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
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
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
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.
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.
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