Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get a commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links (at no cost to you). I will only recommend products that I’ve personally put to the test and depending on the source, you might even get a coupon or discount for using my link. Win-win!
It was two weeks after Parks was born that we felt like we just had to get out of the house. Living in a downtown community, one of our favorite things to do is meet friends for brunch or go out to dinner.
As first time parents to a newborn, however, it was the most intimidating thing we could have ever imagined. The logistics behind such a seemingly simple outing had our minds racing.
What do we need to bring? How many diapers? Does he need a back-up outfit? Two? Three? Will all of this fit into our backpack? When is the best time to go? What if he gets hungry? What if there’s no changing table in the bathroom? And so on, and so on.
When we were still learning how to do literally everything related to our new baby, the amount of planning required nearly sent us into a tailspin. We almost even decided it was too overwhelming and considered ditching our plans altogether.
I’m going to tell you about two unforgettable restaurant outings that helped us become more efficient and plan more wisely, changing the game for future dining dates with Baby P.
Getting Out The Door
Clark and I were desperate to get out of the house. We needed some fresh air and we mourned our pre-baby brunches. Plus, we wanted to introduce our new bundle of joy to our friends at the diner we patronized nearly every weekend throughout my pregnancy.
In addition to all the logistical questions we had swirling around in our heads, we were also worried about germs. COVID-19 and RSV were all anyone was talking about at the time. We needed to make a plan.
I was exclusively breastfeeding and hadn’t started pumping yet. I wasn’t sure how comfortable I’d be breastfeeding in public yet, so I’d made sure to pack the Cocoon (product review coming later) to cover me and P in case he got hungry while we were out.
We packed diapers, one change of clothes, and headed out the door.
I decided to feed P right before we left in an attempt to prevent a public feeding during our very first outing. I still wasn’t completely comfortable feeding him in general, much less without all the conveniences of home (privacy, boppy pillow, etc). Since P’s longest stretch without eating was only two hours at that point, time was of the essence because we wanted to get home before it was time for him to eat again. We drove to the restaurant despite it only being a 20-minute walk.
It was the first day of NFL football season, so I dressed him in a precious onesie that said, “Fantasy Football Legend.” I planned to take a picture and send it to everyone in my family’s fantasy football league. I couldn’t have been prouder.
Within 30 minutes of getting seated (at the bar…old habits die hard), P was hungry. It was my worst nightmare. Not only were we not seated in the privacy of a booth, we were at the bar and it had only been an hour since his last feeding. That’s the newborn life, I suppose!
I draped my Cocoon over my shoulder, cradled P, and fed him on a bar stool. Five minutes later, my arm already felt like it was going to fall off. Holding a 7-pound baby up while fussing with the cover up and trying to keep him latched was a nightmare.
Luckily, his feeds were pretty short at that age. With a sigh of relief, I handed him off to Clark to burp. That’s when he pooped.
Not only did we conquer a complicated public feeding, it was now time to change his diaper in a public restroom. I was happy to let Clark take on that responsibility, but like everything with a brand new baby, it would quickly become a team effort.
The manager saw Clark heading to the bathroom and chased him down to tell him there was no changing table. He offered him the leather couch near the entrance instead.
If he insists…
I watched from my barstool across the restaurant as Clark laid down the changing pad and got to work.
Before I knew it, Clark was standing behind me with Baby P over his shoulder and a look of panic on his face.
Yep. You guessed it. P’s first blowout.
“I need your help. Shit is everywhere. It’s up his back, all over his clothes, and I’m trying not to ruin their couch.”
It took both of us to finish the job, but we laughed the whole time. I can only imagine what other restaurant guests were thinking as they witnessed the chaos.
I didn’t even get a picture of P’s precious fantasy football outfit.
The Second Attempt
I’ll keep this one short and to the point.
We decided to check out a new restaurant, but we wised up and opted for a booth instead of bar seating. Lo and behold, another blowout and again, no changing table (wtf!). P was about two months old at that point, so we gave a lot less fucks (pardon my language, you’ll get used to it) and we changed him lickity split in the booth without thinking twice about it.
This time, I was also more comfortable breastfeeding in public. It didn’t take long for me to adopt the “if you don’t like it, leave” mentality.
At that age, P was a little more wiggly and again, I didn’t have my boppy pillow to fall back on, so even without fussing with a coverup, it was awkward trying to hold him up and keep him latched.
The feed ended with me knocking my drink onto the floor, shattering the glass into a million pieces. It was loud and every eye in the restaurant was on me–and let’s face it, my boob.
The staff couldn’t have been more patient, kind, and understanding. The manager replaced my drink before the waitress even finished cleaning up the mess.
As for my chest being on public display? Nothing cures the “I’m uncomfortable breastfeeding in public” concerns more than everyone in a crowded restaurant taking notice. It doesn’t get more awkward than that.
What We Learned
- There is a good chance P is going to have a blowout every single time we try to eat out. Ok, maybe he won’t, but we needed to be prepared for it. Extra diapers, extra outfits. Plural.
- A shocking number of restaurants do not have baby changing tables–way more than you’d expect. Always have a plan and a changing pad.
- Restaurant guests and staff are more understanding and patient than we expected. I felt bad for underestimating them and for all the anxiety I allowed myself to feel before braving our first restaurants.
Tips And Tricks
Pack more diapers than you’ll ever need.
We make sure our diaper pouch is always completely filled up. This means eight diapers and a decently full package of wipes. Why eight? That’s how many we can fit into our pouch. Always pack more than you think you’ll need.
Never leave home without a changing pad.
Ours folds up and fits in our diaper pouch. This will help you feel comfortable should there not be a changing table in the bathroom. We’ve had to change P in a booth, on a bathroom counter, and unfortunately, in one restaurant bathroom, I had to change him on the floor because there was literally nowhere else to do it. It was not ideal, but luckily I had a changing pad and was able to do it quickly.
Timing is everything.
Think about your baby’s schedule and plan accordingly. When P was a newborn, we preferred to go out to eat as soon as he was done feeding because I preferred not to feed him away from home if I didn’t have to. As he got older, we planned our outings around his naps and/or bedtime. If we’re going out to lunch, we walk or drive that way close to his naptime so that he’ll sleep while we’re in the restaurant. If it’s evening and we’re trying to keep him awake for two hours before his bedtime, we’ll feed him then go to the restaurant and let him hang out with us to keep him awake. There is a lot more for him to look at and take in, so it’s easier to entertain him as he starts to get tired if we’re not at home.
A sound machine can save the day.
Bring a sound machine with you everywhere you go. If he’s asleep at a restaurant, we stick his sound machine in the stroller and cover him up. It helps drown out the noise that could startle him like, oh I don’t know, corks popping! We like the Yogasleep Travelcube, but any portable sound machine will do.
Consider early seating for dinner.
Other guests aren’t at early seating with the expectation of a romantic date night, so you have less to worry about if your baby starts fussing. Plus, then you’ll be home in time for a perfect bedtime.
For your first outings, go somewhere familiar where you know the staff will be nice and patient as you learn your way.