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Bring one pair of comfortable walking shoes as well as a pair of sandals or Tevas. Before you leave home, break in your new shoes so you're not uncomfortable on the road.

On the Road: Food

Traveling with kids

ON THE ROAD: Part Four (of 5)

Compliments of: "Travel With Children" by Maureen Wheeler (Lonely Planet Publications, 155 Filbert Street, Suite 251, Oakland, CA 94607)

RULES OF THE ROAD:

FOOD:

BREAST FEEDING

Babies are easy. If you are traveling with a baby under 12 months old it is much easier to breastfeed. I have read in some book on traveling with children that nursing mothers may lose or diminish their milk supply while traveling. I suppose the idea is that it is tiring and anxiety provoking. Well it may be, but I don't know of any mother yet who has had this happen to her.

I can't think of anything more tiring or anxiety-causing than the alternative: trying to feed a child with a bottle and formula while traveling. How would you keep the bottle sterile? How would you get it to the right temperature while traveling on a bus in Java? How do you make up the formula with the necessary clean water? What happens when your baby wants a drink on the road, or in a hotel bedroom at 3 a.m.? How do you keep the formula good in a humid climate without a fridge? The mind boggles.

One way you can ensure your milk supply does not diminish is to breastfeed whenever the baby wants to drink. This will probably be very frequently. I found that the best way of dealing with night feeds was to take the baby into bed with me and just let them get on with it; I was vaguely aware during the night when they fed, but I didn't need to become totally conscious and it wasn't nearly so tiring.

Don't try to race around and see everything in a hurry. Go easy on yourself, slow down, then you will be less tired and more relaxed. Drink lots of fluid and make sure you eat properly. All the usual advice to nursing mothers applies when you are traveling.

Since most mothers are not likely to be taking newborn babies traveling (three-months-old is probably early enough), you shouldn't have to worry about what you eat. I love curries and ate what I felt like, and it didn't seem to bother either Tashi or Kieran, although they may have become acclimated in the womb!

Nor will it affect the child if you have an upset stomach, although you must be extremely careful not to pass the bug on to the baby due to lack of hygiene. Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly and frequently.

BOTTLE-FEEDING

If you are bottle-feeding your baby the main issues will be: clean water and sterile equipment. Formula must be made up with either bottled, purified or boiled water.

Made-up formula deteriorates quickly so bottles should be made up as the baby needs them or refrigerated and used within 24 hours.

The bottles and teats you use to feed the baby must be sterilized by either boiling them for ten minutes or using Milton or some other sterilizing tablets.

Most Asian countries will have tins of baby formula available in familiar Western brands. The widespread practice of feeding babies formula has been a controversial issue for some years; critics claim that Western companies are pushing their products on developing countries as a viable alternative to breast feeding, failing to admit that it is never as good as the real thing. In developing countries there is also the very real danger that the formula may be mixed with contaminated water.

If you are traveling in developing countries you should be very careful before using formula as it may not have been stored in ideal conditions. Check the expiration date, ensure the packaging has not been opened, and when it has to be mixed with water be absolutely sure that the water is safe.

STERILIZING BOTTLES

If your child drinks from a bottle, carry two small plastic bottles and teats and some sterilizing tablets. Each night you can ask your hotel or restaurant for some boiled water to sterilize the bottles. I found that an empty, cylindrical baby-wipe container, thoroughly cleaned, was just big enough to make an ideal sterilizing unit - fill with water, add the tab and bottle and teat, put the lid on and leave overnight.

FOOD RULES

The food in developing countries is often very good-it certainly won't be shot full of chemicals and preservatives the way so much of ours is. But in many places hygiene leaves a lot to be desired and you have to be careful about what your children eat. What won't affect your stomach may well prove to be disastrous to your children's less hardened digestive system.

The basic rules apply when eating out in developing countries. While you have to be very careful where your children eat, and endeavor to ensure that everything is hygienically prepared and saved, don't become too paranoid. You will soon get a feel for where to eat. Restaurants that are popular and crowded are usually OK; no restaurant lasts for long if it's poisoning its patrons! Restaurants that are crowded with Western travelers will also usually be producing food that appeals to Western tastes. There seems to be a travelers' menu that has spread throughout the world with familiar features like fruit salad, pancakes, French fries, yogurt and so on.

SOLID FOOD

When your baby requires a few extras in the food line you can generally find plenty to suit. Mashed bananas can be prepared almost anywhere and scrambled eggs are just about always available.

A lot of Chinese food is suitable for children; steamed chicken, noodles, sweet corn and chicken soup. I found that Tashi at six months old just loved Chinese food and managed to find out for herself what she liked. She used to just help herself from my plate, but became a little more cautious after trying a mouthful of curry.

Don't be too dogmatic about what your children can and can't eat, although obviously the normal rules still apply to avoid choking your child on bones and the like. Indian children are introduced to spices from an early age; although you shouldn't start sprinkling chili on your baby's scrambled egg, if you let them help themselves whenever they show interest you will soon find out what they will and won't eat.

I have never used the commercially-prepared baby foods at home, but I did carry a few jars as a back-up when we traveled, and once or twice they were useful. There are also dried food preparations which have to be mixed with hot water or milk. Cereals are often a very useful stand-by to have with you. These are easy to pack and keep, but you will have to be careful to use properly boiled/sterilized water or milk when making them up, too. You can often buy these in the kind of stores that will have disposable nappies.

DAIRY PRODUCTS

Milk and other dairy products are not eaten widely in many societies outside the Western world. Cheese is available in tins in some countries and you often come across it in places frequented by Western travelers. Prepackaged, flavored yogurt and plain yogurt are available in many countries. Plain yogurt is a familiar locally-made food in places all over the world: it is available all over the Indian subcontinent and it can really be delicious. It is known as curd and is made from goat's or buffalo's milk.

FAMILIAR FOOD

It is a good idea to give in to demands for familiar food from time to time. If you try to stick too rigidly to an eating budget, or insist that you eat local food "because you can always get a sandwich at home" or "when in Thailand eat what the Thai's eat" you will find yourself with a rebellious child whose determination is usually greater than yours.

There have been occasions when despite the different language the children have instantly recognized the local equivalent of "Burger King" of "Kentucky Fried Chicken". Tony and I retain our ideological purity by letting the children eat there, then they have to come and watch us eat at a place of our choice, and afterwards we find common ground on dessert!

SELF CATERING

Sometimes you can prepare a meal yourself. Noodles are a great stand-by and most children will eat these. If you have an electric element for boiling water you could always use it to boil some two-minute noodles, which are available everywhere. Add a few pieces of fruit for dessert and another crisis has been averted with a minimum of fuss!

We have never carried a camping stove but I have had letters from traveling parents who feel that life on the road would have been impossible without one. There are various types on the market, but those that use kerosene or spirit would be more useful than Camping Gaz as you will be able to refill them just about anywhere, and you can empty them out to take on planes, whereas Camping Gaz cylinders may not be widely available and you cannot carry them on planes.

The packets and/or jars of baby food that you have been toting around can prove to be very useful. Do anything that will fill your children's stomach without subjecting you all to unnecessary stress. It may put an end to your plans for the evening-you may have been dreaming all day of the dinner you would have at a favorite restaurant, you may be very hungry and want a "real" meal, you may wish you had listened to your friends' advice and stayed home-but remember that flexibility is a real attribute for any traveler and an absolute essential for a traveling parent.

SNACKS

Always carry snacks with you, particularly if you are going walking or traveling by bus, train or car. Even if you know there are shops around or the trip is scheduled for just an hour-remember that delays are not unusual and that when you arrive shops may not have anything suitable for your child to eat. So carry sultanas or raisins, nuts, an apple or orange (bananas go mushy very quickly), some juice or milk cartons, some bread or biscuits. Water is a necessity, for drinking and cleaning. Carry a knife for peeling and cutting fruit and a few jars of baby food just in case.

Biscuits are available just about everywhere and can be a special treat if your child is particularly tired and cranky and needs a bribe to go on. Marie biscuits, that venerable English standby, seem to have been left behind in every remote corner of the old British Empire. Children usually like them and you can get them in South-East Asia, on the Indian subcontinent and in Africa. The British Cadbury's brand of chocolates are also found worldwide.

LOSS OF APPETITE

Try not to worry about how much your children are eating. There may be days when you think they are living on air, but they probably do that at home as well. Children eat when they are hungry, so don't start worrying that this trip will end with starved, malnourished children. Make an effort to find things that they can eat, and should like, but you can't do any more than that.

Carry some children's multi-vitamin drops or tablets, make sure they drink a lot of water and milk, offer them plenty of fruit and after that relax.

(Don't forget to check out this entire article - Parts 1 through 5.)

See the next article

Family Vacations & Reviews, Baby Travel Advice

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