Eating out: dining with baby in a restaurant

When our baby was a little over a year old, my wife and I decided that the time was right to go for a family outing to one of our favourite, pre-pregnancy restaurants. Personally, I'm more of a take-the-baby-and-see-what-happens kind of guy, but my wife was really worried that our daughter would have a meltdown and we'd be horribly embarrassed.

Once burnt, twice shy

Our first time out was, as my wife feared, a complete disaster. Every thing that could possibly have gone wrong did. It took us a month and a half to summon up the courage to give it another try. And try we did, but this time we had a plan (see below for our suggestions). Naturally, my wife and I were both a little nervous about our next foray into the exciting world of dining out. Never being one to disappoint, our daughter knocked over a glass of water and took a big bite out of one of the crayons that our waiter had thoughtfully brought. But all in all, we knew that our careful planning had paid off when the couple at a nearby table complimented us on our well-behaved child.

Choosing where to go

  • Stay away from crowded, noisy places unless you know that your baby loves that kind of environment.

  • Call ahead to see whether babies are welcome and to make sure the restaurant has enough high chairs.

  • Keep it casual. White tablecloths and crystal wine glasses are to babies what red colour is to bulls.

At the restaurant

  • Sit near an exit. You may need to take an upset baby out of the restaurant quickly.

  • If the baby will be eating with you, don't forget her food and a few extra spoons, just in case one (or two) ends up on the floor.

  • If your baby is walking, don't let her visit other tables unless you're absolutely sure that the people there really want to be visited. It may be cute to you but annoying to others. Also, wandering (and crawling) babies are tripping hazards to waiters.

  • If you're holding the baby on your lap, be very, very careful. Babies are born with a sixth sense about restaurants. They will lunge for whatever's hottest and sharpest and what will make the biggest mess when it's spilled.

  • The restaurant staff will usually not have time to entertain your baby. They've got plenty of other things to do.

  • Don't be embarrassed if you have to leave suddenly. Babies melt down, have blow ups, get sick.

  • Try to make it home for your baby's bedtime. Being in a new place can be stressful enough.

  • For an older baby, take some toys or activities to keep them entertained while waiting for the meal

See what suits your baby and adjust the plan accordingly. Finally, you'll only learn how to improve it by being brave enough to try your first family outing.

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