I like food. A lot. I might even call myself a “foodie,” even though that term drums up images of smug hipsters drooling over organic microgreen smoothies and matcha green tea donuts. I tend plan my next meal while I’m eating my current one, and read menus for restaurants that I’ll never visit just for fun. I’m the kind of person who walks into Waitrose for a loaf of bread and some milk, and walks out having spent £40 on artisan cheeses, cold-pressed juices and lentil crisps.
Adrian and I used to go out to eat a lot before we had the Popple, and we hoped to keep up our restaurant habit after she was born. However, it quickly became clear that she wasn’t going to sleep peacefully in her pram while we ate a civilised meal. The few times we did go out to eat, she would howl with fury while we took turns passing her back and forth so the other person could shovel their food into their mouth as quickly as possible. It was stressful and expensive, so we decided it wasn’t worth it – until we weaned her.
Once she started eating solid food and joining us at the table for mealtimes, we figured we could start taking her out to eat with us. It sounded simple. All we had to do was pack something for her to eat, her sippy cup and a bib. It should totally work. But we hadn’t anticipated one obstacle:
The awkward cafe highchair.
Most highchairs in cafes are wooden or hard plastic, uncomfortable-looking, and tray-less. They’re also not designed for 2nd percentile babies. The Popple usually can’t quite reach the table from the highchair, which is a problem, because we’re doing baby-led weaning. She’s used to having food spread out all over her tray for her to pick up at her own pace, squish through her fingers and wave around a bit.
If we want her to be able to eat in a cafe, we often need to get creative with her ‘tray’. A tupperware lid. The platter my tea came on. A bread plate. One of us holds the ‘tray’ in front of her, trying to catch stray bits of food, while the other person eats. Not surprisingly, most of her lunch ends up on the floor. I have to get down on my hands and knees when she’s finished, picking up chunks of cheesy flapjacks and with a wet wipe and avoiding eye contact with the wait staff.
I can’t be the only one with a small, messy baby. So here’s my question: can anyone recommend a portable travel highchair? It needs to be small or collapsable, give her some height and have a tray – obviously.
The few times we’ve found a cafe with a highchair that’s a reasonable height or has a tray, it’s given us a sense of what eating out with a baby SHOULD be like – my husband and I eating our dishes AT THE SAME TIME at a normal pace, while the Popple picks through her food happily, throwing only some of it on the floor. It’s not quite a civilised meal, but it’ll do.