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Eating Out With Your Baby

To treat themselves one Sunday morning, Christina and Greg Presser went out for breakfast with their then 3-month-old daughter.

"Just after we ordered, Amanda decided she was hungry, too," says Christina, who lives in Salem, OR. "It was raining, and I didn't want to take her to the car to nurse in private, so when Greg said, 'Just feed her,' I did."

It wasn't the ideal place for Christina's first try at public nursing: The booth was a tight fit, and she sensed other patrons staring.

Eating in a restaurant with a new baby can involve as many pitfalls as pleasures, but you can increase your odds of making it all the way to dessert if you:

TIME IT RIGHT

If you feed your baby just before you leave home, she may conk out  -- or at least keep quiet  -- during your meal. You can also try nursing or giving her a bottle as soon as you get to the restaurant.

DRESS FOR DISCRETION

If you decide to nurse at the table, drape a receiving blanket over your shoulder; wear a fabric sling, which holds the baby and acts as a shield from prying gazes; or wear a top that's loose enough to tuck the infant under.

GO CASUAL

Skip posh establishments. "You'd be too tense to enjoy the meal," says Martha Sears, coauthor of The Baby Book and mother of eight.

When her daughter, Madison, was a newborn two years ago, Amy McPartlon, of Niskayuna, NY, "chose places that cater to families because we knew we wouldn't be frowned at when we walked in." She also arrived at uncrowded times. "If the restaurant was too noisy, Madison became overstimulated and fussy," McPartlon recalls.

EXPEDITE THE MEAL

Beating the crowds improves your chances of being served promptly. Order everything  -- appetizer, main course, and dessert  -- at once.

OPT FOR LOW-MAINTENANCE FOOD

Sears suggests choosing things you can eat while holding your baby, such as pita sandwiches (less likely to be drippy), salads, or pasta that doesn't have to be twirled. Avoid hot soups for safety reasons, and put your infant in her carrier before you finish the meal with hot tea or coffee.

ENTERTAIN

"When Madison was about four months old, we began to save toys just for dinners out," says McPartlon. "Because she saw them only on those occasions, they held her attention."

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