5 Tips for Eating Out with Infants

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Image via Flickr/ littlemoresunshine

Isn't going out to dinner such a nice treat? Relaxing after a long week, really connecting with your spouse over a meal that you don't have to make, and enjoying the quiet solitude of … I'm sorry, I can't even finish that sentence. It's just that it was supposed to be a joke about how parents don't get to have a quiet night out once the baby comes, but the joke gets lost somewhere between my longing for a night like that, realizing that to have it I have to pay a babysitter for it, all of my children have to somehow be miraculously healthy enough to leave them with a babysitter, and the baby has to be OK without the boob juice for a least a few hours. Sigh.

Sigh.

Of course, you can try to venture to the restaurant with the babies in tow.

And that — a trip to a restaurant with three children 5 and under — is where you lose the words “relax,” “connecting,” “quiet,” and “solitude.” Because, you see, those things are mutually exclusive. This doesn't mean that you can't have a successful evening out with a baby in tow. It just means you're going to need to change your expectations for success.

{ MORE: 6 Tips for Taking Kids to Restaurants }

Somewhere between nursing in a bathroom stall, changing a diaper in a booth, and going through 800 packages of saltine crackers, my husband and I have learned a few things about what makes for a successful night when taking children out to eat. Here are a few things that might help you to order

Here are a few things that might help you to order cake and actually get to eat it, too!

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Image via Flickr/ davitydave

1. Go for kid-friendly

As much as you might be tempted to fulfill your craving for surf and turf from the popular upscale eatery in town, chances are patrons there are likely to be less understanding of childhood mayhem and colicky babies. If there are tablecloths on the tables, I would generally tell you to steer clear, unless you enjoy scowls and hushed judgments.

{ MORE: Eating Out on a Budget: Kid's Eat Free Deals at Local Restaurants }

There are some really great kid-friendly places, and some even offer “kids eat free” nights or “kids pay what they weigh.” It also doesn't hurt to have a few crayons and things on the table to keep them occupied.

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Image via Flickr/ daryl_mitchell

2. Look for a private area

There's a local restaurant that we like to frequent because they have a few separate “party” rooms. As long as no one has booked a party, they allow us to sit there. It's great because we can shut the doors and let the kids get down from the table if they need to while we're waiting for our food. These rooms are usually free on weeknights, but weekends are hit or miss.

I have always felt like I could nurse my babies comfortably in this little privacy bubble, and you don't get a lot of people passing by your table and breathing germs on your newborn! These rooms also provide a little more space for bouncing a newborn on your hip without knocking into a server with a tray full of drinks!

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Image via Flickr/ basykes

3. Buffets are your friend

The hardest part about taking kids out to eat is the waiting between ordering your food and actually having your food available to eat. Buffets cut that waiting time out! It's glorious. I can usually even get a little food in my belly before my newborn realizes that the car seat has stopped moving and wants to wake up!

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Image via Flickr/ TerryJohnston

4. Choose a place with CLEAN bathrooms

I've never spent more time in a public restroom than I do when I take kids out to eat. From washing hands and potty breaks, to diaper changes and nursing in a stall (yes, I've done this in emergency situations), you're going to be spending a significant amount of your evening in the bathroom.

If it's nasty, you're going to lose your appetite, and your balancing skills will be put to the test! A clean bathroom is a sign that the other areas of the restaurant, like the kitchen, are clean as well.

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Image via Flickr/ kennymatic

5. Plan ahead

If your kids are tired, not feeling well, teething, or just plain fussy, it's probably not a good night to eat out. Unfamiliar surroundings are likely to exacerbate underlying issues. If your baby has been fussy at home, chances are your baby will be fussy at the restaurant. Just ask yourself if you're up for it.

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If the answer seems exhausting, it probably will be. Talk with your spouse about what your plan will be if the baby is fussy, if you'll switch roles taking care of the baby and the other children, or if one will eat while the other tends the baby and then switch. Talk these things through so one of you doesn't end up eating cold food — or not eating at all — while the other has no idea that there's a problem.

{ MORE: Tips for Taking Your Toddler Out to Eat }

If you're looking for a relaxing night, a restaurant with an infant is probably not the best choice. But with a little planning and smart choices, it can be done successfully!

Alright, we know you've got them. We want to hear your restaurant horror stories! Mine involves pacing the restaurant with a crying infant and a nursing cover — I'll let you guess why. Tell us in the comments!

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What do you think?

5 Tips for Eating Out with Infants

Jeanna Strassburg is a wife, and mother of three, who enjoys kitchen dance parties and summer time! Jeanna received her bachelor’s degree in Education from Brigham Young University-Idaho in April of 2007. She enjoys spending her time cooking, cleaning and tending to the proper duties of a stay at home mother… NOPE! Truthfully, she enjoys eating the food, but not making it or cleaning up after it. She likes to have a clean home, but loathes laundry and dishes. Loves her children, but coul ... More

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6 comments

  1. Dena says:

    I recommend eating out at a fairly frequent basis so your little one feels comfortable in that environment and knows what to expect. Mine is almost 2 1/2 now and we try to order his meal as soon as we sit down so that it typically arrives shortly after we order our food. Then he can eat in courses since he often samples a little from our plates which helps keep him busy longer.

    • pumpkin says:

      and i agree with you wholeheartedly… my son is almost 9 months old now and new places are no problem for him (except the dr, smart little cookie figured THAT out) but he is to the point where he needs to eat when he sees us eating. hes not big enough for kids meals but we try to go places that offer guacamole (he loves the stuff and we pick out the chunks)
      but as a waitress and one who works in a place where they offer kids eat free i offer to get the kids meals going ahead of the adults (especially if they are ordering steaks, ribs or seafood) and i have done this even before i became a mom (been an auntie a long time :p )
      happy child = happy parents (hopefully)

  2. jesster131 says:

    My little guy is almost 2. We have been lucky so far. He is a social little guy & will smile & wave to all. He was easy going & a formula baby as I am on medication that makes breast feeding not an option. We bring a few small snacks for him & along with his meal he samples ours as well. We have always taken turns with feeding him & handling the fussy moments. I also tend to think of him when I order my meal so if he suddenly decides he hates his chicken fingers or pasta I will share mine. He loves to share with us.

  3. Kira says:

    Good tips, but why in the world would you nurse in a bathroom stall? There are laws in place so you can breastfeed wherever you want…uncovered even! Don’t limit yourself to the bathroom (clean or not). You wouldn’t eat your dinner in the bathroom stall, why should your baby?

    • animelovervt says:

      My munchkin can be very easily distracted … I haven’t ever had to nurse in a bathroom because of it (yet) but I could see that being one such situation where it might be a little less busy to get baby to eat.

  4. mommy nhoj says:

    Not so much of a horror and embarassment but more of being uncomfortable and not enjoying the food and the ambiance. My baby hates stroller and yes, high chair. Anything that will confine her, she hates that. So I always have her wrap in my arms or besides me. My husband and I take turns who will carry her , so each can eat. Most of the times, I defer eating after he’s finished. I sometimes picked up some finger foods while feeding the baby. Maybe I’ll have something more to tell soon. She’s just 10 months now.

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