When we first moved to France, it was with a 14 month old and a 2 month old baby in tow. No problem, right? Well, you’d think. However, during those first months of life in France, just thinking about going to the grocery gave me a headache. I hated walking through rows and rows of products with unfamiliar brand names and different marketing (colors and designs) than I was accustomed to. On top of that, I had to translate everything from French to English.
I was overwhelmed, completely overwhelmed.
Standing in the baby isle at Auchan was just too much. I had assumed that baby food in France would be close enough to what I was used to buying in America that it would be like… no problem. I was wrong. The big difference is the selection. The selection in French baby food isles is HUGE with jars, plastic containers, cartons, and lots and lots more packaging full of baby food. I found jars of food never offered to babies in America like fish, duck or veal. The soup choices alone are enough to give you a headache.
I, finally, just grabbed an assortment of things for Sweet Bear and left. I grabbed her the yummest baby food I have ever smelled heated up. In America, it is very bland. Not in France. It’s a gourmet meal. These kids learn to appreciate good food from the get go!
If you are traveling or moving to France with a baby or toddler be prepared to be seriously overwhelmed in the baby isle. I think the diapers are much more expensive and have a lower quality on a whole than in America, baby wipes are about the same price and quality, baby food is about the same price with many more choices (bring a French-English dictionary), and formula is a little more expensive. In America, I always gave my babies the liquid formula that was mixed with water or ready mix (on trips) and didn’t like to use the powered formula. In France, the selection is usually limited to powdered only. Now that I am used to powdered formula, I realize I wasted a lot of extra money buying the liquid formula (just like my step-sister told me). You can buy cartons of formula but there is usually flavor (chocolate, vanilla, etc.) added.
Baby items like pacifers, soap, shampoo, or formula are available in any pharmacy as well. The quality tends to be higher as does the price. We must buy Boy Blue’s brand of formula, Enfamil, at the pharmacy (it is only sold at a pharmacy) costing us around 15.50-16.00 Euro a container. Pharmacies are a great place to ask questions as there is usually someone around that may speak at least a little English.
French baby food has more salt and sugar (why it is not as bland) than American or British baby food (from what I read online). I would check with my Pediatrician as to what your baby should eat especially if your baby has any health issues.
If you prefer to make your own baby food or don’t know what is or not safe to feed your baby visit About.com. I already knew some of the no-no’s like don’t give a baby honey until after one year of age due to potential contraction of infant botulism or peanut butter until they are at least two. However, there are many more. Some of which, I had no clue about even as a mom of four kids. Never hurts to know more.
As in America, I don’t stick with only one baby brand. I buy various things from each brand picking and choicing what I think looks good. After giving it to the baby, I know better what he/she likes. Some of the brands I buy in France are Nestlé, Blédina, and HiPP organic. I read on a website that Gerber is in France. However, I have never seen Gerber, a brand I bought often for my children while living in America, in France. I went to the Gerber international website and there is not a French affiliate. So, you may want to check the website or call the help desk of the companies brand you normally use to see if it is available in France and where.
Here is a list of some of the things I bought Boy Blue the last time we went to the grocery:
For age 6 months and over
maïs doux gigot d’agneau ~~ sweet corn and leg of lamb
jardinière boeuf ~~ mixed vegetables and beef
abricots fromage blanc ~~ apricots with soft white cheese (kinda like sour cream)
épinards jambon ~~ spinich and ham
compotine fruits and lait (pommes vanille et lait) ~~ fruit sauce with baby formula
compotine 100% fruits (sans sucres ajoutés) ~~ fruit sauce 100% (no added sugar)
compotine pommes, bananas et frais ~~ apple, banana and strawberry sauce
Lait et céléales (cacao) ~~ formula with cereal (chocolate flavored)
For age 8 months and over
tomates pâtes boeuf ~~ tomatos, pasta and beef
légumes colin riz ~~ vegetables, rice and hake (a fish)
pot au feu ~~ beef stew
carottes, petits pois et veau fermier ~~ carrots, peas and veal
potage à la semoule et aux légumes ~~ vegetable semolina soup
France is the world’s largest consumer of pre-prepared babyfoods and jars, packets and cartons are widely available in supermarkets and pharmacies. They are quite gastronomic compared with here — my eight-month-old feasted on jars of pureed artichoke and prunes — but beware, they do tend to contain more sugar and salt than in the UK. Some Auchan, Leclerc and Cora outlets stock HiPP organic products and Nestlé also offers an organic range called les petits pots bio. Powdered and readymade cartons of formula milk are also available. But the packaging may be different from what you are used to at home and manufacturers generally recommend you take adequate supplies of your own brand. Fresh whole milk or lait frais entire is usually found next to the yoghurts in supermarkets. UHT is stocked on the shelves. Supermarkets and pharmacies stock both Pampers and Huggies nappies including pull-ups. Peaudouce is another popular brand. Baby wipes are widely available, fragrance-free varieties less so.
Fun links related to babies and France: