The Husband and I eat out regularly and have done so since the week we had The Pea. We have never, not ever, been asked to leave, been given a dirty look or had anyone do anything other than smile at our baby. We've eaten in greasy spoons, high-end restaurants, gone for Japanese, Italian, Indian, Mexican, French, Vietnamese, poutine... You get the idea.
And yes, I've even breastfed at our table without the use of a cover. Still no comments or dirty looks.
So, with 8 months of experience and countless nice dinners under our belt, here's my list:
The Accidental Pharmacist's 10 Commandments of Dining out with Baby
- Carry the baby: Leave the stroller in the car or at home and carry your baby into the restaurant using a sling or carrier. That way your hands are free to eat when your food arrives or if your babe nods off.
- Order what you want: Go earlier when your babe is happier. If you can't, wait until after bedtime and let them go to sleep in the carrier on the walk over. That way, you're free to order however much food you feel like and eat as long as you want (contrary to the ageist opinion of Heather W. at BH&G).
- Enjoy yourself: Smile at your server and they'll smile back. If you're lucky, they may even smile at your baby.
- Breastfeed if you need to: Yes, even at the table. If an employee says something, take your business elsewhere the next time you go out. Practice breastfeeding at home using the carrier or sling so you're comfortable feeding while you eat.
- Share: If your baby is curious about your food and old enough to eat solids, feel free to share your plate. Mama or Papa's plates are veritable tasting menus to curious little palates.
- Turn off the flash: If you eat out enough, this is a moot point but take a picture if you want. Just don't make a big deal about it and turn off your flash.
- Skip the toys: Don't worry about bringing toys. Babies love watching fellow diners, looking at your food, playing with napkins etc. We taught The Pea to drink from a glass when she was a few months old while sitting in a restaurant.
- Do what you need to do: If your kid cries feel free to breastfeed, bottlefeed, walk around, leave. Whatever works. Don't get stressed or embarrassed. The crying is probably more humiliating and annoying for you than your fellow diners (contrary to popular opinion).
- Let your baby explore: Let your child play with what's on the table. If you can, get a booth for some extra room. Babies love to look around and investigate new surroundings. The best seat we ever got was at a bar facing an open kitchen. The Pea LOVED watching all the activity.
- Keep it clean: If you're worried about making a mess, order something that can be shared with your baby without spills. The Pea enjoys a little plain pasta (get it with sauce on the side), a bit of bread or a bit of pizza crust that she can gum.
The point here is that children are part of our community. Contrary to the opinion of Better Homes & Gardens' childless blogger, babies are not a curse on your fellow diners. Kids learn to belong to a community by being in the community. If the presence of your well-behaved child offends others, that is the problem of the other diners.
At the end of the day, if you are mindful of those around you, including your child and yourself, you should have no problems taking a baby out for a nice dinner.