I’m still laughing at when I made a major typo in discussing this topic on IG stories and accidentally mentioned I was working on a blog post on the topic of “how to HO out with a baby.”
I suppose HOing out with a baby will have to be a topic for another day. Today we’re talking about GOing out with a baby.
(One reader responded, “HOing out with a baby is how you get a second baby!”
My 10 Tips for getting out and about with a baby
In the past almost EIGHT months (where does the time go!?) that I’ve been a parent–there have been things I think we’ve nailed and things we definitely have NOT nailed (which is to be expected, of course). One of the areas I’m most proud of is that we never let June slow us down from getting out and having fun.
We both said from the beginning that our life would not revolve around the baby, rather, we’d weave her into our life–and we would still do the things we loved to do! One of those things? Just being *out* in our neighborhood–grabbing a beer at our favorite neighborhood bar, meeting up with friends, running into neighbors–being out in the city and enjoying it! We’ve done a great job of not losing that, and familiarizing June with the concept of “rolling with the punches” from the time she was just a few days old. I’m really proud of this!
(Of course, don’t be fooled–with June in tow–things do look a little different. We no longer have impromptu, off the cuff date nights on a random Tuesday because we can, we no longer have leisurely dinners that start at 9:30 and last until midnight. (I mean, we COULD whenever we have babysitters…but we’re too tired.) This doesn’t bother us, and it doesn’t feel like a big sacrifice, because having HER is so much more fun and so worth it. Additionally, we have ONE baby who can’t walk yet. I know it’s going to get trickier. I’m just speaking from the experience we’ve had so far. Just level-setting here!
Overall, we love bringing June out with us–and she loves it too!
She has always loved being in the action. I’m sure a lot of this just has to do with her personality. But I also think a big part of it is that she’s never known anything different.
Don’t get me wrong–bringing your baby out in public can be DAUNTING at first. (The first time we tried to take June out, I didn’t make it past the front steps before she started wailing, and in turn I started sobbing! We had to go back inside and try again a few hours later. It was a MESS.) But once you rip the band-aid off, it gets SO much easier, and you will ALL be much, much happier for it!
After all, the key to enjoying all the things you used to do before baby is…doing them with a baby.
So let’s jump into my tried and true tips for doing just that! I definitely don’t know it all, and I’m learning as I go, but hopefully what I’ve learned can help you too!
Practice, practice, practice!
If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times–getting out and about with your baby gets better and easier with practice, just like everything else in life! Remind yourself of that. If one time feels like a disaster, that’s okay! You DID IT! And next time, it’ll be so much easier. (Plus, often, you’ll be surprised by your baby AND yourself!)
Do you have a new baby? Did you get within 5 feet of your house the first time you tried to take them out in public? GO YOU!!! YOU ARE DOING AMAZING!
You do not have to sit through a five course meal the first time you take your baby out. (Nor do you ever. I certainly have not accomplished that.) Try a neighborhood walk first. Then try a counter-order spot close to home (meaning, you pay right then and there, and can go sit down. This means no waiting for a check and an easy escape! We must have been Foxtrot’s #1 customers during the months of July and August of 2021!) Work your way up to a bar and restaurant, building up your confidence a little each time!
Me and Kelly at one of our first nights out with June and Lucy!
Build up your confidence by going with mom friends!
When your baby isn’t the only one at the table, it’s amazing how much less pressure you feel!
Not only is it nice to not have your baby be the only one who could start crying at the table, but having mom friends be there for moral support (and give me pointers, or hand me a wipe, etc) during those early hiccups out in public was a huge confidence booster! (It also was so great to be able to turn around and pass that on to friends who had babies right after June!)
I’ve said this before, but do not under-estimate the power of having a friend (or even acquaintance) who has a baby that is the same age as yours. I don’t know what I would’ve done without my friend Sam during the newborn phase–her baby was a month older than June. Even though she was just a couple weeks ahead of me, she was my lifeline because she had JUST been in my shoes! If you don’t have a friend like this already, ask friends of friends if they know anyone due around the same time. I would also post in some local Facebook groups and try to arrange some meetups!
Even if your mom friends don’t have kids your age–being with ANY mom will help calm your nerves! They’ve been in your shoes, they don’t mind fussy babies, they can even help coach you through what to do if you run into any hiccups!
Additionally, this can apply to couple friends, too! (Shout out to our friends David and Tara!) Call up your couple friends with little ones and propose an outing with the kids. It makes such a difference in your confidence even just after one time.
Choose the time accordingly
This is a really important one! Choosing the best time will set you and your baby up for success! What’s the best time of day to get out and about? This will depend on your baby. Time it during wake windows and/or if baby naps well on the go, you can plan for them to nap in the carrier or car seat. Early happy hour is usually a great time– around 4pm is a great time, or early dinner at 5:30.
What do I mean by “time it during wake windows”?
When June was a couple months old, for example, she would eat every 3 hours and be awake for about 45 mins to an hour before it was time to go to sleep again (this is called a “wake window”). I would choose to time an outing after she finished her bottle and during her nap time (because she slept well in the carrier).
For example, if her second bottle was at 9am, I could plan to meet a friend for breakfast at 10am. Once she finished her bottle, I’d pop her in the carrier, walk, and plan to have lunch while she napped. If I wasn’t going to be home by 11am in time for her next bottle, I would bring it with me and plan to feed her at the restaurant.
Avoid peak hours if you can. An earlier breakfast, late lunch, happy hour or early dinner are much lower pressure because you (and other parents) will likely be the only ones at the restaurant/bar!
*Going off on a tangent here, but this is why getting baby on a schedule (or simply knowing and following appropriate wake/feeding windows) sooner rather than later is SO helpful. This allows you to know why baby is crying (are they hungry? Are they tired? A schedule allows you to anticipate this!), to plan ahead so you can have what you need, etc. We follow Moms on Call and it has worked well for us, but also recommend following Peaceful Littles (or doing a consult with her) on what a schedule might look like at different ages, tips, etc!*
What about, you know, *regular dinner time*? Is it OK to have baby out past bedtime?
Of course it is! They’ll either fall asleep out, or they won’t–but baby needs to learn to go with the flow. There’s a good chance you’ll be surprised with how good they are out past bedtime. At home, June would be an absolute nightmare if we kept her up until 9pm–but out at a restaurant? Or at a party? Not a problem AT ALL. She loves being out and about. You never know until you try. Repeat after me: Its ok if baby’s schedule gets off. In fact, it’s good for them! They need to practice going with the flow! It is a LIFE SKILL.
Choose the location accordingly
Patios are great:
This is one place that summer babies/new parents really have an advantage–patios with outdoor seating are SO key for babies and kiddos. They’re easy to get to and from, you can jump up and take a walk down the sidewalk if needed, there’s more room to spread out, and it’s easier to drown out the sound of a crying baby outside! Plus, for whatever reason, a lot of babies are just calmer outdoors. Getting outside is good for everyone!
I know this can be trickier in the winter, but look for spots with sidewalk heaters, heated beer gardens, and more. If you’re going to be with a group, there are so many spots that have private tents, igloos, etc! A quick google search will lead you there, and these are always great options with babies and young kids in tow! (The above photo was taken in one of the “Camp Lottie’s” tents at Lotties, it was a perfect setup!)
Pick a spot you know will be quiet:
Outside not doable? Pick a spot you know is going to be quiet for the time of day you’ll be there. Super popular or trendy/sceney places are probably not going to be an ideal choice. (Save those for when you have a babysitter!)
Luckily, most places are pretty empty during off hours (think 9am brunch, lunch or drinks between 2-4pm dinner at 5pm, etc). You don’t have to look high and low for a spot that is considered “baby friendly”–just go somewhere you already love or have been wanting to try! If you aren’t sure where to start, ask friends with kids, or post in some local Facebook groups, or do a google search!
Go for a bar, brewery, or casual spot:
It’s a lot less pressure, it’s quicker, and you won’t feel disappointed if you have to leave early. In my opinion, a sit down dinner at a real restaurant feels more daunting–so try more low-key spots until you have some experience under your belt and feel like it’s doable!
Grab a table with enough space to get up and walk without disturbing other diners.
The easiest way to calm a fussy baby is to get up and walk (and bounce). If you can request to sit where there is plenty of room to get up and walk around if needed, that’ll help! The last thing you want to be worried about as your baby is fussing is maneuvering around a bunch of tightly packed tables.
Tip: Bar or high top seating works really well because then you can stand and sway–much harder and more awkward to do at a low top table).
June cried for almost this entire happy hour outing we had, but I still VERY MUCH enjoyed this well earned cocktail!
Try both car seat/stroller and babywearing
Some babies LOVE their car seats, others love being worn–for June, it was the latter. (This is still the case at almost 8 months old!)
At first, we would take her out in our “main stroller” with the bassinet–the Babyjogger stroller –everywhere because she hated the car seat and it’s also nice to have somewhere to set them while your eating. That would only work about half the time with June (she’d rarely sleep in the bassinet), so I always brought her Babybjorn with me just in case.
As she got older (and got over her hatred of the car seat) we would bring her to restaurants in her Doona (which is SO much easier than maneuvering around a regular old big stroller!) or just wear her from the get-go.
It’s never been a problem wearing her sitting down while she was sleeping. (Was it SLIGHTLY harder to eat, yes but that’s okay. Salad and French fries are still easy to eat over a sleeping baby!)
Now if we take her out for a meal, we’ll leave her in her Doona, pop her in the restaurant high chair (if she’s awake) or have her nap in the Babybjorn.
Tip: If you have a baby that sleeps in the carseat, a blackout car seat cover is AWESOME to keep them sleeping as long as possible. Also helpful is a portable sound machine for the carseat or bassinet.
Everything I need for a shorter (think: a couple of hours) can fit in my ABLE backpack purse (use code JESSKEYS15 for 15% off!)
Items to bring with you:
Alright, now, this is just going to come down to your personality type, but I have never liked lugging a ton of stuff with me all the time (especially if I was wearing her somewhere and didn’t have the storage of a stroller). I am definitely a minimalist as it pertains to kid stuff, but this is also the reality of living in the city and walking everywhere. If I drove everywhere, I’d just bring a ton of stuff and keep it in the car, just in case! I think it’s all about your lifestyle.
Personally, we found that after the first couple of outings, we didn’t actually need much stuff to walk to lunch, happy hour, etc. I would typically wear my Kibou fanny pack diaper bag that housed a couple diapers, small pack of wipes, extra Paci (make sure that any Pacis are attached to Paci clips so they don’t get thrown/dropped on the ground!) burp cloth and a bottle, and this was plenty for being out with a newborn for a couple of hours. (The diaper bag has a fold out changing pad, so that makes it super easy!)
More about bottles on the go:
If I needed to bring a bottle for say, 3 hours from the time I packed it, I would put the appropriate amount of powdered formula in the bottle and then just ask for water at the restaurant to mix when she was ready to eat! (This way, I didn’t need to carry a bulky container of formula with me).
We always gave June room temperature bottles from day one–this makes it much easier when on the go as we’ve never needed to worry about warming bottles. Every baby is different, but we didn’t want to get her used to something fancy/more effort if we didn’t have to. I was not interested in lugging around a bottle warmer everywhere I went. (Like I said, I’m a minimalist when it comes to kid stuff. This isn’t the attitude that works for everyone, I’m just sharing what worked for me!)
Additionally, when she was really little and eating very small amounts at a time, I would use the little small ready-to-feed bottles of liquid formula from the hospital. They’re so nice and small enough to fit in any small bag! For more bottle-feeding tips, see this post!
As June’s gotten older, it’s helpful to bring a couple of toys if we’re going to be sitting down somewhere for a longer period of time.
(I.E. if we’re sitting down at a restaurant, putting her in a high chair, etc). I’ll bring a couple small toys to keep her occupied in addition to the items above. (Honestly her favorite toy is Pokey. He doesn’t take up much room. Also, I’m certainly not above letting her watch Sesame Street on my phone or an iPad but it hasn’t come to that yet!)
If I don’t have toys with me, she’s happy with a napkin, burp cloth, a spoon–whatever!) Still, everything I need for an outing will typically fit in my ABLE backpack purse (use code JESSKEYS15 for 15% off!)–I rarely haul my big diaper bag (can also get 15% off this one with JESSKEYS15) with me unless it’s a full day trip or an overnight. This might change as she gets older and busier and needs more toys to keep her occupied, but for now–she doesn’t need much!
Tip: clip small toys to baby or stroller with Paci clips so they can’t be thrown on the ground!
Order quickly, get the check quickly.
Many servers (who are parents or experienced with kids themselves) will know to be extra attentive to you and bring you the check quickly, just in case you need to scoot! (I have never experienced any less than WONDERFUL servers when being out with June!) But if not, when your food comes, ask for the check. Don’t feel rude, just say something like, “in case she wakes up cranky, can we get the check just in case we need to jet out quickly? Thanks so much!” You server can always run your card again if you don’t end up needing to leave early and want another round, but having the extra re-assurance is really nice so you don’t stress about having an exit strategy.
Tip: This is another reason why more casual counter-order spots are ideal with little babies and can feel less pressure than a true sit down bar or restaurant. Having exit options always made me feel much less stressed!
Remember that just getting out of the house = success!
Sometimes you will have a perfect baby who sleeps two hours start to finish and allows you to leisurely enjoy a bottle of rosé on the patio. Other times, your baby will be cranky and fussy and you will take turns walking them up and down the sidewalk of the restaurant the entire time. But guess what? Both are equally successful.
Don’t be hard on yourself–the actions of your baby have nothing to do with you or how good of a parent you are! In either scenario, you’re out enjoying the world around you, you’re making memories you’ll remember for a lifetime (the good ones will always make you smile and with time, the bad ones will make you laugh). You aren’t just filling your cup as a parent, you’re teaching your baby how to be adaptable and how to thrive in the outside world. You’re doing amazing!
If all else fails, remember you never have to see any of these people again!
The worst case scenario: Your baby will cry and other people in the restaurant will hear. Big deal. Most often–it will bother YOU way more than it bothers anyone else. If you need to leave–leave! No big deal. In general, people want to help and they’re understanding. If they’ve never been in their shoes themselves, someone they love has! And if they’re offended, who cares? You never have to see these people again.