Traveling with a newly eating baby can be challenging, there's no sugar coating it. Everything from figuring out how often they need to eat, to what you will feed them, and where they will sit needs to be accounted for. It can all be somewhat overwhelming.
It takes time to get used to your baby's habits with eating. When you throw in a trip in the middle of the process, it can make everything even more complicated!
The good news is that when your baby is still in that first month or two of eating, the main point of food is to practice their skills. That doesn't mean that you don't need to feed them appropriate food, though! It means that your breast milk or formula will still be providing your baby with most of their nutritional needs.
You don't need to stress about getting them enough calories or balancing all their meals.
These first few months of table foods are one of the most complicated times to try to traveling with your baby. So to those of you that are planning a trip, take a deep breath and remember to enjoy the process! To help make it as smooth as possible, here are some tips I have found useful for traveling.
More: For more help with baby led weaning and how to help your baby succeed with eating, be sure to check out this article with a comprehensive guide to baby led weaning and first baby foods!
We recently returned from a week long trip to Disney World where I used most of these strategies and it made life much easier!
- Don't forget about the breast milk! (Or the formula) Make sure you are paying attention to your baby's signals of hunger, and feeding them milk on demand. Their schedule will likely be off no matter if you are in the same time zone or not. Listen to what they're telling you, even if it is different than normal.
- Hydration If you are a breastfeeding mama and you are going to a hot spot, remember that hydrating yourself will help to hydrate your baby. Check the color of your urine to determine if you are hydrated enough. Pale yellow is best, if it starts to get darker you need to drink more. If your baby is asking to drink more than normal, remember that part of the reason could be that they're thirsty, and not just hungry.
- Meals You don't have to feed your baby 3 times a day unless that is what they're getting at home. At the beginning, most babies really only need 1-2 meals a day to practice their skills.
What you feed will be completely dependent on where you are going. If you are staying at a place with a kitchen and table, and are planning to eat some meals there, you shouldn't need to make many adjustments.
- Sitting arrangements I like to bring a booster seat to leave at the table where we're staying so that my daughter can always have a place to eat. This last trip we were on we had breakfasts in our condo every day. This meant that I could easily make her an egg or toast and she could join us for breakfast.
- Reusing food As most hotels and rentals don't have the cleanest floors, you won't be able to pick up food and give it back to your baby like you might at home. You can always lay out a sheet under your baby to have a clean surface. My husband and I sit on either side of our daughter and are on high alert to catch falling food before it can touch the ground when there's no sheet.
- The mess If you're worried about a mess on the ground, the sheet will also help with clean up. You can always avoid super messy items like yogurts while you are away to make things easier.
- Specific foods Any food you'd normally feed your baby at home is fair game. Since you have a kitchen, it's really just about altering textures and sizes of foods as you would at home. For ideas of foods to serve, be sure to check out my handout!
When You're Not at Your Hotel
The number one thing to remember is that even if your baby is getting more confident in eating, they are still in the early learner stages. This means choking is still a high risk! Never feed your baby in a stroller, while you're moving, or when you're not specifically watching them.
- Makeshift chairs What happens if you're at the beach, or at a quick restaurant that doesn't have highchairs? In Disney it's counter service restaurants that almost never have tables to sit at. The best bet in these situations is to have one person hold the baby on their lap while another one is responsible for watching the baby and making sure they don't choke. Make sure that the baby is sitting up completely when eating, so sitting in a stroller is not a good option.
- Be prepared Most restaurants will have highchairs you can use, but bring sanitizing wipes with you to clean the surfaces your baby will touch. I like to bring a silicone mat to place on the table to keep the food contained, as well. Baby spoons are a good thing to have if you plan to feed your baby something like yogurt at a restaurant.
- Make nice with the busboys and waiters Your baby will throw food on the floor. There's no avoiding it. Every restaurant that serves kids is used to it. You are not the only one. Your baby is likely not even the messiest! It doesn't hurt to apologize to whoever has to clean it up, though. Even if it's just to acknowledge that you know it's more work for them. If it's truly bad or they aren't used to kids, a little extra tip doesn't hurt, either.
- Bring food with you While eating the same meals as you is ideal, sometimes there's no appropriate food at restaurants to feed your baby. Often times there's nothing on the menu that is the right texture or the right shape. I try to have cucumber sticks in my bag for these situations. You can also pack toast or teething biscuits. Avoid packing anything that isn't stiff and finger sized as it will just fall apart and end up on the ground before your baby can eat it.
- Find a buffet By far the easiest place to find foods for your baby while out is at a buffet. Think Sweet Tomatoes or Hometown Buffet if you have those near you. Places like Disney have multiple buffet options where babies eat free. Foods to look for are carrot spears, asparagus, green beans, bread, strips of chicken you can shred (avoid breaded as it often has too much salt), chopped olives, salmon, grated cheese, and yogurt to start with.
These early days of feeding can be challenging while traveling. Approaching it from a place of curiosity and wonderment at how adaptable your baby can be can help. Know that your breast milk or formula is still meeting the majority of their nutritional needs, and hop on for the ride!
Have you found any other useful tips for traveling with your baby? Let me know!