Who's hungry? If you're looking
forward to taking your baby out to a restaurant, you're in good company. (And
now that spring has sprung, those outdoor cafés look particularly inviting.)
But before you decide to head out
and break bread together, it helps to know how to handle yourself (and your
child) when dining away from home.
Chew on This
Dining out with a little one can be
a breeze, especially with an infant. "When your baby's a newborn, going
out to eat is surprisingly painless," says Amber and Andy Ankowski,
authors of Think Like a Baby: 33 Simple
Research Experiments You Can Do at Home to Better Understand Your Baby's
Developing Mind (www.doctoranddad.com).
That's because at this point, your little one still sleeps a lot." The husband-and-wife team
recommends bringing your car seat and setting it up alongside you as you dine.
"Make sure to feed your baby shortly before you plan to be at the
restaurant," they advise. "Once your baby's belly is full, it will be
a whole lot easier to fill yours."
For those wide-eyed babies who are
more curious than sleepy, be sure to pack some supplies. Christine Knight, who
blogs about her adventures of traveling and eating out with her child (www.christineknight.me), suggests
"a toy they haven't seen before, or a spoon will work just as well, and a
piece of bread to gnaw on."
When Knight was eating out and
needed to breastfeed her baby, she brought along a nursing cover and nursed her
daughter at the table. "I had my baby in New York City, and there was often nowhere
else to go to feed her," she recalls. "I did try and time the
feedings around our dining out after she was a few months old and would nurse
her before and after our outings."
Whether or not you breastfeed at the
table or in private is ultimately a personal choice. "If covering up or
going someplace private helps you and your baby feel more at ease, then we say
go for it," say the Ankowskis. "But don't be surprised if your own
personal comfort level with breastfeeding in public changes over time."
Don't Cry Over Spilt Milk
Even if your baby arrives at a
restaurant on a full stomach and with plenty of toys and snacks to keep her
occupied, it doesn't rule out the possibility of fussiness. If your baby
becomes visibly (and audibly) upset at the table, simply excuse yourself for a
few minutes and step outside. "My husband and I used to take turns…and
walking around the street until our baby calmed down," says Knight.
"With an older baby, putting them on your lap and distracting them
And as your baby grows and turns
into a toddler, eating out may become more challenging, but it doesn't mean you
have to stay home, either. Knight suggests packing a few toys they haven't
played with in a while and some crayons, while the Ankowskis suggest bringing
along some foods you know your child will eat, like yogurt or a bagel.
Ensuring a smooth dining experience
means practicing good behavior at home. "If your child runs around
yelling, screaming and climbing on the furniture during your normal family
dinnertime, there's a good chance he'll do the exact same thing when you go
out," says the Ankowskis. By setting clear expectations about how to
behave at mealtime, you'll better be able to enforce rules outside of the home,