Baby Food on Holiday
How to manage food for a baby starting solids while away is one of the common topics I get asked about. This year overseas travel has certainly been curbed thanks to COVID-19 and shut boarders. However, after the initial big lockdown national and regional travel has been allowed here in New Zealand as well as for some other countries too. Christmas is around the corner and some of you will be going away for this period.
Navigating baby food on holiday is certainly possible, it just requires a bit of forward planning and preparation.
I must confess that when our older two boys, Arjun and Sahan were starting solids we simply did not go away. We did not have the money, time or energy (I was doing my PhD right through this). However, with Ray-Ray (now aged one) we have done multiple trips away with him this year alone. In August, after the first big lock down and my surgery we did a family trip to Rotorua for three days. Ray-Ray was nine months old so right in the thick of his starting solids.
At the time I shared what we did on my Instagram stories and intended to write it up in a blog for after….but then the second Auckland lockdown hit. Better late than never though right so here is the write up I promised on this and as much practical tips I can give you on managing baby food on the road!
Just keep in mind while reading these tips is that everyone will have different priorities and needs while being away. It is literally my job to help others with starting solids so without question this is of top importance to me. I hold myself responsible for setting an example for what is possible because of this. In addition, I travel and have done baby food demos on the road so many times I have lost count. Fair to say I have a lot of practise! This does not mean I expect the same of you. Travelling with a baby is a huge amount of work no matter what you do – their need for food, sleep, nappy changes and everything else is there regardless. Often it is more work while out of your usual systems and space. Be kind to yourself on your own expectations of how this will go.
Stage of Journey
When we went away in August, Ray-Ray was nine months old. He was pretty much right on the 8-9 month old daily rhythm that I have in The Nourished Baby. Being baby number three he was well used to being dragged out to numerous places and not have exact set sleep and feeding times. Typically, he was having two sleeps a day, a lunch meal and dinner with us. Breakfast was still a bit transitional, generally he would have breakfast but if it was a bad morning (hello three children!) we would do a formula feed instead. By 10 months this was well and truly transitioned out. He was still having the majority of his baby food in puree form but was exploring food in whole-form (more baby-led-weaning) as well…just not eating it fully. This would also come when he was 10 months of age.
When Starting Solids
If you are right at the start of your journey and only going away for a few days or a week, yes you can put it off until you are back. I know the topic of 'when' to start solids is confusing but you do have the option to fit it in with what is best for both your baby and your family. If going away for a couple of months however, you might want to start a couple of weeks sooner to find your systems before managing this away. Full details on 'when' to start I cover in The Nourished Baby and you can always have a short consultation with myself or the team too.
The length of time you are away, how you are travelling (car, plane, campervan) and where you are staying all determine what you need to manage your baby food. Travel time wise to Rotoura is about three hours in the car, give or take the pit stops required along the way. We were away for two nights and three full days and staying in a hotel with access to a fridge. The equipment I took was what I use to make baby food at home and some products I have come to highly recommend and subsequently have available on my website:
*Avent Baby Food Maker (steams and blends)
*Kizingo feeding set of bowl, plate and spoon
*Catcher bib (super easy to clean!)
*Sippy cup (stainless steel cup from Nuk)
*Chopping board and knife (for easy preparation)
*Dishwashing liquid to clean everything in the hotel
*Bottles, bottle brush and stainless canister for sterilised water for formula
The overall plan was to make Ray-Ray's baby food using the Avent Baby Food maker. This is easily transportable and can be cleaned using hot soppy water. Along with some vegetables and tinned tuna, I also took some frozen baby food in the car on the way down - one for dinner on the night we arrived and one to put in the fridge for the next day.
Summary of food:
*2 cubes of pre-frozen baby food.
*Selection of vegetables – potato (white washed, easy to chop and no peeling required), carrots and broccoli
*Avocado – source of fat and easy baby food
*Tinned tuna – source of iron, protein and fat
*Snacks for older boys in the car – this is pictured below (aged 8 and 5)
How it Worked
We arrived close to dinner time. The avocado worked well as a ‘entree’ for Ray-Ray and even Sahan dug into one while waiting. The restaurant in the hotel heated up one of the frozen cubes (the other was in the fridge). It was all easy to clean every down afterwards.
For breakfast the following morning Ray-Ray happily had scrambled eggs which was with our breakfast. Just to note this is one of the top eight allergens and Ray-Ray had already had his introduction to them. All details on how to introduce allergens in The Nourished Baby.
We had the whole day planned to be out and about. So for lunch I took the second frozen cube (now defrosted) in the nappy bag with me. We were at the luge when Ray-Ray was ready for lunch (after a sleep in the pram). Staff at the café there were happy to heat this up. Ray-Ray also had some tomato from my salad in the baby food feeder.
For dinner, I made fresh batch of puree. We had gone back to the hotel to reset everyone. I put the vegetables on and steamed while we were getting everyone changed and sorted. I then quickly added the tuna, blended and put half in the bowl to take with me and half in a container to cool while out. This I put into the fridge for the next day when we got back. By the time we got to the restaurant and everyone seated Ray-Ray was more than ready and ate this happily while we were all waiting for our food - which made things easy for us in the end! He also had some meat in the food feeder from our meal and this also gave us some time to actually eat ourselves (I had Sahan on my lap asleep at this point!).
Breakfast the following morning was a little sideways as Ray-Ray woke before breakfast time. So we just gave him a bottle of formula beforehand. Big brother Arjun was our much needed spare pair of hands! We still offered him something when we were all eating but as we expected he was not hungry.
The plan was to spend the day out and about again. As the tuna/vegetable mixture of puree was made fresh the night before it was fine to take with us and give at lunch time. Ray-Ray also enjoyed some soft kumara and tomato (clearly a favourite!) from my salad too. We timed things so that the bulk of our drive home was in Ray-Ray's afternoon sleep so we were back home for dinner. Frozen baby food in the freezer made for a fast dinner when we arrived.
As it turned out I took more food than we needed but that’s life with a baby right. It all worked more or less to plan and being able to make food fresh in the Avent baby food maker was very easy. While we asked places to heat up baby food I was not too stressed if this was not possible. I always think it’s helpful to encourage flexible eating i.e.having food cold as well as hot. Babies can eat cold baby food....clearly because all prepackaged baby food is cold.
Just a little note on water as this can be easy to forget. When babies are starting solids I recommend having a sippy cup there. Breastmilk or formula are the major providers of fluid until one year of age. This is then when solid food becomes the major providers of nutrients and fluid intake from water. However that switch comes in a transitional form and offering water is important. It is easiest to do at a meal time. When away just be sure to have a sippy cup with you and keep offering water as you would normally.
Back Up Options
This is something I always get asked about! You will notice I did not take any with us. You will have to forgive me but in the position I am in there is not a specific brand of premade baby food I could recommend. Many companies have tried, trust me. I do believe that you can manage baby food without a back up. Keeping in mind that younger babies will not be having a lot of meals so you can switch and swap the time you do offer solids and older babies will be able to have more baby-led-weaning options.
However, if you feel more comfortable having a back up option then you should do it. In The Nourished Baby I give some pointers on what to look for in premade baby food but as a general rule of thumb go for just vegetable options (you won't find many vegetable and meat options) and check the back for no fillers like cornflower or baby rice. If you have not read my blog on why I don't recommend baby rice it is here. If you are travelling for a long period of time on the road, you may need to consider this more depending on where you are staying and what access you have to food and/or storage facilities.
To leave you on a positive note, while travelling with a baby and managing their food does present some challenges it also opens up opportunities for exposure to food they might not normally have. You might also be surprised at just how well your baby goes. One of the highlights from our trip to Rotorua was the dinner on Saturday night. The restaurant we took all the boys to was Mac's Steakhouse. This was a restaurant that my husband and I had gone to on a trip to Rotorua when we first meet - a decade ago! As mentioned above, Ray-Ray ate his food well and then happily sat in the high chair the entire meal. Sahan actually fell asleep on my lap which I didn't mind as this does not happen often (you can see a short video clip here on Facebook). It was a very special night - one for the memory books for sure.
We find Rotorua a good family friendly destination overall. It is not too far from Auckland and there is lots for our older boys to do. We are going back for a couple days over Christmas and Ray-Ray will be 13.5 months....not sure if he will be walking by then but will keep you posted when we go in a few weeks time!
For more recipe ideas in both puree and baby-led weaning options I would highly recommend checking out my Baby and Toddler Cookbook (currently with free shipping a great xmas bonus). I used this heavily through Ray-Ray's journey....yes even though I created the recipes I still needed them in front of me for ideas as I went!
x Dr Julie Bhosale