How to enjoy a meal out in a restaurant … with your baby

We all dislike “those” children. The ones who scream in restaurants and jump on the bench seats and throw things and cry … while we, the other patrons, are trying to enjoy our meal.

I feel very strongly that I don’t want any of “those” children.

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My mom took me and Little Sis to restaurants our whole lives, and instilled good restaurant manners. I don’t want to be one of those families who refuse to take their children to restaurants until they’re older. I want Baby Boy to understand that when you go to a restaurant, you are polite, calm, do not throw food, etc. 
Here is what Darling Husband and I have learned, in our quest to raise a restaurant-savvy babe …
  1. Pack lots of supplies. I usually bring several bibs and several spoons, because some of them always wind up on the floor. Before you leave the house, wet a couple of baby facecloths and store them in a baggie. You’ll need to clean off their face and hands, and it’s nicer than using a baby wipe. BUT make sure to also bring a bunch of baby wipes, as well, for cleaning off the restaurant table, highchair tray, etc.
  2. Pack changing essentials in a small case. I hate walking through a crowded restaurant with the bulky diaper bag and a wiggling baby. And sometimes restaurant washrooms are small! So I only take a small case to the bathroom that contains one diaper, some wipes, a changing pad, and a wetbag (for the dirty diaper).
  3. Choose your restaurant carefully. Darling Husband and I are slowly compiling a list of places we feel comfortable bringing Baby Boy. We sometimes scope them out first alone, on a date night, so we can be sure it’s the kind of place babies are welcomed (at least not shunned). We know we could technically bring him to most places, but we’d feel awkward bringing him somewhere too quiet or formal. We look for places with “good” highchairs (ones with trays and safe straps), and places where they have kid menus.
  4. Time it well. I laughed when my good friend Lindsey over at like a hamster on a wheel blogged about going out with her husband and baby at a hilariously early hour (and being the youngest person in the restaurant by 30 years). But it’s true! When Darling Husband and I go out for dinner, we are all ready to go the second Baby Boy wakes up from his afternoon nap (usually around 4 or 4:30 p.m.). We change him, dress up, and jump straight into the car (with his dinner in tow). This ensures we can be out for a couple of hours while he’s in a good mood. I’d rather eat dinner at 5 p.m. with a happy baby than eat dinner at 7 p.m. with a screaming baby.
  5. Gauge the baby’s mood. Sometimes Darling Husband and I feel like going to a certain restaurant, but realize that Baby Boy is just not having a good enough day for it. If his patience seems short, we’ve been out running errands and don’t have that much time left before his next nap, we’ll choose a quickie restaurant instead — so we can get in and get out before he melts down. We’ll save the nicer restaurant for a day when he’s fresh up from a nap and we have enough time for it.
  6. Bring on the food. I usually bring double the amount of baby food that Baby Boy usually eats, so that he has a variety (and it keeps him busier for longer). I bring foods I can spoon-feed him (like purees, applesauce, yogurt), and tidy foods he can feed himself (baby crackers, puffs, Cheerios). This is not the time to give him sloppy buttered noodles and other mess-making finger foods. I don’t want him to be coated in glop by the end of the meal — we’re in public!
  7. Be ready with the beverages. I always bring a sippy-cup of water and a big bottle of breast milk. I let him sip the water during his meal, and at the end — when he starts entering cranky territory — I hand over the bottle. Even if he’s full, he’ll suck on it and look around the room, momentarily calm.
  8. Don’t forget an emergency treat. I always hold back one “secret weapon” food to give Baby Boy during that crucial moment when he’s finished his dinner, is bored of his bottle, is starting to fuss, and Darling Husband and I are still eating. My secret weapon food is a semi-thawed frozen watermelon rind. He absolutely loves them, and they keep him quiet for a while.
  9. Cheque, please! Who has time for dessert? Not people dining with a baby. When we’ve eaten our last bites of dinner, and the server comes to clear our plates, we immediately ask for the cheque. Baby Boy is usually doing OK at this point, but starting to show signs of impending crankiness. Asking for the cheque leads to waiting for the cheque, and then tracking down the server to pay the cheque — you’re not home-free yet. We have it down to a science, where Darling Husband pays and I get the baby packed up and into his coat, boots, etc. The mission? Get to the car before he starts to fuss.
  10. Don’t be “that” family. You know — the family who leaves Cheerios all over the floor, a gloppy high chair, and general chaos caused by their baby. I was a waitress the summer before university, so I totally sympathize with servers who have to clean up disgusting tables. So I always wipe down Baby Boy’s high chair when he’s done, pick up any food he’s dropped, and pile the food/used wipes onto our empty plates for easy clean-up. Your server will thank you for it!

2 Comments on “How to enjoy a meal out in a restaurant … with your baby

  1. I was raised a restaurant kid and I feel the same way about “those” families. Your tips are great!

  2. Love this post! I can't wait until Baby J starts eating cereal and solids so we can feed him while we eat in restaurants. I'm very much pro raising restaurant kids!

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