can have the carrier next to where you sit.
- If you need to be able to breastfeed your baby, either ask if the restaurant has nice restrooms or if you can have a table where you can breastfeed in public, facing the wall. This way, you can nurse your baby without the stress of bothering anyone around you. Also, remember to wear a good nursing bra and top.
- If needed, remember to bring your own baby food. For babies from 8 months and up, some interesting finger foods are ideal. It’s not so greasy and something that can keep your baby occupied for a while.
- Don’t rely on a few crayons that may (or may not!) be offered as entertainment for your child. They will engage him/her for a few minutes at max. Pack his/her favorite toys, or pick up a couple of new ones (choose ones that produce less noise). If your child is interested in books – the better it is, as they tend to draw the attention for longer periods. For slightly older children, an iPad can make room for quite long dinners. :-)
- Remember to keep baby wipes handy for any mess your baby creates. It is not fun to have to sit and wait for the waiter to clean the table after some accident.
- Make eating out exciting and educating for your child – talk to him/her, explain what is going on around, point at interesting objects and name them, show how to use cutlery, etc.
- If your child is able to make his/her food choice, encourage him/her to do so. He/she may even place an order, provided “please” and “thank you” are a part of it.
- Pay the bill before you order a dessert – in case your child is not in the mood to behave well any longer, you can leave at any moment.
- Try to tip well, especially if the staff was helpful and patient and your child was too noisy or messy. An attentive and understanding waiter can make a lot of difference in your eating out experience.
Now, that’s 14 excuses less for not eating out together, even if you are new parents! If you have additional tips to share on how to go to a restaurant with a baby, please do so by writing a comment below.
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Paula Dennholt founded Easy Baby Life in 2006 and has been a passionate parenting and pregnancy writer since then. Her parenting approach and writing are based on studies in cognitive-behavioral models and therapy for children and her experience as a mother and stepmother. Life as a parent has convinced her of how crucial it is to put relationships before rules. She strongly believes in positive parenting and a science-based approach.
Paula cooperates with a team of pediatricians who assist in reviewing and writing articles.