Everything you need to know about taking a baby or toddler to France…
Breastfeeding in France
If you are breastfeeding you will have no problem feeding your baby publically while in France. If it is warm, remember to stay hydrated and eat well while breastfeeding.
There are plenty of large supermarket and pharmacy chains in France (such as Carrefour and Monoprix) where you can buy formula, food, wipes and nappies but generally the products will differ from what you can get in the UK and Ireland. Some of the supermarkets close on Sunday. Most large supermarkets are open from 9am until 9pm. Smaller supermarkets might close on Mondays or for a few hours during the day (particularly in more rural locations).
The quality of the water in France is good and it is generally safe to drink tap water. Always ask about the water locally before drinking it. Bottled water is available everywhere but please be mindful of the fact that it can be overpriced in hotels and it is cheaper to buy it in the local shops and markets.
It is safer to use boiled bottled water for babies under 6 months when making formula if you are uncertain about the water quality locally. Check to ensure that the mineral water is low in sodium and minerals. Evian and Vittel is widely available in France and is suitable for babies.Baby milk in France can be different to formulas in the UK and Ireland. It is likely that the brand of formula that your child is used to will not be available and if it is, it may taste different. It is always safer to bring your formula with you and you can buy other bulky items such as nappies and wipes there. Aptamil is sold as Milupa in France and is generally available in Carrefour (Stage 2 only). Hipp Organic is also available in Carrefour. Milupa for hungry babies has the words ‘comfort plus’ on carton of formula. Popular French formulas include Bio Baby, Enfamil, Nutricia and Nestle Nidal. You will be able to buy these brands in supermarkets and large pharmacies.Fresh milk is also available in pharmacies and will be labeled Lait Frais. Again, these brands may taste different to what your baby is used to and it is always advisable to bring your child’s formula with you from home.
Baby Food is largely the same as in Ireland and the UK and you will be able to buy a wide variety of flavours. Hipp Organic is available in Carrefour and some larger supermarkets. You will be able to buy snacks, fruit puree, cereals and yoghurts which are similar to the brands available in the UK and Ireland in most supermarkets and in some of the larger pharmacies. Older babies and /toddler meals are excellent in France, you will have a range of options, including duck dishes, paella and risotto. Fresh meat and vegetables are widely available in larger supermarkets if you want to cook for your child and Boots in the UK and Ireland do a range of handy organic, salt free stock cubes which are easy to pack and make a great base for cooking.
You could either bring microwave sterilizer bags (these are great if you are staying in self catering accommodation or if your hotel will allow you access to a microwave) or sterilizer bags which you fill with water and leave for 30 minutes. Both of these options are small and lightweight and can be packed easily and are available in Boots in the UK and Ireland. Another option is to bring sterilizer tablets. To use these you will need a large container with a lid.
Carrefour and Monoprix and other supermarkets and larger pharmacies sell nappies, wipes and other essentials for your baby. Nappies are called couches in France and Huggies and Pampers are both sold. Carrefour also sells Huggies Swim Nappies. For more tips on formula, food, sterilising and nappies/ changing overseas click here.
When eating out you will often find that a smaller section of the menu is reserved for kids meals. Kids meals tend to be healthier than in the UK and Ireland and range from pasta dishes to minced steak. If you are travelling with a younger baby or toddler, it is best to bring a fold away high chair as many of the restaurants offer flimsy highchairs or booster seats suitable for older toddlers. Having a fold away high chair gives you the flexibility to eat anywhere.
Strollers and Slings
Ideally, you should bring both a stroller and a sling/ baby carrier with you. You might want to bring a smaller fold up stroller for older children however it is very handy in the evenings if your baby can sleep in a stroller when you eat out, so make sure whatever you bring is comfortable. When in Paris, a backpack stroller can be very useful if you are using the metro and other forms of public transport a lot. Remember to bring a sun shade or a parasol and blackout covers are fantastic if you will be out and about a lot as they allow your child to sleep easily.For information on slings and strollers click here.
Irish residents can apply for the card at http://www.hse.ie/eng/services/list/1/schemes/EHIC/ and UK residents can apply at www.gov.uk . This card allows you to get health care covered by the public health system in France. If you have previously applied for a card make sure that it is in date before you travel. Travel insurance should be taken out if you are covered by private healthcare however check your policy as it may offer you some cover while overseas. The European Emergency number is 112 where you will get English speaking operators who can direct your call to the appropriate emergency response services.
Most pharmacists speak English well and if your child is unwell they may be able to direct you to a doctor or hospital.
Contact your consular service or embassy if you have been a victim of crime, arrested on suspicion of committing a crime, if you or anyone in your family has a serious illness, experience the unexpected death of a partner or spouse and for help with repatriation after a crisis. Consular offices also provide help in the case of a lost or stolen passport. The contact number for the Irish Embassy in Paris is located at 4 Rue Rude, 75116 Paris, France (Tel: + 33 1 44 17 67 00). There are British consular services available in Paris, Bordeaux and Marseilles. The address of the consular service in Paris is 16 rue d’Anjou, 75008, Paris (Tel: +33 (0) 1 44 51 31 00
There are mosquitos in the south of France although there have been no reports of malaria. There were reports of Dengue fever in the South of France in 2014 however this outbreak appears to have passed. Click here for further information on insect protection and how to deal with bites.
Taxis in France will have a seat belt in the back if you plan to bring your own car seat however this may be cumbersome and you can also arrange to hire a taxi with a car seat if you will only be using a taxi for airport transfers (See getting around). For further information on keeping your child safe while travelling, click here.