Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Top Tips for Meals Out When You Are Baby Led Weaning

One of the worries Mums often have after they start baby led weaning is how to do it when they are away from home. No one wants to stay at home the whole time or only go out for a few hours so I hope that my suggestions will help people feel more confident.

In the early days of BLW food choices are limited because babies often doesn’t have teeth, they find it harder to get small pieces in their mouth and they tend to make a lot of mess, but with a little bit of planning I find eating out with my weaning baby stress free. 


10 tips for eating in restaurants when baby led weaning

  1. Pick a family friendly restaurant so they will have highchairs and be used to the mess which comes with small children eating.
  2. Don’t assume the highchair or table is properly clean. My girls have both been fans of trying to eat any part of the chair or table within their reach so the first thing I do is give anything within their reach a clean. The colour of my wipe afterwards makes me glad I made the effort.
  3. Bring a bib with a pocket for catching food. This will keep the floor slightly cleaner and means you can recycle some of the food.
  4. Kid's menus can be great, but in the first few months of weaning your baby probably won’t eat enough to make it worth the cost and they often aren’t that healthy. Have a look at starters and side dishes from the main menu too. When we ate out at Pizza Express recently Little had the kid's starter which is 4 dough balls (I broke them in half to cool down), some cucumber, pepper and tomato. It also comes with garlic butter, but as Little is currently dairy free I didn’t give her any of that.
  5. If your baby is showing very little interest in food ask for a few slices of cucumber or little bit of bread. Most restaurants are happy to provide these (and without charge).
  6. Pick low mess foods: salad (e.g. cucumber, pepper, crunchy lettuce), bread, potato, pasta without sauce and steamed vegetables all tend to avoid the need for a bath afterwards. Fat chips are easy to eat and available in most places too, but make sure they don’t add salt.
  7. If you want to go for messier foods bring a bib with sleeves like the ones used for painting. It won’t stop them sitting on the food, but should keep them mostly clean.
  8. Don’t worry too much about the nutrition. Obviously you want to avoid anything too high in salt or sugar, but if it’s only one meal and they aren’t going to eat much anyway you can be more relaxed than you might be otherwise e.g. chicken nuggets or a burger from MacDonalds are easy food.
  9. Sometimes I put a napkin under the highchair to catch a bit of the mess and do a little bit of tidying the floor afterwards (picking up the larger bits or brushing it in to a pile). I think the waiters/ waitresses appreciate the effort, but whenever they see me they say there is no need.
  10. If your baby is likely to get frustrated with waiting for food bring a few snacks or give them something to play with while they wait. I find a straw or teaspoon are normally fairly safe for short term entertainment. There is often a limit to how long they are happy to be in a high chair for so I will sit them on my lap until food arrives if there is going to be a long wait.
A baby eating a breadstick in Pizza Express with a long sleeve bib on and in a high chair


10 tips for picnics when baby led weaning

  1. Depending on how mobile your baby is picnics can be hard word due to the opportunity for them to crawl off and spread food around. Sometimes they think eating grass is preferable to whatever you have offered as well. Use either a washable picnic blanket or one you aren’t worried about getting mucky when they drop food on it.
  2. If shopping for food when you are out I find most supermarkets do fingers of fruit e.g. pineapple, melon or melon which are easy to eat as are bags of sliced apple. Crudités such as cucumber and celery are usually available cut up too. I like to buy a crusty baguette we can share and sometimes some sliced meat e.g. roast chicken (although check the salt content). Pasta salads and bread sticks are worth looking at too. 
  3. If you haven’t brought any ice packs from home to keep things cool you can buy chilled drinks to keep food fresher.
  4. If preparing food at home food options are huge: steamed veg e.g. carrots, omelette cut into slices, sandwiches, savoury baked muffins, cheese sticks, toast, pasta (all cold of course). I would stick to food which is relative low mess because it will get everywhere.
  5. Using reusable food boxes is the greenest option, but it means you might have to carry a lot of boxes around for the rest of the day. Food bags or disposable boxes (e.g. old margarine tubs) will reduce the number of bags you have post meal.
  6. Pick your spot carefully. My baby is easily distracted by other children and while it’s unlikely you’ll be in the middle of no where in ear shot of a playground for instance would make things harder for me.
  7. After setting up your blankets give baby time to investigate and explore surroundings so the temptation to explore isn’t competing with the desire to eat.
  8. If baby won’t stay still you could strap them in their pushchair in a fully seated position (they shouldn’t be reclined while eating). Most wash well and you can always put a blanket on the chair. I prefer to risk it and sit Little on a blanket though.
  9. Any form of plate, tupperware or packaging is likely to be waved around and provide a distraction from the food. I normally offer Little a choice of 2 different foods (one in each hand), and let her eat one at a time. 
  10. Have one bag for all your waste and another for any left overs you want to take home.
A baby sitting on a picnic blanket

10 tips for eating at other people's houses when baby led weaning

  1. When eating at someone else’s house you have the least control over environment, timing and food so it can be the most stressful form of eating out. Discussing your needs and menu options with the host in advance can help them and you.
  2. Bring a gift of something baby can eat so you know there is something suitable e.g. fruit basket or salad.
  3. If you aren’t sure that there will be suitable food available when your baby will want it bring snacks or a packed lunch (for ideas of less messy foods see the picnic tips above).
  4. Choose where they are going to eat. If there is a highchair it makes it much easier, if they don’t you can sit them on your lap or sit on the floor with them. I often use a mat or muslin to protect soft furnishings. 
  5. You can bring a booster seat or baby seat in a bag like a Totseat to turn a normal chair into a secure baby seat. Or you might even want to bring your highchair if staying for a while.
  6. If I’m driving I will take a large wipe clean mat just in case they have carpet in the eating area. I can go and get it and put it under where we are eating so I don’t have to worry about mess causing ongoing damage.
  7. If they are very house proud and any mess is likely to cause problems offer the baby more milk so they will be less interested in food. And you can offer them just a few bits to nibble on.
  8. Remember to bring a bib with a big pocket to catch as much food as possible.
  9. If you might not be with your baby all the time make sure the hosts (and others) understand baby led weaning and your wishes for the baby not to be spoon fed. This can prevent you walking back in to see them with a spoon in their mouth.
  10. Have a cute baby, if you cause chaos you are more likely to be forgiven. I tend to find family find babies feeding themselves endearing and forgive any mess.

#BLW Infographic showing 10 Useful things to take out when Baby Led Weaning 1. A change of clothes just in case 2. A coverall bib eg this one from IKEA 3. Snacks. Homemade or shop bought 4. Snack boxes for the snacks or leftovers 5. Baby wipes to clean up baby, you & everything afterwards 6. Antibacterial wipes to clean highchairs and tables 7. A booster seat or portable highchair eg a totseat 8. A bib with a pocket to catch food 9. Disposable bibs are useful to keep in your changing bag just in case 10. A floor mat for when you need to make sure the floor stays spotless

Disclosure: All items in the above image were purchased by me except the Johnson's Baby Wipes and the Milton Antibacterial Surface Wipes which were sent to me to try and I chose to include in this post. Johnson's are currently promoting their new design which come out one wipe at a time (it really works) and the Milton wipes are great to have in your bag so you don't have to worry about the state of surfaces.
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1 comment

  1. Great advice! I actually found baby led weaning really easy when out, cheaper too - no need to buy baby food, I'd just give my daughter bits of my meal! Although eating other people's houses was a bit more stressful - especially the very house proud in laws!

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