Go during “off” hours. Gone are the days of dinner at 8 p.m. For now, you’ll most likely be joining the senior citizen set at dinner. It’s best to go to a restaurant when it’s not at its busiest. It won’t be too loud for your baby, and if he does have a meltdown, there won’t be that many people around to see it. You’ll also be seated sooner and get quicker service by dining earlier in the evening. If you can, call beforehand to find out the best time to make a reservation.
Choose “kid-friendly” establishments. This doesn’t mean dining at Chuck E. Cheese’s. But do opt for places that don’t mind having children around, so save the five-star candlelit restaurant for date night.
Feed Baby first. If your baby is still solely breast or bottle feeding, make sure she’s fed before you leave the house. Who knows—she might just fall asleep in the car and stay that way throughout the meal. If she’s started solids, order her food as soon as you sit down and ask that it’s served quickly. The last thing you want is a hungry, cranky little one at the table.
Stock your diaper bag. Remember to take inventory of your diaper bag before leaving the house. Do you have enough diapers and wipes? Do you need to bring a Binky and a bib (or two)? And if your little one is using a sippy cup, be sure to pack that.
Take a corner table. Ask to sit away from any other guests if you can. You won’t feel as bad if Baby starts to fuss, and it will give you some privacy if you need to nurse.
Bring plenty of distraction. Toys, books, pacifiers—whatever you need to make your child happy when he starts to fuss. Avoid anything that makes too much noise, like musical toys, for the sake of the other patrons.
Make it a quick visit. This is no time to sample the eatery’s nine-course sampler menu. Babies have only so much patience, so keep this visit to no longer than one hour. As Baby gets older, he might be able to handle longer amounts of time in one place.
Relax. If your child does act up in the restaurant, do your best to calm him down, but don’t let it ruin the evening. Chances are almost everyone in the place has been in your situation at one time or another. If fussiness does turn into a full-blown meltdown, you or your spouse can take your baby outside or to the car for a break. Sometimes a simple change of scenery does the trick.