You will quickly realize that many young families frequent restaurants on the earlier side (4-6 PM) with young children. If your baby is still young enough to sit in their car seat at a restaurant, this can be a good option. Oftentimes infant car seats can fit in the base of a wooden high chair flipped upside down, although it is best to make sure it is level and secure. You can even bring a car seat cover if you think your baby would sleep despite the noise of the restaurant. Once your baby can sit up very well and is used to eating in a high chair, they can begin to sit in wooden restaurant high chairs. These tend to be roomy with little support, so if your baby is still wobbly you could consider buying a clip-on highchair that attaches to the table. These sometimes come with a plastic tray that can help contain messes.
When a baby is first beginning to eat purees, a silicone self-feeder can be a great option for restaurant eating. These usually come with an easy-to-grasp handle, and a small silicone container with holes for purees. The silicone is pliable, and easier to clean than mesh. They can suck on this like a pacifier, which will help free up your hands. Simply bring along one or two of their favorite purees, and keep refilling the feeder. Many people also love squeezy pouches for this reason, although some younger babies don’t love the hard plastic spout.
If your baby is 6 months or older and eating finger foods, you may feel ready to try a full meal out as a family at a restaurant. Come prepared with a bib, a plastic plate if you do not have a high chair with a tray, a sippy cup with water, formula or milk, some wipes, and a few of baby’s favorite finger foods. Easy, portable options include puffs or Cheerios, steamed peas, blueberries cut in half, or small pieces of cheese or meat. Most family friendly restaurants can offer a side of diced avocado, a banana that you could break up, a grilled cheese that you could pull apart into small pieces, or even mac ‘n cheese. Keep in mind that restaurants use more seasoning and oil than you would use at home, so if you haven’t introduced these yet it could upset your baby’s stomach. Remember that it is not necessary to face your baby the entire time they are eating. Encourage them to mimic social skills by facing their chair towards the table, and eating and talking while they feed themselves. Expect some food on the floor but try to enjoy your big meal out!