For the first 5-ish months of my son’s life, eating out wasn’t an issue. He would sit or sleep perfectly content in his car seat for hours while my husband and I bounced around the city running errands and grabbing lunch or dinner.
As soon as he started crawling, around 6 months, everything changed. He was very squirmy and hated sitting in his car seat for long stretches. I could no longer quiet him down with a bottle. He wanted to be in on the action.
These past few months have been a struggle, to say the least. I love eating out, and it’s not something I’m wanting to give up, so I’ve had to get creative and find ways to make it work with an energetic 8-month-old by my side.
I tapped into my mom friends in real life and you all on Instagram (thanks guys!), and I’ve put together a list of the best advice I’ve gotten that actually works. Keep reading for six of the best advice I’ve gotten about eating out with babies.
1. Order as soon as you sit down
Young kids are not known to have great attention spans, and while I don’t think you have to necessarily “rush” through your meal, there is something to be said for keeping it condensed. One way to expedite this process is to look up the menu online beforehand and be ready to order your meal when you’re seated.
2. Put your baby in the high chair when you get to the table
This was one I learned the hard way. We were trying to ride out the car seat phase for as long as possible and didn’t realize that it was irritating him more than it was helping us. I also think consistency in matters like this helps to build habits and lets your kid begin to understand mealtime routines and what to expect at the table.
3. Bring a mesh feeder to let your baby try different foods
I love letting my son try new foods and flavors, but he just hasn’t mastered the whole eating thing yet. At home, I feel a bit less distracted and more comfortable giving him solids. When we’re at a restaurant, I worry more about cutting things up so that he won’t choke. This feeder allows him to try new foods and be part of the meal without making me worry about having to jump over the table and pull something out of his mouth.
4. Bring your own high chair
We tried putting my son in restaurant high chairs, and he hated them. I’m not exactly sure what it was, but he would yell as soon as we lowered him into it. Other moms said they dealt with the same issue and started bringing their own high chairs with them to restaurants. We tried this, and it worked like a charm. This high chair (which we also use at home) also has its own table that distracts him from wanting to play with everything on the adult table.
5. Have a bag of special toys handy
So many moms suggested this. These toys should be reserved for eating out and should not be played with other times, they told me. This way, the toys remain exciting and fun. These suction toys are fantastic and held up against my very strong baby. He also liked these no-mess coloring books, though he was more interested in eating the paintbrush than painting with it. In a few months, I’m sure he’ll be thoroughly entertained by the water painting.
6. Practice good mealtime behavior at home
It is so easy to get comfortable at home and have meals on the couch or feed your baby whenever it’s convenient instead of while you’re eating. Babies and toddlers seem to thrive with routines, and practicing sitting down to eat as a family at home will help them understand expectations at mealtime.