If you are traveling to Dhaka with a wee one for the very first time, you are probably feeling a bit overwhelmed. What should you pack? How many nappies would it take to cross the line between a prepared mom and a bideshi (read neurotic) mom? Why oh why do wipes weigh so much? Ahh the dilemmas of immigrant motherhood.
Now let me give it to you straight. Having just returned from a 2.5 month trip over Dec ’18 – Feb ’19 when the weather fluctuated from cold (ish) to warm and back, keeping the noses of every child around me flowing like bottomless brunch drinks, I would advise you to err on the side of caution. You do not want to ruin your scraped up annual days/coveted mat leave losing your mind over a perpetually ill child. So, pack one less pair of shoes, one more bottle of Calpol. You get the drift.
Armed with info from a bunch of expat + local supermoms + my amazing mama followers, I hereby present you my two cents on the how-where-whats of a Dhaka trip with an infant. This is Bangladesh specific but you can always use these tips as food for thought for general travel.
Please be advised that I am not a medical professional. Consult your paediatrician before administering any medicine to your child.
1. Do pack nappies and wipes. Enough to last at least one-two weeks while you figure out local stores. If two weeks is all you got, which is pretty much the norm for most working people, might as well pack enough for the whole trip. That being said, Gulshan 1 DCC market has it all when it comes to nappies and wipes, and at the best price. It is the go to place for local moms. Thailand imported Mami Poko Pants seems to have a really good rep and having tried them on Aryan, I have to agree they are pretty good. I am not a fan of tearing up poop-filled nappies so I eventually hunted down UK imported Pampers, the exact one that Aryan is used to. This was important for me after a terrible bout of rash from a Dubai imported Pampers nappy turned Aryan’s bottom into lobster pincers.
2. Pack nasal aspirator and drops. You cannot pack enough of these, especially if you are going during peak December aka kashi-shordi season. Aryan got the sniffles just 4 days into our trip. In fact, most kids seemed to alternate between coughs and/or runny noses on a weekly, if not daily, basis. In case you forget/run out of nasal drops, locally available Norsol is pretty good. And at something ridiculous like 30 bucks, it’s pretty darn cheap too.
3. Adopt local methods for local maladies. Sometimes that’s what it takes to get rid of the shordi kashi. Age old home remedies like garlic infused mustard oil rubbed into the soles of feet and chest works like a charm. So does tulshir rosh for coughy chests. Also make sure to keep your little ones hydrated. Remember the drill: little but often.
4. Get a nebuliser. If you make annual trips to Dhaka, you will probably need it at some point. Think of it as a long-term investment. I bought a portable one form Prescription Point – the Nebu-100s – and it cost something around 6,000 BDT. Make sure you consult a paediatrician before using a nebuliser and find out what solutions you need + the correct dosage.
5. Prepare a box of everyday products. Geographical transition is always tough, especially for baby’s sensitive skin. Try to take enough of his usual products and stick to using only those. Sudden changes in ingredients can cause irritation/rashes/*insert every other undesirable child problem that will get in the way of your fuchka excursions*. Things I packed were Calpol (baby paracetamol), Benylin (cough syrup), gripe water, shampoo/soap, body lotion, nasal drops and nappy cream.
6. Pack various styles of clothes. Weather is especially fickle around winter time so make sure to pack for a wide range of temperatures.
7. Mosquito proof your baby as much as possible. You won’t be able to get 100% cover and it would be stupid to even expect that. But do everything u can to protect these pesky, and extremely clever beings, from having a go at your baby. Get someone at home to buy a portable netted bed in advance (widely available) and make sure your baby naps only inside it. Also buy mosquito repellents. I bought some patches and cream from Amazon but they seemed to be a poor match against the ever resilient Dhaka mosquitoes. Local Tiger Balm patches seemed to do a better job – although I can never quite tell with these. 🤷🏽♀️ Also, sprays seemed to work better than cream based repellents.
8. Bathing and Washing. I bought a tub from RFL Best Buy in Uttara for 500 BDT. I used local water and detergent to wash Aryan’s clothes, against well-meaning advice and warnings. I think filtered water is a great but restrictive idea that collapses as soon as you step out of your house. My general motto for the Dhaka trip was: if we can get away with it, let’s do it. Yes you want to keep your baby protected and sterilized and what have you but the more specially curated his needs are, the more complicated your life, and hence holiday, becomes.
9. Breast/Bottle Feeding. I exclusively breastfed Aryan but if you are using formula milk, most big brands across UK and USA are available in Dhaka (see list of stores below). Although, just like with nappies, pack enough for the first week or so. Also BYOB (bring your own bottles).
10. Baby Food. I think it is safe to assume that most people will have ample help to prepare fresh baby food in Dhaka – Bengali nanus are obsessed with khichuri, jau and shuji. I would recommend that you take packets of snacks with you (I found these to be limited) as well as food pouches. Dhaka is a crazy city and you really need backups when you are stuck in traffic/get dragged to the nth dawaat/get caught out because that’s what babies do – they ambush you. Nothing like a yummy snack to keep your baby occupied while you sip a cuppa with your girlfriends at Gloria Jeans. Gloria Jeans because they get top marks for having high chairs and changing stations, plus a very baby friendly attitude.
11. Stroller – to take or not to? I think it is a big debate that comes down to personal choice. For me it did not feel like a good idea as there is just not enough room or opportunity in Dhaka to use one. Plus lugging it around is a right pain if you are switching between homes. I found babywearing to be the best way to be mobile with Aryan. However, many people seemed to think I should have had a stroller so it’s clearly a personal preference. I got exceptionally strong biceps carrying Aryan around the traditional way – if you aren’t keen on that, buy/borrow one locally or take your own. I think most airlines allow them but check first to confirm.
12. Car seats. I did not use a car seat in Dhaka. I wanted to write that I am ashamed of this irresponsible attitude towards my child’s safety. But in reality I just shrugged my shoulders and continued, my reasoning being when in Dhaka, might as well do as the Bengalis do. i.e. trap your kid to your chest and hope for the best. ( I can almost feel the burn of judgmental eyes as I type this). A car seat felt inconvenient and cumbersome (read: denied one more family member from bundling up in the car). That being said, I advise you to NOT take a leaf out of my coffee stained book of motherhood. This is just an honest account of my Dhaka trip.
13. Backpack/diaper bag is everything. Not party appropriate but I am past that point of caring.
14. Bring lightweight, foldable changing mats. Changing stations are still a rarity in the city. I managed to find a few places and I have listed them down below.
15. High chairs. Many restaurants have high chairs (see list below) but you can buy a portable high chair harness that can transform any chair into a baby chair. They fold away inside your bag and can go everywhere. Plenty of options on offer on Amazon.
16. Reuse and borrow whatever you can. Chances are you and your husband have a big extended family and friend circle. So make sure you ask around. I borrowed a high chair for Aryan which not only saved me money but also made sure I wasn’t leaving a useless item behind at my mom’s.
17. A word on doctors: Aryan had two episodes of viral fever. The first one freaked me out big time and, after consulting a doctor at Apollo Hospitals, I went down the route of antibiotics. The second one struck day before our flight and upon consulting another paediatrician at Apollo, namely Dr Nusrat Farooq, I was assured that it was just viral fever. I was asked to continue with Calpol while supplementing with suppository. The suppositories really helped us on the flight as he had extremely high temperatures.I saw a UK doc the morning after landing and she confirmed that Aryan was indeed suffering from a viral fever. She asked us to wait it out for 7 days while still administering Calpol (no suppository, apparently they cost a leg and an arm in UK and not prescribed often). Exactly on the 7th day, the fever subsided. In retrospect I should have probably waited the same number of days before giving him antibiotics but I wanted to be safe than sorry. It was the first time he got such a high fever and I was desperate to make him better. Dr Nusrat Farooq is an excellent paediatrician and I would highly recommend her. The other paediatrician that everyone recommended was Abu Iqbal, also at Apollo. His calendar is always booked up though, I could not get an appointment with him on either occasion.
Hope this is helpful to all my lovely mommies out there heading to Dhaka for a much-needed ‘break’ with their LOs. I say ‘break’ but we all know the drill. 😉 By the end of this trip your hand will acquire the powers of a natural thermometer, and your phlegm the colour of Christian Grey’s soul. Enjoy!