My dear parents, welcome to our column dedicated to weaning management while traveling. This topic deserves a category with in-depth analysis, because it is a very important step in our babies’ life. It’s one of the greatest changes a baby experiences in his/her first year. For mothers, it means studying, organizing, experimenting. This is why, parents can be scared by the idea of leaving for far-away vacations as their babies are undergoing the first months of solid food. For sure, it is more challenging than the milk-only period, where traveling is extremely easy : if you breastfeed, food is always there, if you are on formula, you just need to bring some bottles and look for others once at destination. You can find formula everywhere. You cannot be wrong: it’s one kind of food and that’s it. Weaning is a different story. First of all, at least in our experience, you may ask ten different pediatrician and you would come up with ten different approaches on how to introduce solid food. In Italy, weaning theories spam from the no-salt, no-gluten, no-dairy, to the extreme baby-led weaning where you should have them eat on their own since six or seven month-old. Some approaches introduce one food at a time, some others are more flexible. Some allow industrial baby food, some others strictly forbid it. Then, being in Italy, you also have grandmas and relatives theories about weaning (and any other topic, alas) . This means that ladies in their sixties, which in France and Germany would think of going out to the theater or trekking to Nepal, are spending their day claiming that you should not give eggs to your baby until he turns two. Or not give strawberries until I don’t know when and – hold on- make sure to puree everything until they set off to college. Not to mention old relatives or family friend without kids (yes, you got it right: without kids) and far from being pediatricians that happen to be expert about the correct moment in time for self weaning. Unfortunately, you cannot solve the problem by booking them a month – long tour in the Caribbean Islands because Italians have no other life goal than controlling children, grandchildren and relatives menage, or alternatively, soccer. Now, you can imagine how stressful all of this can turn out to be. Even more, if your three-week trip to Chile is approaching and you have no idea about how to keep your baby on solid food without provoking diarrhea or nausea to him /her. This is why we are gonna report the baby food experiences and options that we encountered over time, traveling. Our first experience with Princess being on solid food was a long weekend to London. We managed it well and without stress, thanks to our pediatrician. She is a very down-to-earth, rational and simpathetic professional that suggested us these few, useful, ever-green tips.
- Baby-led weaning is a very effective and useful way to have your baby eagerly eat whatever kind of food. Babies are ready for it when they can properly sit and coordinate the movement of the hands to the mouth (6/7 month old). This turns up to be extremely useful when traveling as you are most probably eating what you find. Ok, maybe just avoid to make them have a sip of raki in Crete, or bite the deep fries street food in Bangkok.
- Moms and dads need to be relaxed and communicate self-confidence to their babies (in my modest experience, this holds in any moment with babies) : this means that if you feel better pureeing everything for a longer time, just do it (by the way, you are in my team. I was shivering when giving Princess her pasta for the first time) . Self confidence and a positive approach happen to be the most important allies for traveling parents. When your baby is nervous about jet lag or about being on a plane for twelve hours, you need to be in your most joyful mood to make him eat something. That “something ” being what suits you best in that moment. Yes, including breastfeeding! Your Italian friend or old relative may say “Rrreally? Still breastfeeding bambino instead of staying at home and cooking?? Or going to the Italian beach and find spaghetti???” but you can easily remind them that human life was abundantly found outside the Italian borders and in many cases, with a lower public debt per capita.
- Eat like a local, wean like a local : this is the most precious advice I received from my pediatrician. When we were about to leave to Japan, I told her I was feeling guilty to put Princess on an industrial baby food diet during twenty days (I cooked her food myself at home). She told me I shouldn’t: ” It’ll be lovely and enriching for her to try local food. She is on vacations as well”. So true: baby backpackers grow up faster than you think.
If you carefully think about it. This is one of the reasons why traveling is so important to a human being: discovery. And even more it is for a baby. Food habits are an important way to get in touch with a different culture and to understand foreign social traditions. Ready to follow us in a worldwide journey through baby food? Just see what’s next!