Before you become a parent it is so easy to accidentally judge the person with the screaming baby in the next aisle or at the next table. I mean, why can’t they calm them down, right? How can they just let them cry like that? You think – When I have a baby it won’t cry out like that in public. My infant will sit patiently in the grocery cart all the way through the store and my toddler certainly won’t be having a tantrum because I said no to a toy.
Well I can tell you now, I WAS WRONG and SO ARE YOU!
Babies are not robots. They are little humans with emotions and this means that they will react however they feel is necessary. This means that they will have bad days and good days and everything in between. This means that outings with a new baby or a toddler can be scary and unpredictable for some parents, even to the point of causing anxiety. I can assure you we do not enjoy our baby having a meltdown in the middle of a restaurant and having all accusing eyes turn our way. Your judgements are not helpful or necessary…and I say this to my younger self too!
It is important to get out of the house not only for parents but for babies too. After all how are they going to learn the appropriate way to behave in public if they are not exposed to it? We try so hard to be ready for all scenarios but it is inevitable that we will not think of everything. Also, it is impossible to predict or know how your baby will react to the environment that they will be exposed to. For instance, my little guy is finally at a point where he is able to sit through the majority of a dinner without fussing. So we often bring him out with us for an evening dinner with friends or family. This generally goes off without a hitch. However, if we are at a restaurant and the temperature increases too much and he gets hot. IT’S ALL OVER! He immediately turns into a red faced crying, inconsolable little boy and there is nothing to be done about it. Sometimes there is just nothing the parent can do to help!
So what can we do to prepare for these outings to make them as enjoyable as possible?
1.) Think Ahead – You know your baby best, make sure that the activity you are going out to do is not too far out of their comfort zone. While it is good to get them used to environments that are new, it is better to break them in slowly. If your little one is scared of loud noisy places then maybe start them off at a small restaurant that isn’t so busy. Or go during a time of day that is slower (avoid common lunch and dinner times). If they are having anxiety about being passed off to different people then just keep them to yourself! If Grammy wants to hold them then have her stand close at first, then pass baby over and stay close yourself…slowly move yourself away as baby becomes comfortable. It’s all about teaching them that while these new situations are maybe uncomfortable at first, they can become fun!
2.) Distractions – It is inevitable that babies and toddlers are going to get bored or need something to do while out and about. Make sure you pack a few of their favorite toys or books. My guy LOVES his little teething keys and crinkle books. I make sure to bring those everywhere we go, and nine times out of ten if he starts getting antsy then handing him a sensory toy gets him to settle.
3.) Get Them Involved- I love the opportunity to get my little guy involved in the day to day activities around him. For instance, if we are sitting at a dinner then instead of keeping him in his car seat I will sit him on my lap. He can play with his toys at the table and he loves to watch us eat. I also feel that this will help to teach him the way that we behave at the table. There is no better way for them to learn then from seeing how Mom and Dad do it! I absolutely adore watching him soak up all the information, and occasionally even mimic the person he is watching!
4.) Snacks/Food – Make sure to pack a few snacks or bottles for your little one. They use up their energy so fast that they are bound to get hungry before you get anywhere. Hungry = Cranky for Baby K so I always am prepared to give him a boost!
5.) Be Mindful Of Nap Times – This is a big one for Baby K. He turns into a three headed monster when he is tired ( haha just kidding…kind of) so I try to make sure that he naps before we head wherever we are going. If there is time and your little one likes to, then they can always nap on the way. If you find yourself in a situation where nap times overlap with what you are doing, then maybe let them nap on you. Or at least fall asleep that way and then transfer into their car seat/ stroller. In my experience catching a nap at all costs is better than trying to push him to stay awake. Overtired/overstimulated = exhausted baby that will likely have a harder time falling asleep…so try to avoid this when possible!
6.) Roll With The Punches – It is essential to learn how to just roll with it when (not if) baby reacts badly in public. Baby will have an even harder time to calm down if they can sense that Mom or Dad are stressed out. Make no apologies for the people around you. As a public space you have just as much of a right to be there as everyone else. Again, it is important to expose your children to these new environments so they can learn the appropriate way to behave in public or around other people. If you are the person on the other end of the restaurant judging the parent across the room, please just take a moment to try to understand the place where they are at. They are teaching a new little human the nuances of society. The manners that they will use going forward through their life. This takes time and it takes patience and I can absolutely promise you that they are not purposely trying to disrupt your day.
Keep in mind, just because they didn’t enjoy the outing this time does not mean next week will be the same. These little guys change so fast, so just keep trying and it will only get better! Try not to let that anxiety creep in too much (as hard as it is) most people understand your situation. For those people that don’t, they are certainly not worth your worry!