What’s the best way to dine out with a baby?

I'll have what she's having.
I’ll have what she’s having.

Today’s “Ask The Doctor and The Dad” questions come from Pamela Brill, a writer who interviewed and quoted us in an article she wrote for the “Parent’s Corner” of the Rashti & Rashti website. Check out her article now, then read our complete answers to all her questions about going out to eat with kids below!

What types of supplies (meal and play items) should new moms pack when dining out with an infant? How about for a young toddler?

When your baby’s a newborn, going out to eat is surprisingly painless. That’s because at this point, your little one still sleeps a lot. So just bring the car seat in with you, set it up on the ground, on the seat next to you or in one of those special car seat holders that some restaurants provide (fancy!), and your infant will probably snooze through most of your meal. For maximum dining leisure, make sure to feed your baby shortly before you plan to be at the restaurant – because once your baby’s belly is full, it will be a whole lot easier to fill yours.

Dining with toddlers is a little more work, especially if they aren’t particularly adventurous eaters. So you may want to pack a couple of foods that you know your child will eat (like yogurt, a bagel, or a handful of blueberries), just in case she’s not interested in the salmon sashimi bento box you plan on ordering.

No matter what age your child is, entertainment is a dining parent’s best friend. So bring some plush toys you can plop onto your infant’s high chair tray or hang from the car seat. Or fill your bag with paper, crayons and sticker books for your older kid to work on. And since kids get bored with their toys pretty easily, make sure you bring more than just one thing for them to do!

What’s the best approach for moms nursing their baby while dining out? Do you suggest using a nursing cover or excusing yourself to nurse in private?

How exactly you breastfeed your baby is completely up to you. If covering up or going someplace private helps you and your baby feel more at ease, then we say go for it. But don’t be surprised if your own personal comfort level with breastfeeding in public changes over time.

After we had our first baby, Amber tried to be as discreet as possible whenever we were at a restaurant during the baby’s feeding time. She’d pull out the nursing cover, and she and the new baby would fumble around in the dark for a while trying to make the meal happen.

But you know what? It was a total nightmare. Amber couldn’t see what she was doing, and the baby wanted nothing to do with being covered up anyway. So before long, we decided that getting the hang of nursing was hard enough without having all that extra fabric to contend with. From then on, Amber didn’t worry about covers or leaving the room to feed the baby.

You might end up feeling the same way!

If your baby becomes finicky or upset while out at a restaurant, what’s the best way to handle this situation?

Unfortunately, there isn’t one foolproof way to calm a baby. Every child is unique, plus there are lots of different reasons that yours might become upset. Is the baby hungry? Tired? Bored? Or maybe just asking you for a hug? Each of those situations demands a different solution from you.

So the best way to calm a fussy baby – whether you’re at a restaurant, other public place, or in your living room at home – is to really get to know him! The more familiar you are with your child’s personality, mannerisms, verbal cues and various stages of development, the better equipped you’ll be to give him what he really needs.

If you want some extra assistance learning what’s really going on inside your kid’s head, our book Think Like a Baby: 33 Simple Research Experiments You Can Do at Home to Better Understand Your Child’s Developing Mind is full of activities, experiments and advice that can help you do exactly that!

How can new moms and their young children enjoy their dining experience, while being respectful to other diners and restaurant staff?

If you wait until the hostess is seating you to ask yourself that question, it might be too late. That’s because preparing for a great dining out experience with kids happens well before you ever get to the restaurant.

The best way to ensure that your kids will be able to sit calmly and respectfully for a meal when you go out to eat is to regularly practice that behavior at home. If your child runs around yelling, screaming and climbing on the furniture during your normal family dinnertime, there’s a good chance he’ll do the exact same thing when you go out.

But if you set clear expectations about how to behave at mealtime, and enforce rules that support those expectations at regular family meals at home, there’s no reason to think your child won’t be able to behave well in a restaurant, too. And as an added side benefit, research shows that kids who have at least five family dinners per week enjoy great developmental benefits – like larger vocabularies, higher reading scores, better relationships with family and peers, healthier eating habits and more!


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