Q. We are considering moving abroad, but we have a young baby. What things should we think about?
Carla Jones, Essex
A. A New parents typically feel they’ve landed on a different planet when the baby arrives. Even so, that’s nothing when compared to the confusion and dislocation once you head off for a new country with your baby – unless you plan ahead. There are upsides. Just as young children can provide a springboard for a new social life at home, so it is abroad. Strangers stop and talk when you’re pushing a buggy, and you’ll quickly make new friends among the parents you meet at playgroup. Youngsters frequently open different doors to new cultures, too – unlike adults, who are often guided by their own preferences and prejudices. Naturally, there are downsides as well, like the absence of your usual support network of family and friends. Also the complications in securing adequate healthcare and advice in a country where you might not speak the language. The answer is to be prepared and don’t panic.
Make everything official
On arrival, register your baby as soon as you can with your local hospital or health centre, and with the British Embassy or the local consular office.
Take some food with you
It can be traumatic introducing very young children to solid food, so reduce the stress by taking sufficient supplies to get them started. The global economy means much of the same food is available in different countries, but often it’s sold under an alternative brand name, so it can take time to establish where to buy what you want. Thereafter, consider preparing your own. It’s amazing what you can whip up in a blender using local fresh fruit and vegetables – and it’s much more healthy, too.
Immunisations and vaccines
Every country has its own schedule, but where possible, try to stick to the one we have here in the UK. Check with the local hospital about specific requirements for your new country. If you can’t source vaccinations in the UK, make sure that you use drugs produced by reputable pharmaceutical companies. You also need to ensure that disposable syringes and needles are used.
In the absence of friends and family, it’s vital that you quickly build up a new network. Many expat communities have their own support groups – some of them well-established like BAMBI (Bangkok Association of Mothers and Babies International). Don’t be afraid to ask around among work colleagues or estate agents who deal with other expats.
Be prepared for emergencies
Before leaving the UK, it’s a good idea to make up a sort of baby emergency medical kit. Include over-the-counter medications and baby products with which you are already familiar. This is far better than trying to source foreign equivalents at the last minute.
Above all, look on the bright side. There’s plenty of research to show that mothers abroad typically bond more quickly with their babies, as well as with others in the same boat. Miles from home, new mums seem more than usually adept at providing comfort and support for each other. Life abroad with a baby is different to life without one, but it’s something to be embraced, not feared.
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The UN Development Programme’s Human Development Index (2003) ranks the nations of the world based on life expectancy at birth, enrolment in primary, secondary and tertiary education, adult literacy, and GDP
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