x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Travelling with Kids: Best for baby - and mum

You can give a baby a bottle, but flesh and blood doesn't require a temperature check or refill at inopportune moments.

Breastfeeding is best: a mantra that's so often repeated by midwives and doctors (it's even printed on the side of tins of milk formula) that any mother not breastfeeding her newborn, for whatever good reason, must suffer pangs of guilt. Health arguments aside, there's one certitude: having food on tap that requires no paraphernalia to sterilise or serve it, is a boon when you're globetrotting. Being able to soothe a baby in transit by beginning a feed just as the aeroplane hurtles down the runway or begins its descent is also a godsend. Sure, you can give a baby a bottle, but flesh and blood doesn't require a temperature check or refill at inopportune moments.

For baby's first six months, I never went anywhere, in Abu Dhabi or abroad, without a nursing cover. A scarf does the job but a cotton cover designed with a strap that fits around your neck is easier to use. For one thing, it's more likely to stay put. My Bébé au Lait cover also has a short, curved wire sewn into the top seam to allow you to look down and see what's going on. I bought one in a hideous floral pattern from Blossom Mother and Child in Dubai Mall for about Dh200. Not cheap or chic as the packaging claims, but definitely practical.

Of course, I could have coped without one. For quiet and more privacy, I've sat long and uncomfortably in many a toilet cubicle in one-, three- and even five-star hotels, wondering why purpose-built nursing facilities are not widespread. Forget comfortable, how about just a room without the presence of a toilet bowl?

Then I went to Greece last autumn where public toilets are not even that commonplace, never mind baby-change facilities. Any passport-toting mother worth her salt should be practised in changing a wriggling baby in a pushchair with the aid of a roll-up changing mat. Or, failing that, on a carrier bag while dangling a string of baby-safe beads from her mouth as a distraction.

Those carefree days are now over, and I can't go anywhere without milk formula carefully measured out into a dispenser, a Thermos flask for boiling water, a BPA-free reusable plastic bottle for boiled water, two sterilised bottles (I've dropped one on a sandy beach before now) and a burp cloth for chin dribbles. That's not to mention bowls, spoons, an ice pack and insulated bag. I used to rely on the destination to supply a kettle but no longer, after a five-star, eye-waveringly expensive hotel didn't even have bedside tea or coffee-making facilities. More granny-like than yummy mummy, I had to ask the breakfast staff to fill the Thermos.

We had better luck at a tiny two-star guest house, booked for its triple beds and fridge. One morning my husband asked to borrow a kettle. "Keep it," the middle-aged owner said. "It belongs to my father but he no baby. He can use the cooker." The somewhat frail octogenarian in question looked as if he loved a quick brew but we obeyed gratefully nonetheless.

cdight@thenational.ae