Eating Out With A Newborn: 63 Experts Offer 32+ Tips for Parents Braving Their First Restaurant

By Rob Kuhns | Last Update: October 7, 2016

How do you navigate the first time(s) you go out to eat at a restaurant with your newborn baby?

The death-stares from your fellow patrons as your infant, who has no idea what’s going on, is screaming… don’t help.

Venturing out for a meal can be a daunting experience for first-time parents. Or, even for parents of toddlers/other kiddos who just recently expanded their family.

You have questions. We had questions. How can we make these dining experiences easier on both the parent and the baby?

So, we surveyed 63+ experts with one simple question:

What is your #1 tip for new parents eating out with their newborn baby or toddler for the first time?

And the response was overwhelming.

What follows is the Internet’s one-stop ultimate resource for parents dining out at restaurants with their infant babies.

Lets dive in. First, the BIG list of 32+ tips, ranked in order of mentions by our panel of experts.

Top 32 Tips for Eating Out With Infants

  1. Bring a Nursing Cover or Bottle (or wear Easy-Access Nursing Clothing) – 14 votes
  2. Go When They’re Fed – 11 votes
  3. Busy Restaurants (Many babies like the ‘white noise’) – 10 votes
  4. Expect the Unexpected (or, Lower Expectations) – 10 votes
  5. Go When They’re Sleeping – 10 votes
  6. Keep Baby in a Car Seat Carrier – 8 votes
  7. Pick a Quieter/Less-Busy Time of Day – 8 votes
  8. Don’t Worry About What Others Think – 7 votes
  9. Bring an Extra Change of Clothes for Baby – 7 votes
  10. Don’t Go Alone – 5 votes
  11. Try to Eat on the Patio (weather-permitting) – 5 votes
  12. A Baby Wrap (“Papoose”) – 4 votes
  13. Bring Entertainment – 4 votes
  14. Muslin Blankets / Warm Blankets – 4 votes
  15. Bring a Change of Clothes for Yourself – 3 votes
  16. Find a Restaurant with Comfy Booths – 3 votes
  17. Go When They’ve Been Changed & Burped – 3 votes
  18. Inquire if the Restaurant is “Baby-friendly” – 3 votes
  19. Look at the Menu Before Going in – 3 votes
  20. Restaurants with Changing Tables in the Bathrooms – 3 votes
  21. Ask for the Check & To-Go Boxes In-Advance – 2 votes
  22. Ask to Sit in a Less-Busy Section – 2 votes
  23. Order a Glass of Wine (or Margarita) – 2 votes
  24. Silicone Place-mats with Scoops (for Toddlers) – 2 votes
  25. Bring an Ergonomic Baby Carrier – 1 vote
  26. Chinese/Japanese Hibachi Restaurants – 1 vote
  27. Don’t Be Afraid to Over-pack – 1 vote
  28. Don’t Expect to Finish Your Meal – 1 vote
  29. Eat Quickly – 1 vote
  30. Have Your Spouse Feed You – 1 vote
  31. Know How to Say “No” – 1 vote
  32. Scissors for Cutting Food to Smaller Portions (Toddlers) – 1 vote

Each expert went in exceptional detail on each of the above points.

Needless to say, the above list may not do each tip justice. Be sure to check out the expert responses & recommendations further down this guide.

NOTE: You’ll find many differing points above (notably: some parents prefer taking their baby to noisy restaurants, while some prefer quieter establishments).

Take this as a sign: we’re all going to parent the best way we can. And every baby is going to have different needs. Some like it quiet, some like it loud.

Curious if there are any “baby-friendly” restaurants out there to hit up for your first few meals out?

We also asked these parents what restaurants they enjoy taking their newborns & toddlers.

The results:

Best Restaurants for Eating Out With Newborns

  1. Olive Garden – 9 votes
  2. Panera Bread, Red Robin – 5 votes each
  3. Chili’s, Chick Fil A, IHOP, TGI Fridays – 4 votes each
  4. Cheesecake Factory, Chipotle, Golden Corral, Steak & Shake, Texas Roadhouse – 2 votes each
  5. Applebee’s, ASK Italian Restaurant, BJ’s, Bonefish Grill, Brio, Burton’s Grill, Chuck E Cheese’s, Cracker Barrel, Denny’s, First Watch, Jason’s Deli, Joe’s Crab Shack, La Madeleine, McDonalds, Mimi’s Café, Modern Market, Noodle’s & Company, Northern Pines Restaurant, Outback Steakhouse, Postino’s, Red Lobster, Ruby Tuesdays, Seasons 52, Souplantation, Subway, Tampicos – 1 vote each

It was surprising to see one restaurant, Olive Garden, pull away from the pack.

Many Darden Restaurants seem to be a hit with parents of newborns. You also see several popular fast food joints with play areas (Chick Fil A, McDonalds, etc).

Very interesting list!

However, the truly interesting stuff is coming up in the expert responses.

Feel free to grab a cup of coffee and read through the entire guide (it’s well worth it). Or, use the quick navigation menu below to jump to the specific expert you’d like to hear from).

Top Tips for Eating Out With A Newborn

Responses reported in the order in which they were received.

Kristen Chase – Cool Mom Eats

Kristen Chase

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: Anything fast casual: Panera, Chipotle, places where you don’t have to wait for service.

Timing is everything. For newborns, go when they’re fed and sleeping.

If you’re heading out with a toddler, make sure they’ve napped and they’re not overly hungry. This way, you don’t have all the cards stacked against you on your first meal out.

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Kristen LeCoumpte – Balancing Pieces

Kristen LeCoumpte

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: Chic Fil A

Don’t ever expect to finish your meal. Always have the baby fed, changed and burped prior to arrival at the dinning facility.

Most importantly always remember that the baby has no idea what is going on and has no malicious intentions. Babies just want love and attention.

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Erin Bohn – No Bohns About It

Erin Bohn

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: Family Friendly Chain restaurants were great and seemed accepting of a small baby’s cries (Olive Garden, Ruby Tuesdays, TGIFridays, etc). Always stroller accessible and had plenty of high chairs!

Bring a change of clothes for both yourself and the baby! I had a baby who spit up frequently and I can’t even count the number of times my top was ruined during dinner.

After about the third time, I started keeping a spare top in the diaper bag and it was a life saver!

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Holly Zegalia – I Like It Frantic

Holly Zegalia

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: Anything family-friendly.

Know your limits.

Babies garner lots of attention, expect that and know how to say no.

We were once at a restaurant and the baby started crying. Our waitress offered to walk him while we ate. At that restaurant it was a no, but the local place that we know the owners was a yes.

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Kim Logan – Tales of A Ranting Ginger

Kim Logan

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: Most family restaurants are good

The more you do it the easier it gets. Eating out at nap time is easiest. Newborns pretty much sleep all the time.

But be prepared for feedings/changings just in case.

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Stephanie Oswald – Parenting Chaos

Stephanie Oswald

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: Haven’t ever really thought about if a place is infant friendly or not.

Go prepared.

Most restaurants don’t have places to sneak off to nurse a newborn, and if you are new to breast feeding that can be intimidating.

Bring a nursing cover or bottle to feed baby. Also ask to sit in a section that isn’t busy. People walking around or waiters bouncing between tables can wake up a sleeping baby.

If you sit in a section that isn’t as busy you will have better luck making it through dinner in quiet. 😉

But most importantly – relax, have fun, and enjoy your night out. If you stress it your infant will pick up on that. Have fun and enjoy the moment. 🙂

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Jeanna AKA “Momma’s Bacon”

Jeanna Momma's Bacon

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: Don’t laugh, but the first place we took both our kids when they were babies was to Golden Corral.

It’s always a madhouse in there, and we head to a booth in the back corner and we blend in easily! Plus, it’s a buffet and each parent takes a turn getting their food without struggling with menus and food orders. Just leave a nice tip!

This is a two part answer because dining out with a baby is quite different than dining out with a toddler.

When dining out with a baby, always bring them strapped in their car seat (assuming you have the kind that has a base that stays in your car) and put the hood down. Most of the time, our two girls would just sleep in their car seats as we ate in peace and it was relatively easy to take them to any restaurant when they were very small.

As far as toddlers, well, that’s a whole new ballgame. We always packed a lunch tote with snacks, a toddler cup, toddler utensils, wipes, and this awesome device called BiteSizers Mealtime Scissors. They are so much easier to use when cutting food down to child portions.

Pick child-friendly restaurants when you have a toddler and bring a few play items to keep them as occupied as possible. Again, leave a nice tip!

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Jess Oakes – Positively Oakes

Jess Oakes

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: We love Panera Bread, Texas Roadhouse and Cheesecake Factory

Expect the unexpected!

Quite honestly, most restaurants are great with helping, getting you a seat for the carseat or a highchair, and it will be fine!

Don’t worry about what others are thinking if your babe is crying, and just make the best of it.

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Prairie Wife – Prairie Wife In Heels

Prairie Wife

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: I’ve found that the best places are ones that expect people to sit down and eat (fast food restaurants are usually not the best).

As a mom of 5 kids under 10 years old, I have to say that the best tip I have is that you need to go with no expectations. You can do everything right and the meal still may end up being a disaster!

Feed and change the baby before you leave the house, and try to go early so you won’t have as long of a wait for service. Don’t expect the baby to sleep the whole time, but if it does, enjoy it and linger as long as you can!

If the baby is awake, take turns holding it so both of you have a chance to enjoy part of the meal baby free. There is nothing wrong with standing next to the table bouncing the baby if that’s what keeps your child happy!

If the baby decides to cry the whole time, don’t feel bad asking them to box up your meal.

If things go awfully, hang in there and try it another day. The more you take your baby (and children) out, the more comfortable you’ll be.

Don’t forget that what’s terrible now will most likely turn into a funny story that you and your spouse will laugh about later!

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Vasanti Rosado – Nona Mom

Vasanti Rosado

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: First Watch

I recommend first bringing your newborn baby around naptime. You can feed her there and walk around while you wait for the order (if needed), and then she’ll fall asleep so you can eat!

For toddlers, bring a snack to help with the wait time and always have crayons in your bag.

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Lauren Cheely – Southern Momma’s Reviews

Lauren Cheely

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: Tampicos

When eating out with a baby or a toddler, I always bring something to entertain them. My son has his favorite snacks, a few small toys, and some educational fun apps on my phone.

Those three things really help keep him occupied while we eat without having him have a tantrum.

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Asheli Godfrey – I’m Not a Tree Reviews

Asheli Godfrey

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: Anywhere with a LOT of space and with a loud-ish atmosphere.

For newborns – a papoose! It may be slightly uncomfortable but if they are still inward facing there’s a possibility they’ll sleep the ENTIRE time!

And for toddlers… well they really are the most unpredictable creatures, but try to go when they are well rested and always be mindful of their time limit, all kids have one. If you feel they are getting antsy, take them outside for a few minutes to play.

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Ronni Peck – The Screenwriter’s Wife

Ronni Peck

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: Depends on your area.

Newborns are waaay easier to tote around than toddlers! A newborn can sleep in a car seat carrier or in a soft body carrier.

It’s easy to nurse discreetly (either with a cover, or light blanket, or nursing accessible clothing) or give a bottle, and you can always just step out of the restaurant if you need to quiet a crying baby.

Babies often like the white noise of a busy restaurant too. You can eat at almost any restaurant (except the fancy ones) with a newborn.

I would just be sure to ask for a booth or a table with enough space to place the car carrier securely on a seat without people bumping into it.

Toddlers though, are a whole other story! They make messes and throw food on the ground, and are squirmy and don’t always want to sit in a high chair.

My #1 tip for eating out with toddler is just to have patience, realize their age and that they won’t “behave” for you, and try to go at a non-busy time.

Personally, I suggest those silicone placements that have a little scoop at the end to collect food. You can put this right on the table so the toddler can eat straight off of instead of a plate. It also helps save some food from landing on the ground (not all food; messes are inevitable).

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Lauren G. – Three Makes A Family

Lauren G

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: Well, most newborns sleep anywhere, so I say go somewhere fancy because it won’t be easy with a toddler!

Really, there is no reason you can’t take your baby anywhere you want to go! For anyone who is terribly concerned about it then anyplace with crayons and an activity sheet is a good indication of being baby friendly 😉

If you are unsure how it will go, ask your waiter for the check and to go boxes when he brings the food (or before) and this way if you have to leave you can do so whenever you need to!

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Becky Dickerson – The Mummy Adventure

Becky Dickerson

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: ASK (they have plenty of space for a buggy and a baby changing room)

Pick a quieter time (eating early usually works well with small children) as the food usually comes out quicker and so you don’t have to keep them occupied as long.

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Alicia Compton – Dogs & Kids

Alicia Compton

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: Steak & Shake without a doubt!

Don’t be afraid to “over pack.”

I would only carry a few items because I didn’t think we’d be out too long. On more than one occasion, waiting times were longer than expected.

Make sure you have plenty of diapers, wipes, formula or breast milk, and bottles if needed. With a newborn it’s important to pack an extra change of clothes, too.

With a toddler make sure you pack snacks, possibly a change of clothes, and activities for unexpected wait times. You may feel silly with all this extra baggage. But, you’d rather have extra baggage than a fussy baby or toddler.

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JJ @ Belly Itch Blog

JJ Belly Itch

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: Chic fil-A, Jason’s Deli

Feed baby right before you leave for the restaurant and rock him to sleep if possible so he can sleep through the meal.

Don’t take him out during feeding time or that time right before a scheduled nap.

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Dani Ryan – Meraki Lane

Dani Ryan

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: Chain restaurants are your best bet as there will be other young families, and a newborn or toddler wouldn’t seem out of place to the other patrons.

Keep your expectations in check. Newborns cry. Toddlers can’t sit still.

It’s not rocket science, and if you go into the experience knowing there will be hiccups, and plan for as many of them as you can, it [probably] won’t be as bad as you think.

Also? Order yourself a glass of wine. You’ll need it.

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Kim Inge – Milk & Baby

 

Kim Inge

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: Anywhere that is family-friendly and a little loud so you won’t be self-conscious of noises your baby makes. I would only not suggest a fancy restaurant.

My best #1, if you are breastfeeding, is to wear clothing that has easy access for nursing so that it will be easy and you will feel comfortable nursing in public.

So whether that’s bringing a cover, blanket, or just wearing a nursing top/dress, be prepared!

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Krystal Miller – Healthy Happy Thrifty Family

Krystal Miller

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: Modern Market

Order right away, be flexible and be prepared to leave if necessary!

I like restaurants where we can order at the counter and get our food quickly!

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Heather Jones – Heartfully Heather

Heather Jones

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: Northern Pines Resturant – Flagstaff AZ

A newborn sleeps through most of it, so there’s no worries there. Just breastfeed them and you are eating and you’re good to go.

The toddler you really have to worry about. They don’t want to sit still or be quiet, they are out at a place that is new and exciting.

Have a go-to bag of toys the child can play with only at a Restaurant, but not any other time. That way these things are always interesting to them.

Doesn’t have to be expensive. Dollar store toys are perfect. And, of course, kid-friendly tablets.

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Audrey Saracco – Bleeping Motherhood

Audrey Saracco

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: Panera Bread

For your first time, keep it simple. Don’t go to a place where the servers are named “Franz”, and wearing white gloves.

You don’t need a lot of gear, just a bottle (or a boob) and possibly the stroller to put the baby down so you can eat.

And lastly, don’t worry if the baby starts crying. Odds are, 95% of the people in the place are in your shoes, or have been in them. So don’t freak out and worry about what everyone else is doing or thinking.

Get through your meal. It may go well. It may go all wrong. But guess what? You’re a new parent, and you’ll figure it out as you go along, just like the rest of us.

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Cristen Casados – The Naptime Reviewer

Cristen Casados

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: I have always taken my babies to every restaurant I go to, both at home and while traveling.

Do not worry about what others think.

If your baby starts, simply carry him/her to the restroom for a little break and to regroup.

If you’re dining with a toddler, make sure you ask the restaurant to serve him/her first. Bread or salad bar crackers can help keep them busy until their food comes.

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Chelsey Tobiason – Girl from the North Country

Chelsey Tobiason

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: Most family-run businesses are very accommodating to newborns.

Any restaurant that has outdoor seating and wide aisles to set up the 50lb infant carseat you’ll be carrying.

I never went anywhere without my Ergo baby carrier. I love that both mom and dad can hold the baby and still have both hands!

I have used it with all three of my children, and it has allowed us the freedom to go out with friends and still keep baby safe and warm, tucked inside of the Ergo.

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Genevieve Stander – A Little Bit Of Me

Genevieve Stander

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: In South Africa, honestly no! Most restaurants are too noisy and busy for a newborn, and they become so overly stimulated so quickly, especially in their first few weeks of life.

If you really do want/need to go out with your newborn, I strongly suggest going out during a week night, in the middle of the month when most people are battling a bit financially, as most restaurants should be a bit quieter.

Pack loads of nappies (diapers) and 2-3 changes of clothes, because poo and vomit happen. In the most inconvenient places and at the most inconvenient times!

If you’re formula feeding, take your prepped water and formula with you, if you’re breastfeeding try and express milk as restaurants are so-not breastfeeding friendly. Well, the ones that I’ve encountered anyway.

Be prepared to eat supper with either 1 hand, or having your spouse feed you, as it is highly unlikely that your little one will want to sit in their car seat in an unfamiliar environment!

In all honesty, leave baby with a reliable, trustworthy family member or friend, and go out for 2 hours. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.

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R.C. Liley – Going Dad

RC Liley

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: None. I cook all of our meals at home and strongly urge all parents to do their best in this area.

What our little kids eat is being used to build their constantly growing bodies and need the best nutrition from whole foods with minimal processing. Plus, sitting at the dinner table at home creates a great bonding early on.

Have a backup plan before going. Make sure to bring things that keep them busy/interested.

Snacks that take a while to eat are a good choice, too. Popcorn, apple chips, nuts, and seeds travel well and are a healthy choice for most toddlers.

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Nicole Johnson – The Baby Sleep Site

Nicole Johnson

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: Local pizzerias are great for families!

For the first few times, dine at less popular hours (10a, 3p, etc) so it’s not as crowded and you can find your groove dining out with your baby.

And, feed the baby as soon as you order your food, so he or she doesn’t inevitably have to eat as soon as you are about to!

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Reina Gonzalez – Successful Mommy Advice

Reina Gonzalez

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: Red Robin, Joe’s Crab Shack, TGIFridays, BJs, Golden Corral

Feed baby first: you can feed your baby and try to get them to sleep. Bring any blankets to keep them warm as most restaurants are air conditioned.

Eat while baby sleeps: if your baby is napping do not wake them to feed them, eat then feed

Bring all feeding supplies in diaper bag: if you’re nursing, make sure to bring cover or whatever makes you feel comfortable.

Eating out with a newborn can be enjoyable if you plan ahead and take them to a baby/family friendly restaurant. I do not recommend taking newborns to super fancy places.

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Erin Whitehead – Fit Bottomed Mamas

Erin Whitehead

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: Anywhere noisy!

Always time meals for when your kiddo is happiest — or sleeping!

If that means having dinner at 5 before your toddler is too hungry to see straight, so be it.

It also helps to order the child’s food — or an appetizer — before you order yours. They’re entertained and eating and you’ll be able to enjoy your food in relative peace.

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Emily Fisk – Emily Made of Stories

Emily Fisk

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: Red Robin, places with patios (weather permitting), Olive Garden, chains where people aren’t paying more for an experience in case everything goes wrong.

Whew, eating out! It’s an adventure with kids, and frankly, it’s not always the easier-than-cooking-and-cleaning experience you’d hope it would be.

But I do think it’s a worthwhile endeavor for mom and dad to get a little time out of the house, and it can be a fantastic way to relax if things go well.

My number one tip is to prepare for the eventualities of your baby’s current needs: bring diapers, pacifiers, an extra outfit in case of blowout, and whatever else makes you comfortable with your baby.

For newborns, I find it particularly helpful to have a couple of options for holding baby: a carseat fits perfectly into a flipped-over high chair and can give you a hands-free night if baby cooperates, but a wrap may also calm your baby and enable easy breastfeeding if needed.

My second tip is crucial: choose the right location. If you head out to your favorite hipster craft cocktail bar that’s teeming with 20- and 30-something non-parents, you *may* have a bad experience.

At some stages when my daughter was easy to entertain, quiet, and cuddly, I brought her out to a few of these locations—and even then, I got some sassy treatment for having a stroller in tow.

My husband and I tend to choose chain restaurants (even though they’re not our preference) when we’re out with kids, or casual local burger joints. If you’re looking for something nicer, plan ahead and see if you can sit on the patio: baby cries don’t echo quite so shrilly when you’re outside.

My final tip would be to lower your expectations and go with the flow. I promise that if you choose a casual restaurant that’s already fairly noisy, most people won’t get upset with you over a fussy baby, a complicated learning-to-breastfeed mishap, or any of the other things that can happen with kids.

The ones who do aren’t worth your time, anyway. You deserve the night out with your significant other. Who knows? It could go perfectly.

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Amanda Rodriguez – Dude Mom

Amanda Rodriguez

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: Red Robin. They have those little car seat holder-thingys.

Go at an unpopular time.

Like dinner at 5. Or lunch at 2. The wait is always what killed us.

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Katie Sexton – Mommy Katie

Katie Sexton

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: Well, Olive Garden, or really any Darden Restaurant tends to be newborn friendly.

With a newborn, feed and change your baby before leaving the house, that way they can hopefully sleep while you are eating (I breastfed and I would schedule meals around feeding times, that way I can enjoy the meal without having to worry about baby being hungry, or needing to be changed).

Also, you might call ahead to see if they have a car seat sling available, this can keep baby within reach without being on a table, on the floor, or on a chair which can all be dangerous.

With a toddler, bring activity books and colors, keep them occupied until food arrives and also when ordering appetizers ask for a mini fruit and or veggie tray for little ones to snack on before the food arrives.

I have had waiters create little snack trays for kids even if they do not offer it on their menu. Just ask. If they serve salads and anything that has fruit, they can make it. and it makes their job easier without having a screaming toddler to deal with. This allows parents a little easier time, as well.

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Heather Taylor – Incredible Infant

Heather Taylor

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: IHOP, Olive Garden

Have a bag of surprises – don’t just rely on the standard coloring page.

Bring a teething feeder for your baby, a “just for restaurants” coloring book for your toddler, or other distractions reserved just for eating out.

Ask for “family friendly” seating, so you are placed around other children. Not only will your kids find the other kids interesting, you won’t get as many dirty looks from couples trying to “look deeply into each others eyes” while your toddler is throwing french fries. 🙂

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Kristi Campbell – Finding Ninee

Kristi Campbell

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: Newborns are easy as they sleep!

It’s when they get older that you need family-friendly restaurants. We went to Brio often.

Don’t do it alone!

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Naomi Pelss – More With Four

Naomi Pelss

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: McDonalds – With four children there is a playland, clean highchairs, food is served fast and cheap, and there are toys that come with the meal! What more do we need for a kid-friendly experience?

You must bring something for baby to do if you are expecting him/her to sit still for any length of time.

Let your baby play with a small toy or a set of keys. Let him or her much on a cracker or tiny piece of bread while you wait.

The key is to keep the baby busy long enough to eat your meal. If baby starts to fuss, then parents or family members need to take turns.

One parent gets to eat while the other entertains the baby, and then switch roles. Good luck parents!

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Sarah Christie – Peace Love Organic Mom

Sarah Christie

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: I love going to local family-owned restaurants.

Go to a family friendly restaurant that is conveniently located (so your baby isn’t worn out from a long car ride) at the time your little one is used to eating dinner.

Also be sure the restaurant won’t be too crowded (so baby doesn’t get overstimulated) and bring along a few familiar snacks so baby can have a little something to eat while waiting, or you have back up food if he/she doesn’t care for the restaurant food.

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Scarlet Paolicchi – Family Focus Blog

Scarlet Paolicchi

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: I found newborns to be easy to bring to almost any restaurant except super-fancy ones.

My newborns were always easy to keep happy either by feeding or by holding. So my tactical tip for newborns is to bring your breastfeeding cover-up or bottle supplies.

Toddlers are trickier because they want to wander around and love making noise. The key for them is picking a restaurant that is noisy anyway and bringing lots of things to keep them busy like books and crayons.

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Melissa Lilly – The Stay-at-Home Life

Melissa Lilly

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: Cracker Barrel

A little planning and realizing that the unexpected is liable to happen (such as a diaper blow out or having to leave because your child is screaming too much) goes a long way.

We always found it was easiest to got at a less-crowded time of day, get a booth and keep baby in a car seat carrier so they were snug and comfortable.

For our toddlers, we keep them in the inside part of the booth or get a table in a corner and seat them in the corner so they can wander in that small area a bit. Having a quiet corner also helps because there’s less stimulation and noise to upset them.

We always ended up having to feed the baby and now help the kids eat, so get dishes that are easy to eat with one hand.

Bring extras of everything the kids will need, too, from toys, diapers and clothes to food and wipes.

Be ready to take your dinners to go if all else fails.

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Mandy Roberson – Momma Society

Mandy Roberson

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: Postino’s–a Phoenix wine bar chain with awesome patios.

Sitting on the patio was the easiest way for us to enjoy eating out with a newborn.

As new parents, we were always worried that our little guy’s crying would disturb others–especially at a restaurant.

Sitting on the patio, rather than inside, was the perfect solution!

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Rebecca Keenan – Playground Confidential

Rebecca Keenan

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: Casual cafes with comfy chairs are wonderful for breastfeeding. Any place that isn’t crowded and won’t take a long time works.

Avoid peak-times to ensure you won’t be crowded and won’t have to wait long for your food. That means eating dinner at 5pm or going out for lunch after 1:30 on weekdays. Most busy brunch spots are for advanced level-parenting only.

I also like to look at the menu before going in so we’re ready to order as soon as we sit down, and I often ask for the bill half-way through my meal so we can make a quick getaway if need be.

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Hannah Iway – Iway Diaries

Hannah Iway

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: None. I just stayed at home for how many months with my newborn.

When my babies are more than 2 months old, that’s the time we dined out and the tip is to choose a restaurant with comfy seats (sofa-like) so you can comfortably sit with the baby.

Ask for a baby chair upon arriving. Also, make sure you all have the essentials needed for a nappy change.

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Rachel E. Bledsoe – The Misfits of a Mountain Mama

Rachel Bledsoe

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: Any Mexican restaurant

Drink a Margarita.

Eat FAST. Like lightning speed fast.

Sleeping infants will wake up and then it’s on. SCREAMING. People are are going to scare. Give them the finger, you’re hungry.

Also, don’t bother trying to look pretty for this experience. Someone may see your sleep deprivation and pay for your meal. SCORE. Have another Margarita.

I don’t think you’re supposed to breastfeed after drinking margaritas. Google that to be safe.

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Sharon Rowley – MomOf6

Sharon Rowley

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: Chili’s, Applebees, TGI Fridays- chain type restaurants that cater to families.

Stick to your child’s regular mealtime! Don’t attempt to go out for a true adult dinner hour of 7pm if your child is used to eating at 5pm.

Order your toddler’s meal first and then be prepared with crayons or a small quiet toy to play with as you finish your own meal.

Have realistic expectations (this probably won’t be your chance to linger over a glass of wine and enjoy a conversation with your spouse), but by all means- go for it! And keep doing it!

It’s only by consistently exposing your child to dining in restaurants will you (eventually) reach the point when it is a relaxing enjoyable experience for everyone!

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Kristen Hewitt – Mommy In Sports

Kristen Hewitt

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: We didn’t censor ourselves when we had our babies, we still went to our favorite spots.

Bonefish Grill, Cheesecake Factory, Seasons 52 even – we figured she’s not eating yet, so we might as well enjoy good food while we can!

I always found it was easier to bring my newborn places with me either in the carseat, or with my Baby K’tan.

I loved that carrier, and could nurse privately while wearing it.

I also recommend eating earlier when the restaurant isn’t too full. Yes, it’s the blue plate special crowd, but at least if the baby cries you won’t be disrupting a full dining room!

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Julia Clark – Cloth Diaper Geek

Julia Clark

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: Outback Steakhouse

Go where the booths are! Restaurants with booth style seating can provide privacy for nursing moms, sleeping babies and those easily distracted or easily over stimulated.

Depending on the booth style you may even notice a reduction of noise and lighting.

Booth style dining is also great for times when you have your newborn’s older siblings with you. Booths help keep kids contained, albeit they might still be playing under the table, while you deal with changing diapers or feeding a fussy babe.

TIP: Before you get too settled in make sure your booth seating isn’t too close to the table. You will need enough space to hold or feed the baby if breastfeeding, and booth seats aren’t adjustable.

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Nina Spears – Baby Chick

Nina Spears

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: I recommend larger restaurants that are known to be “family friendly”. For example, Chili’s, Olive Garden, La Madeleine, IHOP, etc.

If the restaurant is a little too hip, younger people won’t necessarily understand why you may have a crying baby. The same things goes with fancy restaurants. People who are going to those restaurants are paying premium dollars and don’t necessarily want to sit next to an upset newborn.

However, if these places have a patio or balcony, those are the best places to sit so you can get up and walk around if your baby needs to change up the scenery.

My tip would be to bring options with you to soothe your baby just incase your little one gets upset during your meal.

Bring a pacifier, a portable sound machine, a baby carrier (to have your baby close to you allowing yourself to be hands free), a stroller that can allow you to clip in your carseat with your baby sitting inside (if he or she is sleeping — with a carseat canopy or blanket covering your baby so no one touches him or her without your permission), as well as a nursing cover or bottle with formula (if baby gets hungry), and extra diapers and clothes just in-case there is any major spitting up or a blow out.

The good thing with newborns is that they sleep a lot and with all of the hustle and bustle going on inside the restaurant, that will usually help them drift off to sleep.

With toddlers, be sure to bring small toys and distractions (try to avoid smart phones and tablets if possible) to help keep them busy and happy. But at the end of the day, do what you gotta do as a parent. 😉 We’re all trying our best.

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Becky Mansfield – Your Modern Family

Becky Mansfield

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: We love anywhere that is family-friendly (local family-owned restaurants are perfect).

Go somewhere that you can be relaxed. Don’t pick a fancy restaurant or somewhere with a long wait.

Go where you can be comfortable knowing that if your baby or toddler cries, you aren’t going to feel bad about it.

You want to enjoy your time out, not feel stressed wondering about the “what if” moments.

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Jennifer Hughes – The Jenny Evolution

Jennifer Hughes

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: Louder restaurants are actually great for newborns. I can’t tell you how many agree that, for some reason, newborns often settle down around all of the noise rather than be disturbed by it.

My #1 tip for dining with toddlers is to bring plenty of play options. My sons absolutely loved their Hot Wheel cars as well as the beaded mazes (which had suction cups so it would stick to the table).

Think about engaging items to keep your child happy and occupied.

My #2 tip would be to have a designated adult ready to leave the restaurant with the child if they start throwing a tantrum or if the baby really starts crying.

Your job as a parent is to also be aware of and considerate of the other diners around you — which teaches your toddler to do the same.

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Jennifer Borget – Baby Making Machine

Jennifer Borget

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: Does Chick-fil-A count? No really, I loved going places my toddler could play while I could sit comfortably and hold/nurse my newborn.

In Austin, there are lot of restaurants like that with outdoor playgrounds and live music. The weather is great most of the year and the ambiance seemed to help put my newborn back to sleep.

A really big but light muslin blanket has so many great uses. I loved it as a shade when my newborn was sleeping in her carseat, or as a cover if I was feeling conscious about nursing.

They are great to wrap baby in if it’s a little chilly, or to wipe spit up if they puke on you.

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Christine Cox – The Choosy Mommy

Christine Cox

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: Chinese/Japanese Hibachi restaurants

When you are eating out with a newborn baby or a toddler for the first time, time, literally sometimes minutes, are of the essence.

Children want to eat NOW! Not 10, 15, 20 minutes after they order.

That is why I suggest hitting up your local Chinese/Japanese Hibachi restaurant for your first outing.

Not only will food be fast (you usually get soup or some table snacks right away), but there is always a lot going on at Hibachi restaurants for children to watch.

The fire from the cooking area is always a big hit, plus people/employees dancing, laughing and just having an all around good time make it a great environment for kids.

The employees at our local restaurant always interact with the kids and make being there a great time. Plus it is usually LOUD in those places, so no worries if your child is crying or just a loud person in general.

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Melissa Martin – Mmentions.com

Melissa Martin

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: IHOP, Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Denny’s, Steak & Shake, Subway, Chipotle.

Eating out with your small child does does not have to seem impossible.

What I recommend for infants or toddlers is to call the restaurant of your choice and make sure the restaurant is kid and baby friendly.

I would also recommend getting a copy of the menu ahead of time so that way you are able to view the choices and get a good idea of what you want to eat to save you time in the looking process.

You do not have to rush to eat out. Eating out at a restaurant should be an enjoyable experience for you and your family, so with that being said I would say to bring your child’s favorite sippy cup and comfort item.

I also recommend bringing some kind of place-mat with small crayons to keep your child entertained at the table before the food arrives. You can purchase little cheap crayons and coloring pages at a Dollar Tree near you.

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Suzanne Barston – Fearless Formula Feeder

Suzanne Barston

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: Souplantation

Bring a change of clothes (for you and baby) as inevitably, someone will spill something and you’ll have to sit there with ketchup all over your shirt.

Also, if you’re formula feeding – ALWAYS bring extra formula, water and a clean bottle, just in case!

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Lindsay Houser – The Mom of the Year

Lindsay Houser

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: We love eating at Panera or any Sandwich Shop as you are served quickly. With a newborn, time is important!

When eating with a newborn, we always choose a place with nice large booths.

This way, the car seat can slide right in next to you while the baby (hopefully) naps!

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Kasey Schwartz – All Things Mamma

Kasey Schwartz

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: Noodles and Company, Panera.

Eating out with a newborn or toddler can be a challenge, to say the least!

But, in order to have a successful trip, try this one tip: Pick a restaurant that is child friendly, and bring supplies!

Make sure to have activities on hand that your toddler can do such as coloring or small toys. This way you can eat your dinner while your toddler is busy doing his own thing!

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Kim @ Love, Mrs. Mommy – Love, Mrs. Mommy

Kim Love Mrs Mommy

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: Olive Garden. I love how they give kids a coloring place mat and crayons!

My #1 tip would be to put yourself in the right frame of mind. Your newborn might cry while you are out, but don’t worry, all parents have been there and understand.

Try not to get upset about it and don’t forget to enjoy your night out with your family. After all, you don’t have to cook dinner tonight, so enjoy!

Your newborn might feel uneasy in a new setting, so be sure to bring along some essentials. My top 5 items to bring would be a pacifier, bottle, hat and/or sweater (it might be cold or drafty), diaper changing supplies, and a baby wrap.

Babies love to be close to their parents and snuggling up to mommy or daddy in a crowded place might be just what they need to feel safe and settled.

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Marisa Atwood – The PennyWiseMama

Marisa Atwood

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: Family-friendly restaurants like Chili’s, Red Robin and Texas Roadhouse are great choices. They have changing tables in the bathrooms and car seat holders.

As a mom of twins, my best advice is to make sure that your newborn is fed, changed and ready to sleep before heading to the restaurant.

If all goes well, your little one will fall asleep in the car and sleep the entire time you are at the restaurant!

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Elayna Fernandez – ThePositiveMom.com

Elayna Fernandez

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: Mimi’s Cafe in Ft Worth

Make the baby comfortable. Since the baby is in an unfamiliar environment, it is natural for him/her to feel anxiety, so make the restaurant as home-like as possible.

You can do this by bringing a few toys and bringing their blanket, or anything else that comforts them.

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Sue Parke – Sparke Fitness

Sue Parke

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: We’re big fans of local and family owned restaurants, but if I were to a choose a favorite that most people would know, I’d say Burton’s Grill.

They have an excellent kids menu, the service is always great and it’s always been a very kid friendly atmosphere.

Ever since my daughter was born we’ve taken her out everywhere. We’ve never let the trials and tribulations of infancy, the fear of breastfeeding in public or toddler tantrums stop us from going out as a family.

We even took our 2 year old to France this summer. I think the more you submerge your child into the “real world” so to speak, the quicker they adapt, learn how to communicate and behave.

In terms of eating out, most restaurants have crayons to keep kids entertained, but other than what the restaurant provides, I don’t bring anything special. What I do is color and draw with my daughter with those crayons the restaurant provides, and I talk to her just as if she were anyone else sitting at the table.

I think it’s important to remember that as parents, our job is to teach our children appropriate behavior. They learn from our actions, not our words, so showing them how to behave is key in their development.

My best piece of advice when going out to eat and just in general, is to relax and engage with your child as much as possible. And most importantly, don’t let the fear of what someone else might be thinking about your parenting techniques from across the room steer you away.

You will figure out your groove and what works best your child and your family, and that’s all that matters.

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Cher B. – The Sticky Apron

Cher B

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: Newborns have sensitive tummies, and it is best to only feed them breast milk or formula. However, a small taste of mashed potatoes while eating out won’t hurt your little one.

When eating out with a newborn, everyone will be more comfortable if you keep your little one swaddled in a warm blanket.

It is easy for a newborn to become over stimulated by new surroundings expectantly in a crowded area. Swaddling your baby will help them feel safe and more comfortable as they experience the big world around them.

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Gerardo Campbell – Support for Stepdads

Gerardo Campbell

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: None that immediately come to mind. I suggest calling the restaurant in advance to see how they respond to your plans to bring a newborn.

Enjoy yourself. To truly make it an enjoyable experience for you, it’s important to consider the comfort of your newborn, the comfort of other diners and of course yourselves.

This means coming fully prepared for any possible scenario – the baby starts crying, the baby gets hungry, the baby needs a diaper change, etc. This advance planning will help make sure it’s an enjoyable experience for everyone involved.

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Susan Heim – Susan Heim on Parenting

Susan Heim

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: Chuck E. Cheese’s, fast-food restaurants.

Always be prepared for delays.

If you have a newborn, make sure you have a bottle and pacifier (if you use one). Bring extras in case you drop one on the floor.

If you have a toddler, bring “entertainment” like coloring materials or a new (quiet) toy.

Have your menu choices picked out before you get there (most restaurants publish their menu online) to speed up your wait time.

Time your visit wisely when your child is not sleep-deprived or teething. If your child has a complete meltdown, don’t hesitate to change your order to take-out!

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Jennifer Wright – Stylishly Social

Jennifer Wright

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: Anywhere that’s noisy and has changing tables, Bonus if they’re in the men’s restroom too so mom can get a break!

Bring sticky disposable placemats for toddlers! You never know what germs are lurking on restaurant tables. Normal placemats (along with plates, utensils, napkins and everything else within reach) will get thrown on the floor in 30 seconds flat. We found great disposable placemats that were sticky around the edges and made a great place to set finger foods for toddlers without needing a plate.

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Katie Clark – Clarks Condensed

Katie Clark

Restaurant, Food & Other Recommendations: We’ve taken a newborn/small baby to Olive Garden, Red Robin, Chili’s – places like that. Not too fancy, but they are a little higher quality than fast food (which I would NOT take a baby to – especially if there’s a play place!)

It makes it easier to go when their tummy is full, and, even better, if they are asleep!

Oliver slept through many night outs in a noisy restaurant because he was tired. This gets harder as they get older, but when they are smaller, they often will fall asleep, which makes eating a little easier.

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AWESOME!

A HUGE shout out to the contributors for this project! This resource will be a boon for new parents for years to come.

Once again, here are the top-ranked tips for eating out with your infant (you’ll need to jump back to the top of this guide for the full list).

10 of the Top Tips for Eating Out With Newborns

  1. Bring a Nursing Cover or Bottle (or wear Easy-Access Nursing Clothing) – 14 votes
  2. Go When They’re Fed – 11 votes
  3. Busy Restaurants (Many babies like the ‘white noise’) – 10 votes
  4. Expect the Unexpected (or, Lower Expectations) – 10 votes
  5. Go When They’re Sleeping – 10 votes
  6. Keep Baby in a Car Seat Carrier – 8 votes
  7. Pick a Quieter/Less-Busy Time of Day – 8 votes
  8. Don’t Worry About What Others Think – 7 votes
  9. Bring an Extra Change of Clothes for Baby – 7 votes
  10. Don’t Go Alone – 5 votes

Did you get through this whole guide? You’re amazing.

Keep the conversation going in the comments below. What additional tips do you have for inquiring parents on their way to grab a bite? Anything our experts missed?

Posted in Mega Guides
One comment on “Eating Out With A Newborn: 63 Experts Offer 32+ Tips for Parents Braving Their First Restaurant
  1. Asheli says:

    Loved reading everyone’s tips. Even as a Mom of four I like hearing other Moms (and Dad’s) weigh in!

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