*Updated June 3, 2021
As a new mom up to your ears in diapers, feedings, schedules, and generally just trying to figure it all out, you may long to do something “normal” again. Like go out to a restaurant. On the other hand, you’re probably worried about your little one and yourself. It’s challenging to keep up with the latest restaurant capacity guidelines, which vary by state. And comfort level varies by person. Then, there are the usual worries about bringing a newborn out to eat. Germs. Changing station availability. Crying (maybe yours?).
We checked in with some of the moms we know to weigh in on the matter. Here are their general recommendations:
Parenting Expert: Dr. Gina Lamb-Amato
You can start taking your baby to a restaurant right away, as this will help build your baby’s immune system.
You should avoid places with a lot of dust or smoke. Make sure your baby is fed and that you bring along a toy to keep her entertained. It’s actually easier to take an infant to a restaurant than a toddler as long as the infant is not hungry or uncomfortable.
I personally took my newborn daughter to a restaurant from early on as my husband is in the arts, which necessitates a certain amount of entertaining and socializing at restaurants with clients. When I first had my baby, I didn’t want to be separated from her and miss her feedings, so I would take her with us. She would sleep contently in her car seat on the table while we had dinner and socialized.
I did have a little tag on her car seat and carriage that said, “Please wash your hands before touching me” to avoid people coming up to decrease her exposure to other’s germs and bacteria. Being a pediatrician/mother and knowing the possible infections infants can get, I was probably overly concerned and overly protective about my baby contracting an illness, so I tried to limit especially strangers having close contact.
One thing I recommend is to bring a blanket so you can nurse your baby if you are breastfeeding, or a bottle if you are formula feeding. I also tried to go to restaurants that had restrooms with places that were clean and comfortable for changing my daughter, or where I could sit with her if she became fussy or needed a break.
Since I have taken my daughter to restaurants from when she was an infant, she is now, as a toddler, very comfortable being and eating in many different types of restaurants, which is helpful in a place like New York City where people dine out all the time. Also, there are restaurants that are more baby-friendly than others, which you will rapidly learn.
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Mom: Jen Dolce
Absolutely, positively, take your child to a restaurant.
There were many times when other diners didn’t realize we had a baby with us because our daughter stayed sleeping in the car seat the entire time. Sometimes I would have to nurse, so I would then go to the ladies room or have a bottle ready. The only time I strongly discourage one from dining out is if your baby is colicky and fussy.
Mommybites Team: Elise Jones
Eating out was something my husband and I enjoyed immensely before we had children.
So after our first was born, it was something we longed to return to. We waited just a bit to see if we could try and predict the baby’s schedule (ha!) and found that after a good feeding, the baby would sleep soundly in a sling or the bucket seat for a good hour.
We stayed local and dined at more informal spots the first few times. We made sure we sat close to an exit or bathroom in order to make a quick escape if the baby decided to get fussy. But all in all, it was quite easy to eat out with a baby. Now when they become toddlers, that’s a whole other ball game!
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Dr. Gina Lamb – Amato, MD is a general pediatrician and developmental pediatrician.
Jen Dolce is a mom of four girls, living in the Windy City of Chicago.
Elise Jones is a social media strategist and former social media director of Mommybites.
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