Preparing For International Travel With A Baby

Singapore With A Baby

Image by Kent Paraiso

I am heading to Singapore on the 22nd Oct for the Nuffnang Asia Pacific Blog Awards. This is the first time that I have travelled internationally with a baby. I have started working through a list of priorities to prepare for this trip. Although a couple of these points are specific to traveling with a baby and relate to Singapore, the remainder are pretty generic preparation tips for international travel.

1. Current Travel Advice

Smart Traveller is a comprehensive resource for travellers to check out before they leave the country. It currently has Singapore in the “Exercise Caution” category. You can register to receive email updates on travel advice for your country of interest as well, so if there are any significant changes, you can be updated easily on what they are. Points of interest from the travel advice on Singapore were:

Singapore has strict laws and penalties against a variety of actions that may not be illegal or may be considered minor offences in Australia, including smoking in public places or indoor restaurants, spitting, chewing or importing gum (including chewing tobacco), littering and jaywalking.

A wide range of offences, including offences against ‘modesty’ (such as men behaving inappropriately towards women, using inappropriate language or singing offensive sporting team songs), can result in corporal punishment (the rattan cane) and/or imprisonment.

Standards of behaviour in Singapore are generally conservative. You should take care not to offend. If in doubt, seek local advice.

Public displays of affection may cause offence.

There is smoke haze across some parts of Singapore usually during the July to October period. This haze can cause health problems for some people, particularly those with respiratory problems. Keep up-to-date with advice of local authorities and seek medical advice on appropriate precautions. Regular air quality reports are available from Singapore’s National Environment Agency.

I think it is important to be informed when travelling, so while I won’t be anxious about any of these issues, I will ensure that I take the right precautions for the health and safety of my family while travelling.

2. Carry On Restrictions

In my everyday I keep all sorts of creams and lotions required for being out and about with babies and small children. In recent years there has been a tightening in the restrictions on what you can take on board and how you can take it. Every airlines will differ and it may also be different depending on what country you final destination is. The advice from Emirates on flying to Singapore is as follows:

  1. All liquids, gels and aerosols, pastes, lotions, creams, drinks and other items of similar consistency must be in containers with a capacity no greater than 100 ml. Those carried in containers larger than 100ml will not be accepted, even if the container is only part-filled.
  2. These containers must be placed in a transparent re-sealable plastic bag of a maximum capacity not exceeding one (1) litre. Larger bags or bags that are non-sealable, such as fold-over sandwich bags, are not allowed.
  3. The containers must fit comfortably within the transparent plastic bag, which is to be completely closed.
  4. The plastic bag is to be presented for visual examination at the screening point. Only one transparent plastic bag per passenger will be permitted.
  5. Exemptions will be made for medications, baby milk / foods and special dietary requirements. Appropriate and proportionate means of verifying the nature of such items will need to be available.

3. Breastfeeding In Public

Having breastfed 5 babies now, there isn’t many places that I haven’t breastfed! However I have not breastfed a baby overseas and whilst choosing to breastfeed my baby, I think it is appropriate to understand the cultural sensitivities of Singapore. My research has highlighted that whilst breastfeeding in public is not illegal, discreetness in doing so seems to be emphasised:

Breastfeeding Places In Singapore by Breastfeeding Mothers’ Support Group has a comprehensive list of places that have rooms for parents to feed their babies. It also has this information:

“According to Singapore Police, “it is not an offence to breastfeed in public, if the woman is decently clad and she does not expose her breast more than what is necessary to breastfeed her child.” ( letter from Singapore Police on “Breastfeeding in public”)”

Other blog posts I found on breastfeeding in Singapore include:

I also asked fellow parenting blogger nominee Leonny from Our Every Day Things, for her perspective on this issue. Leonny is Indonesian and was born in Jakarta. She spent 9 years in Perth, Western Australia, before coming to Singapore after graduated from Curtin University with a Bachelor of Commerce in Marketing and Finance. Leonny has been in Singapore for the past 10 years with her husband and two children. Leonny kindly responded:

I think, it’s the Asian culture of preferring things to be done more discreetly, but since I’m always on the go, I find breastfeeding in ‘breastfeeding places’ was too inconvenient (ie.first, I had to locate one, and then spent some few minutes, sometimes 30mins when my kid was still a baby, doing nothing much in a cubicle).

So what I did was, I breastfed my kids ‘on the go’ :)

For my 2nd child, now 3yo, I wore my baby sling a lot to carry him around with me … so I used that to ‘cover up’ when I breastfed him in public, eg. on the train, on the bus, in shopping centres, at restaurants, the beach, or even as I walked around the library :) People generally weren’t aware that I was breastfeeding because they thought my kid was just ‘sleeping’ or something underneath the sling.

The thing is, even when I was breastfeeding discreetly in public (read: the breasts are not ‘exposed’), I do find some people here in Singapore (usually the more ‘traditional’ ones) still are not ‘used’ to the idea of breastfeeding ‘in public’… So some of them do ‘stare’ or give me a look … (to which I just smiled and acted normally :)

Thanks for the info Leonny. Leonny also takes beautiful photographs, so if you haven’t checked out her blog Our Every Day Things, you should pop on over and have a look.

4. Vaccinations and Health Issues

Smart Traveller highlights:

The mosquito-borne disease Japanese encephalitis is found throughout many regions of North, South and South-East Asia and Papua New Guinea. A Japanese encephalitis vaccine is registered for use and is currently available in Australia. For further details please consult your travel health doctor.

Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD) is common in Singapore with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. In Asia, outbreaks of HFMD usually start in March/April and peak in May but can continue until August to October each year. It mostly affects children under the age of 10 years but adult cases (particularly young adults) are not unusual. The illness is characterised by fever as well as blisters and rashes on the hands, feet and buttocks. HFMD is spread by direct contact with nose and throat discharges and faeces of infected people. Normal hygiene precautions should be taken including careful and frequent hand washing. You should visit Singapore’s Ministry of Health website for more information, including disease prevention.

So we are off to the doctor next week to see if we require any vaccinations before we go.

5. Child Car Restraints

The lovely Christie from Childhood 101 (also a fantastic nominee for the best parenting blog at the Nuffnang Asia Pacific Blog Awards, alerted me to the fact the taxi’s may not be equipped with car seats or be keen to use them. It is compulsory for children under 8 to be secured in an approved child restraint. Taxis however are exempt from this requirement.

However through the power of Google I came across SMRT Taxis in Singapore. SMRT Taxis have a fleet of TIBS Taxis Tx1 London Taxis. And “the TX1 also has an integral built-in child seat that will keep a passengers child in a safe position throughout the journey.”

I have sent the company an email querying if I could book this style of cab to meet us at the airport and if the restraint would be suitable for our 9 month old baby and am hoping to hear back from them soon.

6. Travel Insurance

For me travel insurance is a must. There are a number of websites which claim to make comparison to give you the cheapest insurance:

However I also tried RACV who we have had other insurance with for a number of years and they were competitive with what was being offered, so we chose to go with them.

7. Language

From Wikipedia:

The official languages are English, Malay, Chinese (Mandarin) and Tamil. The national language of Singapore is Malay for historical reasons, and it is used in the national anthem, “Majulah Singapura”.

English is the main language of Singapore…. The use of English became widespread in Singapore after it was implemented as a first language medium in the education system, and English is the most common language in Singaporean literature. In school, children are required to learn English and one of the three other official languages. By law, all signs and official publications are required to be primarily in English, although they are occasionally translated versions into the other official languages.

The second most common language in Singapore is Mandarin, with over seventy percent of the population having it as a second language. Most Singapore Chinese are, however, descended from immigrants who came from the southern regions of China where other dialects were spoken, such as Hokkien, Teochew and Cantonese. Mandarin use has spread largely as a result of government efforts to support its adoption and use over the dialects.

My kids learn mandarin at school, so I will get them to help me with some polite civilities before we go.

8. Baby Food

Emirates advises:

While we do advise parents of babies to carry food familiar to and preferred by their babies, a selection of proprietary brands of prepared baby meals are available on board* Emirates flights. Please note that, for your convenience, milk and / or meals you carry on board for your child can be warmed by our cabin crew.

Our baby has only had homemade food and although he is starting to eat steamed veggies, pasta, weet bix etc, just to be on the safe side, I will try out a couple of organic baby ranges on our little fellow prior to going so that he is used to this before we are on the plan and in Singapore.

If anyone has any recommendations of quality organic sotre bought baby food, I would love to hear it.

9. Climate

WorldTravels.com describes the climate of Singapore as follows:

Singapore experiences a tropical climate with hot, humid weather all year round. Temperatures remain high with daytime averages of 86°F (30°C). Humidity is usually above 75%. Singapore has two distinct monsoon seasons, the North Eastern season being from December to March and the South Western season from June to September. November to December is the rainy season.

So I will be purchasing some compact umbrellas this week and a rain protector for the stroller this week!

10. What To See!

We are lucky enough to be having a tour from local bloggers for one day, which I am looking forward to. Other highlights of Singapore that I would like to see are:

Have you been to Singapore and can add to the list of places I should see?

Whilst I have endeavoured to ensure the accuracy of this information at the time of publishing, please make sure you check all this information as it pertains to your travel and personal safety.

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Comments

  1. Sally says

    Hi!

    I lived in Singapore for 18 months in my early 20s. I had a job teaching IT to one of the Polytechnics there. I loved Singapore, its a definite place to revisit once I get the funds going.

    Places I found visitors loved were:
    - The Night Zoo – At the same place as the normal zoo but is a specific section built to house animals most active in the night. There is a bus that takes you around all the exhibits and there is also a walking track. Be careful though as it can get quite humid there as they’ve built up the jungle both inside the animal’s areas and outside for the ambiance.

    - Ferry Ride – If you head down to Boat Quay you can get a ferry ride up and down the Singapore river, seeing all the old Colonial era buildings, and the Merlion at the start of the river.

    - Orchard Road – Yep, its all about the shopping, and even if you’re not too into that, its a great experience walking along it.

    - Chilli Crab – A lot of places sell it but it is one amazing Singaporean dish. Most places let you specify just how spicy you want it (super omg hot or pleasantly spicy).

    - Hawker Markets – Outdoor mix match of small food stands where you can get almost any type of food.

    Notes on getting around:
    - Taxi – They are so cheap in Singapore, are airconditioned, and not much chance of getting wet if you’re in them in the middle of a downpour.

    - MRT – The train system is clean, well organised and quite cheap as well. You do have to either purchase one by one trips or you can purchase a card that you swipe if you’re planning on using it a bit. Only problem with the card is that you have to put a certain amount of credit on it which is forfeit if you don’t use it. (At least this is how it used to be when I was there).

    I didn’t have kids when I was there, and don’t yet, so I can’t provide any kid specific advice. But as a general rule, be respectful of their culture and you won’t put a foot wrong.

  2. says

    Nicole being Irish I’ve flown to Ireland and other places in Europe and Asis (overall travel time 34 hours) several times with my kids while breastfeeding – the first time with kids was on my own to Dublin when my daughter was 11 weeks and the last time was to Ireland at Xmas with our three children.

    Some tips Id say are:

    1. If you’ve got a baby bring your own sealed and jar baby food. Do not reply on the flight having enough suitable baby food for you. They may but don’t expect it. And if your child has allergies definetly bring your own food. I find the Raffertys Garden brand available in your local supermarket great as they packaging is so good for flights as well as lightweight.

    2, Ensure your baby drinks lots of fluids. If you are exclusively breastfeeding this means offering more than normal breastfeeds. If not then offering lots of water. Of course if you are offering more breastfeeds this also means you too need a lot of water.

    3. Breastfeed your baby on take off and landing assists with the sore ear that can happen to both adults and especially babies during these times, so ‘try’ to time your babies feeds for these times.

    4. Sleep when baby / the kids sleeps as it allows you to get some much needed shut eye on board. When they are awake on board you wont sleep.

    5. Bring a long lightweight shawl to both cover your baby in the bassinet to block out the light and also to cover yourself discreetly while breastfeeding in Singapore.\

    6. If you are flying with your partner or another adult then when meals arrive on can eat while the other plays with baby. If travelling on your own you may have to place baby in bassinet while you eat. Its not comfortable and I find esp. on long haul flights this can be the hardest part.

    Luckily you are not going on a very long haul flight so it should be super relaxing.

    Enjoy!

    Ann

  3. says

    hi there, although i have no children, i can recommend a store where you may buy organic food (babies’ included, like rice ceral, etc). check out Brown Rice Paradise on level 3 of Tanglin Mall (at the beginning of Orchard Road) i’m sure you can google for the exact location.

    the larger shopping malls along Orchard Rd has a nursery for mummies to feed and change babies. check out Wisma Atria, Ngee Ann Shopping Centre, Tangs departmental store. otherwise, like you mentioned, using slings is good and people cannot tell that you are breastfeeding. find a bench at a corner of a shopping mall and it should be quite safe.

    other than chilli crab and hawker food. you should also try the various many cuisines available. check out “Food Republic” at Wisma Atria, Vivo City or Marina Sq, which is a big food court with many local food choices. i love and miss jap food too. there are many places that sell jap food which is cheaper and of a better variety than those in aust.

    Vivo City is a good place to check out too. google for it and you will know why.

    in general, be prepared for crowds of people you will see everywhere. it is very different from aust. oh, and the heat and humidity that may take some getting used to too (especially the children)

    enjoy and hope this helps!

  4. planningqueen says

    Cellobella – Thanks for the tip, so nice to know of good places to eat!

    Sally – I appreciate all the info you have given me, especially the info on transport! The ferry ride sounds great and manageable with a little one.

    Ann – I love advice from people who have been there and done it. Can’t quite imagine how hard it would be to do a long haul flight with a baby. Thanks for all the food related tips, they are super helpful.

    Island – Your tips are very helpful. I am not that used to crowds so it is great warning. I just checked out Vivo City – it looks amazing! Nothing quite like it here in Melbourne I don’t think.

  5. says

    Can I just say…. wow.. NO WONDER YOU’RE THE PLANNING QUEEN! I’ve never flown with either of my babies (well only one short domestic flight so I don’t count that). It was all just too hard for me and I’m not known for my patience at the best of times.
    It sounds like you have every eventuality covered. I’m so looking forward to meeting you at the awards and getting some insight from a pro. :)

  6. says

    First trip with a baby … certainly a challenge. My first such trip saw me doing it on my own and I was surprised by the unhelpfulness of airline staff from the check in counter onwards, by the refusal to allow me to take my stroller to the plane door or give one of the airline’s, by not being given a bassinet despite my book indicating that I might expect one (and I was travelling Business Class!), by not being offered a moment’s respite by the hostesses, and finally by the intolerance of fellow passengers to small children (and this was when they weren’t crying!).

    Be prepared for the challenges and you shouldn’t be knocked off kilter by them.

  7. planningqueen says

    Nuffnang – There is always stuff to learn. People have left great tips in the comments which I will be using on this trip!

    Jane – Your trip sounded like hard work. Thanks for the insight.

  8. says

    I haven’t been to Singapore, so I can’t give advice on what to see or anything like that, but as someone who lives in tropical Australia you might want to think about keeping bub cool while out and about in Singapore. Ann’s comment about extra fluids would apply and I would also suggest
    powdering with cornflour when you dress your baby to help with heat rash. You can also add bicarb soda to their bath water if it becomes a big problem
    and carry a flannel or something that you can wet to cool down their head
    I’m sure their will be lots of aircon places but I have found that babies visiting me from down south can be quickly affected.

  9. says

    Have you considered ordering a “special” meal for the flight – I used to always do “no seafood” and it would come before everyone else got theirs. This way you could eat first and be finished before Mr I got his (further to Ann’s comment)????

    As a singapore tourist I loved the Night Zoo and the hawker markets. The orchard garden was also beautiful. So jealous.

  10. says

    This probably isn’t much help, but 20 years ago when we visited Singapore there was a big toy store a short walk from our hotel. It was bigger than Harrods of London (which I’d seen the month before. Several stories. I didn’t get to buy anything, but it was still fun to visit.

    Another handy tip which we did all over Europe, but especially in Singapore as we stayed in a hotel with buffet breakfast, is take leftover from breakfast with you. A bread roll with butter and jam or vegemite (We had a large jar in my mum’s suitcase lol) or even some fruit or bacon on it, can be wrapped in a paper napkin and saved in your handbag. I don’t know how your children deal with spicy or foreign food, but even if they are happy to eat local, kids don’t always get hungry to your schedule.