Good morning sweet people. So most of my readers happen to be from Pakistan and if you’re an immigrant like us, and have family back home, you probably visit them quite often. I have been back home to visit my family twice in her two years and even though I have yet to experience summers with her there, I have had a bit of experience in Pakistani winters. Its funny how when you prepare to leave from here, there is so much you worry about as a parent - their health, their safety, everything. But once you're there and welcomed with open arms and hearts by people that love you and your little ones more than themselves, in just a few weeks those fears that were so real move in a further corner of your mind.
A friend of mine is visiting Pakistan for the first time in many many years and the very first time with her little toddler and I have been giving her little pieces of advice from my own experiences. I thought I would compile those into a post for any other moms that feel like they need these tips. Of course these are all my own experiences and others might have had different ones, so I would love to hear your thoughts too.
- Do take a travel appointment with a travel clinic or your kid’s doctor if possible. They'll make sure your kid is up to date on vaccinations and they might recommend a malaria medicine. I have chosen to avoid it both times as it has to be taken throughout your trip for it to work. I might have used it if I had visited in the summers. Do make sure to keep a baby-safe insect repellent and use it when your baby is going to be exposed to the outdoors after dusk. (We used this one whenever we needed to and avoid baby’s hands if they put them in the mouth a lot).
- Don’t worry about diapers and wipes as they are available everywhere. Pampers are the most popular brand there and we used these ones which I thought were great for sensitive skin too. They were sold almost everywhere so only take as much as you'll need for the journey and the first few days. Unscented wipes are a bit hard to find so if that is important to you, you might want to keep those. Otherwise I used whichever ones I could find, mostly Johnsons and Pampers.
- Water, water, water is the main cause of many illnesses there. So only use bottled water and try to stick to Nestle or if you cant find that, Aquafina. Some people also boil the bottled water and then use it, but I haven't had to do that for Anya yet. My mom boils filtered water so I would use that to wash bottles etc. but otherwise I would suggest using bottled water to wash those too.
- Wash your baby's (and your own) hands a lot! Regular soap and water will do. When you don’t have access to water, use wipes to clean their hands after being in any public places. This one tip I have seen helps a lot specially for babies that put their hands in their mouth all the time.
- Baby foods are also available in the bigger cities. Make sure to check expiry dates. I used some by Cow's Gate mostly and a couple by Heinz on my first trip. You can also try the locally produced Nestle's Cerelac specially the wheat one. Anya enjoyed having it for breakfast. I would suggest not taking much snacks as I took too much both times. They will love the cookies/chips etc. they find there along with fruits and yogurts should be enough.
-Local Pediatrician Keep a local pediatrician’s number handy for emergencies just in case. You can ask around relatives or friends with young kids for a recommendation. Make sure to save this in your phone.
- In the car. Even though there is no law on car seats I did take my infant car seat both times. We used it for longer journeys and whenever there was enough space in the car for that. However sometimes you might not be able to use it because of space issues or there might not be seat belts in the backseat(!). Make sure to keep your kid only in the backseat and tightly in yours or someone else's lap. I wouldn't let her roam around in the back or stand on the seat in a moving car. Try to keep some entertainment for them or involve them in something so they are less likely to be bored and wiggle around. If possible, put your own seatbelt on and then keep both hands on them in your lap.
- Eating. Try to give them mostly home cooked food as that is the safest for them to eat. Anya loves fruit and Pakistani fruit is just so amazing, so she would eat a lot of that too. Try to give them fruit that can be peeled like bananas, apples, guavas, oranges etc. Avoid fruits like grapes/strawberries etc. or make sure to wash them a couple times in bottled water.
- Avoid yogurt/salads/water when eating out. Steer very clear of yogurt/salad/water specially when you eat out whatever the place might be. Remember to avoid unobvious sources of water like ice/concentrated juice squashes etc.
- Probiotics Anya’s doctor recommended Culturrelle for my first trip as I was going to be taking Anya with me to the hospital where my dad was and I was worried about her getting sick. It is a natural probiotic that is great for digestive health and I ended up using it on both trips and thank God she did not get any too major tummy troubles in part because of this, I believe. It comes in different forms and I used the powder form that I would add to her milk bottle but there are chewable ones for toddlers. It also comes in tablet form for adults.
Also give them a lot of yogurt. My daughter loves yogurt and enjoyed the Nestle yogurt there a lot. It is great too for any tummy troubles.
- Sterilization. I have used a microwave sterilizer like this as well as these sterilizing bags by Medela. I would usually wash the bottles just with bottled water and every night or so sterilize everything. I did have the problem of the sterilizer not fitting in some microwaves so the bags were better in that sense. Just a couple of them will last you a long time as they can be reused for a number of times. I forgot to take these the second time and just washed the bottles in boiled or bottled water instead and that worked okay too.
- Listen to your own mom instinct and do what feels right to you. You will probably hear a lot of 'we have also raised kids', 'we do it like this' etc. but do what feels comfortable to you and find a polite way to let others around you know if there's any particular things/foods/you want your kid to stay away from.
- In Winters If you're going in winters, even though the temperatures might seem like it wont be that cold, but the brick/cement houses make it freezing in places like Islamabad. The energy crisis also adds to it so make sure to keep warm clothes and specially for the night. I swear by the footed fleece pjs by Carters. Do keep warm sweaters and jackets as they’ll be keeping them on in the house too most of the time.
- Try to avoid very crowded spaces or rush hours. Be aware of the surroundings and make a mental note of exits wherever you are. Keep an eye on the news so you know the situation in your city. Even though it sounds scary, if you're there for your family and loved ones, it will all seem worth it. People are living and also enjoying their lives there and you will too. It is just a different way to live and somehow you worry more when you go with your kids.
- Enjoy Don’t stress out too much and just make sure to enjoy the extra attention, the extra help, the home-cooked tasty meals and everything that is a part of life there. Remember that even though life might seem a bit different to you, millions call it their home and raise their kids there. You will be fine and so will your kids be IA. In fact I realized my trip to Pakistan during her first year was crucial as it made me reevaluate all the things I think I cant live without in taking care of and raising a baby. We really don’t need much to raise happy babies=)
If you have any other tips, please do share in the comments below.
Thanks for stopping by.