For newbie parents, romantic and stress-free couple dinners are a thing of the past. With little ones fussing, drooling and howling at the restaurant, eating out with a baby often turns out to be embarrassingly disastrous for many parents. Having been there and done that, I have realised that with the right game plan you can work it out. So here's a list of dos and don'ts for a better eating out experience with your baby. Trust me, they work.
1. Ask for a cradle or a high chair: Once you have picked the table and settled down, request for a cradle or a high chair. This way you can avoid the balancing act of having to hold the baby while trying to stop your inquisitive little one from dunking their hands into the food on the table, or turn the table into a play area. Give them their tiny private space, take a deep breath and feel free to enjoy your dinner.
2. Bring toys: The key to a successful day out with the baby is to keep him/her engaged. Carry a bunch of colourful toys, touch and feel books, teethers and a pacifier. Boredom is the reason behind many of those screams and tantrum outbreaks. The secret is to carry a special stock of 'restaurant only' toys—toys that your baby does not regularly play with at home. And please have the wisdom to not take out all those toys at once. Give it to her one at a time. Don't be too focused on the food; speak to your baby all along. Remember, the mantra is to keep your baby entertained.
3. Carry baby food: If your baby has started on solids, he/she is bound to show interest in the food Mom and Dad are gobbling down. While both of you chew on the delectable food on the table, the little one shouldn't feel left out. Take along some of her favourite food and feed her between your meal course. It can be something as simple as a biscuit, steamed banana or apple puree. But be prepared. If your baby is slightly older and you decide to let the baby taste from what's on the table, please be double sure about what has gone into the food, and whether the ingredients are baby-friendly. You don't want your lovely family time to end with a rush to the hospital.
1. Eat at crowded restaurants: Large crowds and noise can be a turn-off for some babies who feel intimidated. You do not want to mess it up before it even began. While eating out with your baby, pick restaurants that aren't packed and are spacious. It gives you space to walk around with the baby in case he/she throws a tantrum. Also, request for an out-of-the-way table so that you have some privacy.
2. Allow strangers to entertain your baby: Your little munchkin, playing and making funny noises will surely attract attention from fellow diners, some of them who might even try to play along. If your baby throws a tantrum, do not be embarrassed to take them out for a walk. It helps to change the mood. If a restaurant staff or a fellow diner offers to hold your baby or take her out for a stroll to allow you to enjoy your food, politely turn down the offer. It is a bad world out there and not all those who offer help are as nice as they seem to be. If your baby gets cranky, keep calm and take charge of the situation. Don't freak out. Babies scream, everyone knows that. You are a parent and you can tackle your little one. Chill!
3. Turn cutlery and condiments into toys: You might have forgotten to carry your baby's toys to the restaurant, but that does not mean you have to engage your child with whatever is at hand. Tabletop condiments and cutlery are a big no-no as toys. You do not want your baby to experiment with the pepper and sauce on the table, or worse, shove a fork or knife into their tiny nostrils or eyes. That's the last thing you want.