By guest blogger Christine Knight, co-founder of brunchwithmybaby.com.
This is not a guide to having the perfect dining experience. This is, however, a guide to getting out of the house and eating at a restaurant that YOU actually enjoy. The key is to be prepared.
1. Pick your destination wisely
Research the restaurant. Does it have highchairs? Changing tables? Can you make a reservation if it’s a popular place that’s likely to have a line? You will also need to see if the restaurant allows strollers, or if you’ll need to take your child in the carrier. Plan around naps and choose places where you’ll be seated immediately to make the most of your window of opportunity.
2. Pack wisely
It’s better to be over prepared. Be sure to pack: diapers, wipes, pacifiers, milk/water bottles (if needed), changing mat (reusable or disposable), a change of clothes, bib, toddler cutlery, and a toy/book your child hasn’t seen for a while. If your kid is on solids, take baby food pouches and snacks like Cheerios and puffs.
3. Be snappy about it
After you’re seated at the table, order first, talk later. When you order, ask the wait staff to bring the baby’s food first. If you’re sharing a meal with your toddler, ask for a bread give them a snack until the real food arrives.
4. What to order for kids
If your baby is just starting on solids, it’s a no-brainer — don’t order them anything from the menu. As they get older, you can order a side that they might enjoy trying, like mashed potatoes and then the golden favorite, fries.
Toddlers with more eating experience may want to eat food off your plate. So unless you’re ordering something your toddler definitely won’t eat, just order the one meal, plus maybe a side they can eat with their fingers, so there are plenty of options.
5. Nursing in public
If you need to nurse your baby while you’re at a restaurant, remember that it’s your legal right to nurse your baby in public. Bring a nursing cover if you prefer to be more discreet.
6. Ask for the check sooner rather than later
Remember that your window of opportunity is limited, so ask for the check after you order. Your server may look a bit surprised — just reassure him that nothing is wrong, but that you’d like to fix up your account so you can leave as soon as the baby starts to lose the plot.
7. Don’t get ‘mama guilt’
Food on the floor. Whining. Refusal to sit in the high chair. Your kid eating a ton of fries and nothing else of nutritional value. We try hard to teach our toddler the beginnings of table manners, but also remember she’s still a baby in many ways and can’t be expected to sit still and be occupied for more than about 30 minutes. Yes, we hand over the iPhones, if that’s what it takes. What we sacrifice in parental moral high ground we make up for with actually being able to enjoy eating out at tasty places again.
8. Tip big
This last step ensures that any crazy baby behavior will be quickly forgotten, Cheerios will be swept up without resentment, and you and your baby will be welcomed back again with open arms.
Christine Knight is co-founder of brunchwithmybaby.com, a site dedicated to raising mini-foodies by providing guides to baby-friendly places to eat, play and explore in NYC. Christine is an Australian expat living in Brooklyn, N.Y., with her software engineer husband and 20-month-old toddler. Christine has performed every trick mentioned above in public, plus a few more that aren’t suitable for print.