When we planned a six-week holiday in England, one thing I was nervous about was feeding our baby, Gemma. She was six and a half months when we left and we had started baby-led weaning about a fortnight before we left home. I was nervous about how we’d go with baby-led weaning on holidays but things went pretty ok.
You might be wondering…
What is baby-led weaning anyway?
In contrast to ‘traditional’ weaning (which involves spoon-feeding pureed foods transitioning through to solids over time), baby-led weaning involved starting with regular foods (although not super hard foods initially) cut into finger-sized, manageable chunks and allowing baby to feed themselves and decide what they want to eat.
Baby-led weaning is thought to promote self-regulation of eating habits and awareness of hunger and satiety. And, as we breastfeed on demand, it seemed like a natural transition and made sense for how we approach food.
This approach allows baby to explore foods at their own pace and a common catch phase is ‘food before one is just for fun’.
Early Foods on Holiday
When we left Australia, Gemma had tried a few foods – broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, pumpkin soup, toast, porridge, scrambled eggs and baked beans. How much ended up in her tummy, I’m not sure, but she had fun exploring the foods.
We aimed to give Gemma options from what we were eating, but sometimes it was tricky when we were eating out and we wanted to avoid salt and sugar for Gemma.
For the first month or so, I tried to bring along portable finger food options for her when we were – think rice crackers, baby food bars and baby crackers from the baby food aisle – to offer if we were eating things that weren’t ideal for her (you should avoid salty and sugary foods, along with honey and whole nuts in baby’s first year or so).
I also let go of the idea of serving our breakfast foods as we generally eat bacon and eggs and it’s not ideal to serve bacon to a baby (due to the high salt content of bacon). Instead, Gemma had a selection of things including steamed snow peas and baby corn, toast soldiers, fruit and yoghurt.
Baby-led weaning on holidays as your baby becomes more adventurous
As Gemma grew more interested in food and better at actually eating some, instead of just sending it flying or mushing it up, we started offering her more of ‘our’ foods. Things we shared included:
- Chicken leg (we ate most of the meat off and she gnawed on the remains).
- Morsels from salads (slices of tomato, wedges of cucumber) and treats like smoked salmon.
- French Toast (this was a winner – see below for basic recipe)
- Fried egg and poached egg cooked until yolk was firm for easier eating
- Quarters of sandwiches with soft fillings (egg and cress, tuna and corn)
Towards the end of our trip, Gemma started to notice that baby snacks (like rice crackers) were not what we were eating. One morning we were sat in a park – Mr Dixon eating a sausage roll and me enjoying a mini salted caramel tart (both very unsuitable for a baby!). Gemma had apple flavoured rice crackers. She threw every cracker out her pram in disgust and clearly indicated she required ‘proper’ food. Luckily, we had also bought a delicious sourdough at the bakery where we had acquired our treats and she was happy to chew on a slice of artisan bread!
How to eat out with baby
Baby-led weaning can be messy, I won’t lie to you. So eating out can feel a bit scary. We had three strategies to cope:
#1 Keep to ‘tidy’ foods – We ate at a few posh restaurants when out with family and I don’t think they would have loved food flinging. We stuck to giving Gemma foods that wouldn’t make a huge messy – soldiers of bread, baby snacks (dipped in a bit of our sauce or gravy to make it feel more exciting) and breadsticks.
#2 Use the stroller as a seat – Most restaurants and cafes have high chairs with no tray table. So it is really hard to feed a young baby without them constantly dropping things on the floor. Keeping your baby upright in the stroller increases the ‘catch zone’ around your baby. Our stroller ended up with various bits of broccoli, carrots, fish, potato…actually, you name it, stuck in the crevices. But it meant food didn’t fall straight to the floor. And with a good wipeout at the end of the day, the stroller survived.
#3 Bring a catch mat – Sometimes baby needs to use a high chair because a cramped restaurant or cafe means there is no room for the stroller at the table. I kept a clean muslin cloth in my bag and would put it under the high chair. That meant that when the food went south, I could rescue it and re-offer it to Gemma without it being contaminated by floor germs. Bonus points as the staff will think you are really thoughtful for keeping their floor clean (not that that was really our intention!).
French Toast for Baby Led Weaning on Holidays (and at home!)
Makes four slices
2/3 cup milk (or milk alternative – breast, oat, almond)
4 slices thick slice bread
2 teaspoons butter or coconut oil
1. Whisk eggs and milk in a shallow dish that can fit two slices of bread laying flat.
2. Place two slices of bread flat in the dish of egg mixture – soak for two minutes each side. Meanwhile, heat cast iron or non-stick fry pan over medium heat.
3. Put 1 teaspoon of your preferred fat in the pan. When melted, place the two slices of bread in the pan and cook for two minutes on each side or until golden. Meanwhile, put the other two slices of bread in the egg mix (flip after two minutes). Cook the final two pieces.
4. Serve as is or with yoghurt, coyo, fresh fruit such as berries (remember to squish blueberries to reduce choking hazard), chopped stone fruit or mango.