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 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.