Getting out and about is good for your baby and good for you, but whereas you used to be able to grab a bottle (or boob!) and run, you’ll now need to be prepared before you leave the house with snacks and possibly the occasional meal.
What works well
Small portions of baby food in sealed plastic tubs travel well and are ideal for newly weaned tots. Puree, mash or chop foods in advance, and then decant the amount you think your baby will eat into a clean container with a tight-fitting lid.
For instant meals that are easy to prepare, you can’t beat a soft banana, avocado or a ripe peach. Take a bowl, spoon and fork with you, and you can peel and mash the fruit on the spot to make a speedy meal for your baby.
Even if you normally prepare your own meals, jars of baby food can be extremely useful when out and about, so don’t feel guilty about it! Also look for small yoghurts and pots of fruit puree which are easy to transport.
What to avoid
Avoid foods that need specific storage or preparation methods for days out. For example, dairy- or meat-based meals aren’t ideal if you’re going to be out all day long, as they should be kept refrigerated. Also avoid anything that is likely to be particularly messy to eat, like spaghetti, and remember that tomato sauce stains terribly.
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Storing and re-heating food
Look for an insulated food bag or container to keep your tot’s food cool on the go. Use ice packs for additional freshness, and store the food bag out of direct sunlight – for example, under the pushchair.
For hot meals, try heating the food so that it’s piping hot just before you leave the house, then keeping it in an insulated food bag. It should have cooled down to a baby-ready temperature by the time you’re ready to serve it. You can also take a flask of hot water, which you can then pour into a bowl and stand a pot of food in to warm it through.
Many venues, particularly child-centred establishments like play centres and family restaurants, will heat food for you if you ask, or provide hot water. Some also have microwaves for you to warm your own baby food.
Great kit for meals on the go
To make eating out with your baby an easier experience, look for:
- An insulated food bag to keep meals and bottles cool or warm
- Gel freezer packs to keep food fresh in the cool bag
- An insulated food flask: these often have a lid which converts into a bowl
- Small plastic pots for individual portions of food. You can even choose disposable versions for days out
- Plastic bowls, spoons and beakers
- A roll-up travel high chair (‘handbag high chair’) or a folding booster seat
- Roll-up or disposable bibs
- Nappy sacks for dirty bibs and clothes
- A packet of wipes
Snacking on the run
Good portable snacks for your newly weaned baby include small rice cakes, soft pieces of fruit that can be mashed and soft baby rusks (check for low sugar varieties). Don’t forget that although she’s eating solids, she’ll still need regular milk feeds – remember to pack a bottle if you think she’ll need one.
Follow these golden rules to make eating out with your baby a stress-free experience:
- If you’re pre-booking, call in advance to see if the restaurant has high chairs and maybe a child-friendly section to sit in
- Ask about meal choices: many restaurants offer baby purees or branded baby-friendly meals
- Even if you think there will be something for your baby to eat, take a pot or jar of food just in case
- If you’re following a baby-led weaning approach, take a look at the adult menus to decide if it will be appropriate to offer food from your plate, bearing in mind that babies shouldn’t have added salt. If in doubt, take your own food
- Take a few toys for her to play with at the table
- Be realistic – don’t expect your baby to eat much, or to sit contentedly through a long family meal
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