The Eating-Out-with-Baby Survival Guide
There comes a time in every new parent's life when they throw caution to the wind and go for it — they head out to a restaurant to eat out with a baby. With a little preparation, everyone can have an enjoyable experience!
Pack your own high chair
We learned the hard way that some restaurants don't have highchairs — or don't have enough highchairs. If this happens to you, don't throw in the towel — get a booster that can attach to any chair. I love the Mamas & Papas Baby Bud Booster because it comes with soft, easy-to-clean padding and a removable tray. It's nice enough to use in place of a high chair at home or when you're out traveling as well.
Make it easy for after-meal cleanup
You don't eat directly off of the table, so why should your baby? Try the Mastrad Lil' Placemat that rolls up compactly so it won't take up much space. It even has a little well to catch falling crumbs so you don't need to apologize so much to the server for the mess when you leave.
B.Y.O.M. — Bring Your Own Meal
Your restaurant of choice may not have baby-friendly munchies. Don't worry; it's perfectly fine to bring your own baby food out with you. When I pack food for my little, I love using the Fuel Cell from Ju-Ju-Be. It's insulated with Thinsulate, machine washable, and the perfect size for what I need without being too big. It even has a handle.
A cut about the rest
This one is in the category of “things you didn't know you couldn't live without.” BiteSizers Portable Food Scissors can be used with one hand to cut up any portions of your meal you want to share. There is even a built-in circle to guide you through cutting just the right sizes to avoid choking.
Be prepared to combat boredom. Make sure you have something your child likes to do with you, whether it's a favorite picture book he can flip through, a rattle to chew on, or crayons to color with (if he's old enough to not see them as food).
Keep those clothes clean(er)
A good bib is a must-have when eating out. I love the Silibib from Silikids because it rolls up easily, it's easy to wipe clean (for the illusion of a neat eater), and it's got a little pocket to catch the crumbs.
Practice makes perfect
When first venturing out, try somewhere casual. Is there a restaurant you used to frequent before you had your baby? Go back to where you feel most comfortable to test the waters. Once you've got a feel for how your baby does at the table, you can try somewhere a little more formal.
When worse comes to worst … laugh it off
The most important thing you can bring with you is not a baby gadget of any kind: it's your sense of humor. Instead of getting stressed out, view any mishaps as part of the adventure of parenthood. Go into the experience with an idea of how much is too much. Make plans in advance of who will take the baby out for a walk if he gets a little fussy and of when you'll throw in the towel and leave.
Don't forget the extra cash!
Remember that babies in restaurants don't just mean extra work for you — they are extra work for the staff, who may need to clean up more crumbs from off the floor than usual or make extra trips to the kitchen to get your specially requested cucumbers or peas for the baby. Leave a bit of an extra tip to show your appreciation.
No matter what goes on, remember that dining out as a family is an experience all of you will come to enjoy — even if it takes a few tries to get there.
Do you enjoy dining out with your little one?