Preparing for Your First Outing with Baby

Hell's Kitchen

After weeks of eating cereal for lunch and listening to the nonstop strains of Elmo's World, you're ready for a grown-up lunch at a cafe with your friends. But as soon as you sit down, the baby starts wailing. Her diaper is dry, she's not interested in eating, and the folks at the next table are getting fidgety.

You have a couple of choices here: You can get your lunch to go and invite your friends back to your place; you'll still get some good conversation and good food, and your baby's caterwauling won't bother a soul. Or you can stick it out by trying these methods:

Before you leave the house, make sure you've chosen a restaurant where a crying baby will simply blend in with the family-friendly ambience. This doesn't mean you're limited to kiddie cuisine at McDonald's, IHOP, or Chuck E. Cheese's. Plenty of diners, Italian family restaurants, and Chinese restaurants love and welcome babies (it also helps if you choose an off-hour, like 11:30 a.m. or 2 p.m.). My husband and I spent almost every Friday night of our oldest daughter's first six months eating at the Chinese restaurant in our neighborhood, where the waitresses would take turns carrying the baby around, showing her the fish tank, and playing with her.

Next, try the age-old distraction method. One mom I know takes a bottle of bubbles wherever she goes: Watching the bubbles float through the air entertains the baby long enough for Mom to gobble down a quick meal.

Finally, remember that nothing soothes a baby more than a brisk walk in the fresh air. Hopefully, you have friends who won't mind taking turns walking the baby around the block until she falls asleep or settles down. Mary Sternbach, a mother of two in Brooklyn, New York, remembers her first meal out after her first baby was born: "My boss offered to take me out to lunch with my 3-month-old son, who was a very colicky baby. Sure enough, just as we sat down to eat, he started screaming like a banshee. But my boss said, 'Don't worry, I'm great with babies.' She took him out of the stroller and paced back and forth with him in front of the restaurant until I finished my meal."

Another option: Try to make a habit of dining with at least two other (baby-free) friends or relatives. If one of you has to soothe the baby, the other two can keep each other company.

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