Dining Out With A Baby

Dinning out with a newborn is something new parents fear!!! Given a chance everyone would find a baby sitter and head out for a date night. But once in a while it’s a great idea to get your baby out into a new space and see how they react. I’m personally not a fan of taking a nanny along to parties and restaurants and here are some of my experiences dinning out.

My husband and I like to travel, eat out and be outdoors quite a bit. To make sure all this happens in a smooth manner we had to get our son Neel used to his car seat, stroller and high chair from the get go. I feel like this is a pre-requisite for having a happy meal with a baby.

Your first dinner date with your baby

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Family Dinner Date

If your baby is under 6 months and still on breast milk or formula make sure to feed your baby, change diaper, dress them in comfy sleep-suit and pick a time when your baby naps for a 3 hour stretch. Choose a dim-lit, quiet restaurant and the chances are that your baby will sleep through.

 

Don’t go to a new restaurant that just opened a week ago and has a 30 minute wait- make a reservation ahead of time!!! Firstly it will be packed and could intimidate your baby plus you don’t want to take a chance dining somewhere new and be disappointed at the end of your meal especially when you have made the effort to head out with a baby. Go to a tried and tested place that you feel comfortable. Preferably some place where the staff recognizes you.

Plan around Naptime

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Neel and Jay having lunch together

The first time we took Neel out for dinner was to Prego (an Italian restaurant at Westin, Hi-tech city); he was about 6 weeks old and by then he had a rough food and nap schedule. To make things quick- we ordered our drinks and food all at once. We spent about an hour and a half in total outdoors. Did we feel guilty? May be a little because we were taking a sleeping new born to a restaurant.  But guess what, he had no clue that we stepped out and he slept through the dinner . Also we picked a quiet, dim-lit restaurant that helped him sleep through.

 

Handling an impromptu plan

There is always a possibility that you make sudden plans or the scheduled baby sitter doesn’t show up and you are forced to take your baby along with you. Yes this happened to us once and here’s the story-

It was our friend’s birthday and we were invited for dinner at home but plans changed as we decided to get a quick drink at MOB (a brew pub in Jubilee hills).  This was Neel’s first pub visit  Luckily it was a weekday and there was not much crowd. Neel sat in his car seat looked around the lights but every now and then asked for some attention. We rocked the car seat and he took a short nap. This was not the most baby friendly place but we managed to pull it off and it amuses us when we think about it.

Let your baby explore new textures and food 

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Neel loving the spread!

If your baby has started solids and is on a three or four meal schedule then its ok to occasionally let your baby try something new at a restaurant- like mashed potato or pumpkin sour or fruit smoothie etc.

 

Neel once crashed a Sunday brunch gossip session with my girls at N Grill (a European bar and grill in jubilee hills). Luckily all my friends were new moms and there was nothing to be embarrassed if Neel cried or threw a tantrum (which he did as he got zero attention- since mommy was busy gossiping). We needed up giving him a plate of pasta and mashed potatoes. He played with the food, made a mess, dirtied his clothes but at the end he was happy and so were we.

No high chair, No problem! 

When we were in Sri Lanka, we had breakfast in a small shack that didn’t have a high chair. So we used a plastic chair, tied a beach towel across and pulled it close to the table. A make do high chair of sorts! With time you just figure out ways to adapt to new scenarios.

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Improvised baby chair…

We also faced a situation when we couldn’t manage a make do high chair hence used a baby carrier throughout the dinner.

 

TIP- always carry a baby carrier while traveling.

Things to carry
For babies who have started solids- carry food for your (even if your baby has just had a meal). Take their favorite meal instead of trying something new. Babies would like to be a part of dinner table and it’s a great way to start this habit. (Don’t hesitate to ask the restaurant for a piece of tomato or a banana or a cup of yogurt. Most of restaurant stocks them and will be more than happy bring some for you)

Keep toys, rattle or anything that can distract your baby. Neel loves to play with a fork so that’s our go to toy if he starts to fuss. Really speaking you just have to make things work- if it helps give a banana peel or a dollop of mash potato or just about anything that can grab your babies attention for a bit.  But lets not get them hooked to ‘wheels on the bus’ while having dinner! 

Having a conversation making eye contact with the baby definitely helps.
Relax and be calm 

There is nothing to be embarrassed if your baby starts crying during your meal.  Carry your baby, walk around until he/she calms down and has got some attention from you. Pick a corner table if you would like some privacy.

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Ready for dinner and entertainment (fork provides both!)

Lately Neel is quite social and loves to get chatty with the neighboring table. And we are more than happy to let him say hi and tata.  Most people also like to see a happy smiling baby. (I guess a young couple on a first dinner may hate you for disturbing them 😉 so just be sure others are not overly disturbed.

Finally, I would like to add that babies like to see new places, explore colors, and see new people. Dining out is a way that allows babies to socialize; it also helps to set up some amount discipline in them. But do make sure not to disturb your baby’s routine and take them out for a fun brunch or whatever you think works best. I have always told my husband that the price you pay at a restaurant is not just for the food but for the experience and hope all of us can make some great memories dinning out with our little one

Author: Padma Kastutirangan

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A Babymoon in Japan – In the land of the rising bun!

So here I am, writing about my trip to Japan, on a Mommy blog!! It was still hard to believe that I had to plan for a pregnancy friendly trip. (simply because a month back, I was not the potato that I am now!)

We had already planned the dates way back before we even planned a baby (haha holidays always had priority on our new year resolutions list)

Once we found out that I am going to be a mom, I did a quick calculation in my head on how far off that one week of holidays was. It would be in my 4th month, so I took clearance from my doc right away. She was only interested in how long the flight journey was, before she said yes. Apparently for a 8-9 hour haul and above, it’s good to walk around on the aisles every 2 hours, just to ensure good blood circulation. I also got her to write out a No Objection Letter for my travel plans, saying I am pregnant and fit to travel. (To whomsoever it would ‘concern’)

How to choose a destination:
This was a slightly tough decision as we have always decided on a place based on what activities we can venture into while in that country. This time, we knew that the adventure sports and activities like diving or climbing would be out of the question. Also, while pregnant, you have to be aware that your body drives most of your decisions and will power plays very little role. If you are thirsty, you have to drink water right away. If you need to use the loo, it should be right away. And don’t even get me started on hunger pangs. So we wanted to choose a well-developed city/country which would give us all of the above and in hygienic state. Having good hospitals accessible at all times was a criterion too.

That eliminated a lot of the countries that we otherwise had on our list – like Laos + Vietnam or driving around South of France (multiple hours in a car – not something I was willing to experiment while preggers)

So to make it easy, we chose a food haven – Japan!

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Zen Gardens like these!

 

Packing and Planning: So while in Japan, the travel inter and intra cities would all be by rail. I also knew that I would not be helping in carrying around the luggage. So we packed light, one large bag (which Dhruv would carry) and one stroller/cabin baggage (which was for me to lug around).

Our hotels were booked based on proximity to the stations and 24/7 convenience stores. There was a fantastic coffee shop next to our hotel in Tokyo, so I helped me-self to a croissant every now and then as well. 🙂

We took travel insurance like we always do, but I should mention that the regular travel insurance does not cover pregnancy related emergencies. So there is really no way to avoid unforeseen costs for pregnancy complications.

Walking around:
I carried my lightest handbag for all the walking around that we would be doing in the day. Avoided all my leather bags because of the weight.

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Wide streets and Classy Stores – Ginza in Tokyo

I also had my most comfortable shoes on for most of the days. Bought a cool pair of (very comfortable) sneakers from Osaka while I was at it. 🙂

Walking and exploring in Tokyo and Kyoto was so fascinating and beautiful that I would tend to forget that I was carrying a +1 inside me.

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Hydration is Key!

But there were definitely times when I got extremely exhausted and sweaty. In those times, I just needed a bench to sit/lie down on for about 5 minutes. We always carried water with us, and bottled water was available everywhere as well. That was a very important tick for choosing Japan.

Shopping:
As a pregnant shopper, all of my focus was on identifying what is unique to Japan in terms of baby shopping. So I did a lot of research on which items I can or should buy, only from Japan. It was helpful to do this research before-hand, because I had shortlisted a few items like the Japanese baby kimonos (called Jinbei) and a super soft towel quality specific to Japan. There were a few Japanese baby boutiques which I visited as well. Research before-hand allowed me to plan the days efficiently. I planned the walking paths and locations based on which shops I needed to hit first, and the timings of all these stores as well. This might seem like a pretty straightforward and simple tip, but planning all of this in advance allowed me to 1) enjoy the day stress free 2) make sure I had enough eating spots along the way 3) not tire myself unnecessarily.

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Cycling around Kyoto

Rejuvenation/Revitalizing:
While making the bookings at the hotels, we had informed the hotels that I was pregnant. This allows the hotels to care for your needs in their own way. A few had extra chocolates and snacks for us, while all had extra pillows (of all sizes). All of this worked very well with my pampered side. 🙂

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Cooling down with a Matcha Ice Lolly

We all would usually want to see any city by night as well. Either the night life in clubs and bars or just simply on the streets. This is the one thing I cut back on for this trip. I did my research on the whether smoking in Tokyo clubs was in restricted areas or in the open. Tokyo had no restriction on smoking areas inside clubs, which was a problem. Anyhow alcohol was out of the question, so I overlooked the night life this time around. Making sure that I was back in the comforts of my hotel by 9 or 10 pm was a big help in allowing me the required rest time to make the next day’s 18 km walk possible. (Yes, that’s a true story – my fitbit can vouch for it!)

The husband was allocated the task of foot massages every night, which helped me get through the otherwise buzzing night life that I could have been part of.

But it was one of the smarter decisions I made, definitely.

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Enjoying some Ramen in Kyoto

Last but NOT the least, Food:
Japan can get tricky for vegetarians, but luckily, as both Dhruv and I eat most meat and seafood, this was not going to be a problem for us. The only thing I had to avoid was raw fish with high mercury levels. Whenever we went to a sushi restaurant, I chose what I would have liked to eat, but before placing my order I let the waiter know that I was pregnant. (I had a little note in Japanese which read “I am pregnant. Could you advise the best suited raw fish items with less mercury”) So he made changes to my order based on his judgement, which worked perfectly well.

I had carried some basic snacks from home just in case the little button inside me wouldn’t take to Japanese food. So I had Marwari ammo like makhana, bhujia, suhali and some roti+achar. Although I am proud to state that button was pretty adventurous and enjoyed every noodle as much as I did!

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The Classic Udon Noodles with Tempura – wiped clean within the hour!

In order to keep my hunger pangs in check, I did not shy away from Macha and mochi ice-creams. Japan had amazing street food like rice crackers and takoyaki. These kept me going in between meals. I still have mouth-watering dreams about a teriyaki hot dog I ate in Kyoto.

Needless to say, Japan was all about food for me, and rightly/aptly so!

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Munching on a rice cracker outside Tokyo’s Asakusa Temple

I think key to a superb babymoon is to keep yourself happy and stress free throughout. Listen to the needs of your body but don’t limit/underestimate your ability to experiment and have fun!

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I hope this helps a lot of to-be baby mamas out there. What did I miss? How would you do it differently? Lets have it for the rest of the expecting mamas out there.

Please feel free to give me a shout on facebook if you have any questions.

Lastly, Thanks to the one of the best super-moms I know, for letting me contribute to your “guide to the light’ blog. 🙂

6 Tips For A Happy Baby at the Big Fat Indian Wedding

Helllllooo! Its been a while since I wrote – been busy with work, added work from nanny on leave, then nanny sick, and then managing to scram together wardrobe for a Big Fat Indian Wedding (that requires at least four glamorous outfits!) for Arya and myself, and also getting everything planned and ready for Arya’s first birthday party that’s coming soon! Phew!

Finally got my head above water for a couple of peaceful hours to write this.  Well – here it goes: I am going to first share some useful tips and then tell you about how the Hotel and the arrangements were conducive to baby.

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Arya enjoying the candle display

Weddings, particularly the Big Fat Indian Weddings, can be intimidating for your baby – so many new people to meet, larger than life venues, loud music, loud relatives, extravagant food, can all add up to an intense experience for the little one. Here are the few things I did to get baby through a wedding we recently attended:

 

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    Running down the lobby – nanny chasing her with a plate of food!

    What the F! (Food…silly!):  Ok, so everyone constantly worries about managing food for the baby so I am going to start here.  I took Ragi flour for porridge, and formula from home. The rest we managed at the venue. Since Arya is now over 11 months old she eats everything (and loves to try new things) so I fed her whatever we found at the wedding spread – fruits, idli, and yogurt (available at most Indian breakfast buffets), and ragi porridge made good breakfast. Rice and yogurt were the most reliable options at lunch – I let her sneak in a rice papad as a treat too. Also took this opportunity to introduce fish and chicken through small bites of baked fish and soft malai chicken kebabs. Tomato and mozzarella sandwiches served at tea-time made good for Arya’s dinner.  Again, I relaxed my food rules a little to give her foods I wouldn’t normally give her at home.  Now this may not work so well if the baby is between 6-10 months old – I think food-wise that is the most difficult age for both the babies and us because they are just learning to eat solids.  If the baby is in that age range I recommend carrying more eating options from home, such as processed baby cereals or packaged baby food.  Babies younger than 6 months are the easiest because they are mostly on breastmilk or formula anyway.

  2. Get Some Help!: While I usually don’t like to take the nanny on vacation, I highly recommend either taking your nanny or arranging a good babysitter if you are taking a baby to a wedding. This can really help you stick to the baby’s nap and sleep schedule – you can have the help watch the baby nap/sleep in the room while you get ready for the ceremonies, or attend the ceremonies. They can also help feed the baby so you don’t get food all over that expensive dress! It is also extremely helpful when you want to catch an extra hour of sleep in the morning because you were out dancing until late.
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    Daddy makes silly faces at her.

    Stick to schedule: Babies are creatures of habit and schedule (at least mine is!) so as much you can, try to stick to their eating, sleeping, and playing schedule. This will give the baby one less reason to be cranky and uncomfortable in the new place. Also worked out great for me because all the parties were in the evening after 8pm, and Arya goes to sleep like clockwork between 6:30-7pm, giving me ample time to get ready and enjoy the party. I tried to keep her awake for one of the events but by 8pm she was absolutely tired and cranky – I didn’t want to push the poor baby beyond her limit and sent her to the room to sleep.

  4.  Give her ample attention: I know we have a million relatives to hug and meet and catch up with at weddings but the baby still needs the parents’ attention to feel loved and safe. Take some time out to spend it alone talking to or playing with just the baby. I used to take her to breakfast alone, and feed her while I ate, and then take her to the hotel lawn to play with her for a while. Throughout the day I would find moments to take her away from the wedding madness and give her some uninterrupted mommy (or daddy) time. This really helps her feel safe and loved despite the overwhelming surroundings.
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    Meeting new grand-uncles at the wedding!

    Keep her comfortable: I wanted a daughter so I could dress her up with all the cute accessories and clothes I could find. But since having one, I have realized that fashion comes second – her comfort is primary.  I made a choice not to dress her in any Indian wear for the wedding because the fabrics and the designs did not seem comfortable for a baby to me. I stuck to dresses made from or lined with comfortable natural fabrics. I stuck a clip in her hair for like 15 minutes, and promptly removed it once she had been seen and photographed! Again, this eliminated one more reason for crankiness.

  6. Don’t force her to “like” everyone: babies self-select whom they will hang out with. I do not force Arya to go to a relative if I think she is not comfortable with them. She was instantly and perfectly comfortable with an uncle whom she had never met before, and absolutely refused to even acknowledge an aunt who claimed that all kids love her. Once I forced her to go to someone she wasn’t confortable with – she got extremely cranky and clingy when she came back to me. Encourage them to meet people but don’t force it.

And now for the elements of this wedding trip that made my experience so much more comfortable:

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Arya absolutely loved the bathtub!

The Hotel:  As a mom, I absolutely LOVED the hotel we stayed at – Pullman Hotel, Delhi. The rooms were decently sized, clean, and well equipped; there was ample outdoor space for baby to play; and most of all – the service was amazing.  It’s the little things hotels do to make you comfortable that elevate the service levels from average to just plain brilliant. Each time the waiters saw me with the baby at breakfast they promptly brought the baby chair out. They put up with Arya throwing napkins and spoons on the floor with a smile, and get this – offered to baby sit her while I ate my breakfast. They said they have a baby sitting service that can take care of her while I eat if I would like that. I was absolutely floored by this offer (although I chose not to avail this service because I had a nanny with me). They were not fussy about the fact that I came to breakfast twice every morning – once with Arya at 8am, and again to enjoy a peaceful cup of morning coffee with Saurabh at 9:30am, while Arya was napping.  The room service and housekeeping staff were also quick to cater to all our requests for extra water, sheets, towels, and what not. Two thumbs up for the management and staff here!

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Enjoying the festivities with my partner in crime!

A caring partner: Last but definitely not the least – Saurabh was extra caring not just for Arya (filling the bath tub for her to splash in every evening) but for me too. He knew I hadn’t slept much the night before, and we had been out polishing off bottles of vino all afternoon with my favorite cousins – so he booked me into the spa at the hotel to catch a nap on the massage table… because there was no napping in the room with Arya there! The little things husbands do to make you happy! I am definitely getting a lot of the boys in trouble with this one, but hey hope this inspires them too. Mommies just need some wine and spa sometimes!