Monday, November 28, 2011

Tips for Taking Your Baby to a Restaurant

Recently, I was in a restaurant seated next to a large extended family that included a baby who was about 7 months old. The room was not crowded and the baby had a clear view of our table. Being a big fan of babies, I caught the baby's eye and for a few minutes, we played little follow-the-leader games across the room. As the family was leaving, mom and baby waved good-bye and the mom thanked me for entertaining the baby during the meal. Smiling, I thanked the mom for bringing the baby. By her surprised look, I could tell that it was not a typical experience for her. It made me sad to think that taking a baby to a restaurant has become such a stressful event. In this post, we'll share some ideas to help make this experience easier on you and your baby. Next time, we'll talk about what you can do to make things easier for another family if you find yourself in the position I was in, as a fellow diner near a family with a baby.

Choose Wisely
When you have a choice about where you're going out for a meal, choose the place that will be the least stressful to you. The type of restaurant can make a big difference. Consider your baby's capacity for stimulation. How busy will it be? What is the noise level? How many other children or babies are likely to be there? If you are new to taking your baby out, you might want to stick to casual places where there are likely to be other children. You might also consider finding out if there is a covered area outside where you (or someone else) can take your baby for a walk as needed.

Be Prepared
I'm sure that anytime you go out with your baby, you pack the diaper bag with everything that you might possibly need. Before going to a restaurant, you also should take the time to create a "game plan" with your partner or family members to deal with any challenges that may arise. Before you go, decide who will do what if something loud, embarrassing, or smelly happens!

If your baby is less than 2 months old, there is no way of knowing when your baby will be awake, sleeping peacefully, or hungry. You'll need to be prepared for all 3. Older babies are more likely to be more predictable and it may be wise to time your outing to increase your chances of having a contented baby.

What to Watch For
Your baby is very likely to be interested in all the sights and sounds that you encounter in the restaurant. Healthy babies want to explore their surroundings. But that means you need to be vigilant to make sure that anything potentially breakable, messy, or dangerous is moved out of your baby's reach. Relatives and friends will want to play and entertain your baby and that's great too. Take advantage of their willingness to entertain your baby to get something to eat! But, you'll also want to keep an eye on your baby to make sure that he doesn't become overwhelmed or overtired. It is common for friends and relatives to ignore the early disengagement cues until your baby becomes fussy. Trying to help, they might continue to stimulate the baby with keys, toys, or games. While these distractions may work in the short term, you'll start to see stronger and more frequent disengagement cues and your baby may become very upset. It is better to respond to the early disengagement cues with reduced stimulation (as simply as holding your baby closer to you and turned toward your body) and/or some repetitive sounds and movements until your baby seems ready to play again or falls asleep.

Take Things in Stride
The most important thing to remember when you go out in public with your baby is that you cannot control or predict what your baby will do anymore than you can control who else will be in the restaurant when you arrive. Your baby may suddenly have a fussy period or you may be greeted with exasperated looks from your fellow patrons before you even sit down. Your baby may have a huge diaper blow out just as your meal arrives. These things happen and are part of parenting. Someday, you'll look back on these experiences and laugh. Should anything unexpected happen, stick to the plan that you made before you left (i.e. whoever has eaten more leaves the table to change the diaper or settle your crying baby) and keep your sense of humor. While it is important to be considerate of your fellow diners, you shouldn't berate yourself about things that you can't control. Being prepared, vigilant, and accepting will help your restaurant adventures be much more relaxing and fun for you and your baby.


  1. The mom's response isn't surprising given the usual reception parents get. It is sad that a large portion of our society is even pushing for child-free restaurants. I bet you made that mom's day with your random act of kindness!

  2. As a new mom, I still don't mind the idea of some child-free restaurants (especially when it comes to babies). Number one, I feel a restaurant, especially a busy restaurant and ESPECIALLY a restaurant that has a bar (Applebee's, Fridays, Olive Garden, etc.), are not a place for babies. I'm sorry, call me old-fashioned, but if there is a bar, it's not a place to show-off your baby. It's a place for a adults. Period. I choose to take my daughter to more family-orientated restaurants (Cracker Barrel, Bob Evan's, Golden Corral, etc.). These are places more designed with families in mind. Number two, I still am offended, despite being a mother of a young babe, if my husband and I are going to a nice meal at a restaurant with a bar, and a baby is crying/hollering/carrying on in the background, and all the mother does is titter "he gets so fussy, there's nothing we can but wait for it stop" sort of attitude. I expect a crying baby at Cracker Barrel. I do NOT expect a crying baby at an Olive Garden where there are adults drinking at tables, at the bar, etc. Even as a mom, I get annoyed with the attitude many other moms (typically it's moms, not dads), who constantly feel entitled that everyone should stop, drop, and roll to amuse their accommodate their child. I never feel out of place with my child at a restaurant because I choose to go to a restaurant that is family friendly. Why is this such a bizarre and offensive idea to many moms?