by Mama M
When our baby was too big to be seen in public in his carseat, and with multiple failed attempts at dinner under our belts, we thought our eating out days were over, but with some lowered expectations and a few internet finds, we've been able to go out as much as ever. If you haven't gotten comfortable with "baby-dinners-out" yet, hopefully you can learn something from our mistakes.
Our first mistake - eating during his nap/bedtime. We've learned our lesson - now we waste time in the car or walk him around in the carriage until he wakes up from his nap, and if we're right up against his bedtime we just bring the food home or go through a drive-through- it's just not worth it.
Our second mistake - taking him to a quiet restaurant once we thought we mastered "baby-dinners-out". What seemed like harmless table banging at TGIFridays quickly became reason for myself and my husband to start sweating and reason to avoid eye-contact with diners around us. Our infant-in-the-carseat, not-a-peep-through-dinner nights are OVER. This one trip almost shattered our confidence for future trips out. We stick to the restaurants with the most noise now....any chain/theme restaurant, any pub....we leave the nice meals for just the two of us; spending a lot of money is not worth it when you spend the majority of the meal bending over to pick up thrown toys. Plus no one wants to get dressed up to go to a special dinner and see and mostly HEAR a baby at the next table.
Our third mistake - we saw the waitress clean the table with an old dirty rag before she put out the placemats, but 5 minutes later we couldn't keep our son from trying to rub his food on it, suck the edge of it, bite it...the more we tried to prevent our son from touching it, the more he wanted it. My mother found these wonderful table toppers that we now store in all our diaper bags, they're personally my favorite baby invention - biodegradeble, plastic placemats that have two adhesive edges that you can use to stick one edge under the table, and then stick the other side on the top of the table in front of baby. You can confidently put down cheerios, toys, etc. and know that even if your baby spends the meal teething the edge, they aren't making contact with the gross dirty water/germs of every previous diner. Plus, when the meal is over, you take them off, ball them up like a napkin and leave them behind - nothing to take home and clean.
Speaking of reuseable mats, we spent an entire vacation cleaning the wipe-off bibs in our bathroom, hanging them out to dry each night (it's not easy to clean carrot stains with just a bar of hotel bathroom soap). The solution? Bib clips - you can take any cloth or paper napkin that you get at a restaurant, make it into a bib (similar to the "bib" you wear at the dentist), and again, just like the table toppers, you can leave the mess behind.
Our fifth mistake - thinking "he just ate, we don't want to overfeed him". We later learned that when he sits with us at the adult table and sees us eat, he wants to eat....now we bring a jar of food and a spoon, and a zip lock bag or plastic bowl of cheerios. He has just as much fun quietly moving all the cheerios to the floor as he does
eating them, so for 20 minutes we've bought ourselves at least a taste of an appetizer, maybe even some conversation. Soon, we'll be consistently ordering kids meals for him - that will be another big exciting step.
Other nice to haves - high chair liners - we have two - one that can be used in the grocery cart too, and then one that's thinner, made by Fisher Price and only for use in a restaurant high chair. The latter is the best - it has two hooks for toys so that they don't fall to the ground....it's not meant to make the high chair a throne, but it keeps
him away from yicky leftover food crusties and whatever else the last baby left behind.