Our TOP 5 GADGETS for Traveling with a Baby in Africa
We've been living as a family in Malawi for a little over two months now and we wanted to share a list of the TOP 5 of our most favorite, most precious, most life saving baby gadgets!! If you are traveling to Africa (most of this could really be useful anywhere though) and you are bringing the little one, this list is for you! Enough preamble, here we go!!
1. Vacuum Sealed Bottles
First, these bottles are a must for families on the go with babies because sometimes you never know when you'll have access to an electric kettle or a pot to boil water, or even a restaurant where you can mooch some boiled water (seriously, this works too. I did it in Germany, the UK, and South Africa during our long airport layovers).
These are a must Must MUST for living in Malawi with a baby still drinking formula because these bottles will keep your water hot (and I mean HOT) for up to 12 hours. I say a must for Malawi in particular because the power is out for around 12 hours a day and so we need a way to always know we have hot water. Also, we travel a ton so we have these with us every time we get in the car, just in case. These are really useful to just always keep full. If Ben wakes in the night, we know we've got hot water ready to make him a quick bottle. The bottles also come in handy when you need to wash something off with hot, boiled water, like fruits, or even just your hands before a meal. We use the brand Manna, but if you google or use Amazon.com, you can find tons of different options!
NOTE: The more you open the bottle throughout the day, the more you let in air, cooling the water inside. So if you are going out for 12 hours and you expect the water to be hot all the way through, but you've opened the bottle three of four times, you might not get all the way to 12 hours. Just FYI! For best storage, I recommend keeping the bottle in an insulated pouch in a diaper bag. Ben's bag has an insulated pouch (I can feature it in a future post) and we usually fill the bottle with piping hot water in the morning and slip it into the pouch. We fill the smaller bottle too and keep it out on the counter for use if we need it.
2. Electric Kettle
Speaking of needing a reliable hot water source, literally one of the very first things we bought in Malawi was an electric kettle. Our first (cheap) one broke within two weeks, so we highly recommend just spending the bucks and getting a nice one on the first try. We love the one we have now! Just my opinion, but don't bother getting one in the US and shipping it unless it will be using the same plug/power. Like buying a blowdryer, I think its safer to buy one in country so you know it's the right voltage and the plug works.
You might be thinking, why do I need this? Is there no hot water? Well, yes and no. Yes, in some places you can get hot water straight from a tap to make a bottle. That is the lazy way we often did it at home. The question is: can you trust this tap water? When it comes to Ben's physical health, we always assume NO. No, you can't trust the water, always better to boil it yourself. So then the question is: can't I just boil it on the stove? YES, obviously you can do that and we do it all the time. The power is out here at least 12 hours a day, so we often have to boil on the stove top rather than use our electric kettle, but I'll give you THREE reasons why I love having this kettle: 1) SPEED: it is a suuuuper fast way to get boiled water quick. Filled all the way to the top, ours can boil in under two minutes. On the stove it often takes more like 5 minutes. Time is money, people! 2) FILTRATION: Our kettle has a filter on the spout, which helps catch some of the sediments in the water. I know it works too because I can take it out and clean it and see the hard work it is doing! and 3) CONVENIENCE: It is just so easy to boil the water in the kettle and use it throughout the morning for various purposes. It's already in a stored container with a lid, it's easy to pour, and we just like having freshly boiled water around all the time.
Other great uses for the electric kettle, baby-related and non-baby-related include:
1) Boiling water to sanitize pacifiers
2) Making tea (for you, not the baby)
3) Making his morning cereal with crushed banana
4) Doing laundry
5) Prepping bath water--and seriously, how adorable is this little dude soaking in his sink/tub??
6) One time I even slow-boiled carrots for dinner when we ran out of gas to cook with using the electric kettle!!
So this is a purchase great for the whole family, not just baby!!
3. Baby Carrier(s)
This one is a no-brainer. You MUST have a way to move around with that baby and keep your hands free!! Do what works best for you. In our situation, living where we do and the way we do in Malawi, using a stroller is just not an option. I didn't bother brining one from the US. What we did bring was a baby backpack (we use this one from Clevr) and an Ergobaby.
Depending on what you plan to do for the day, an important decision (at least for us living in Malawi) is: How much do I want to sweat today? Each type of carrier has its benefits and drawbacks. The first one concerns sweat. If we are going a long distance, I prefer the backpack, because it gets some separation between me and Ben so we are not sweating into each other as badly. The backpack is also great because it's got a little sun visor. If we are just going into town, or taking a taxi into town, I will often use the Ergobaby. Ben naps really well in the Ergobaby too, which is a plus. He is not as comfortable napping in the backpack. That being said, Ben likes the backpack because he can see a lot more and he has more head control. I don't have the Ergobaby 360 so we can't flip him around to be front-facing.
4. Travel Drying Rack
Your baby doesn't have to still be in bottle stage for this to come in handy! We often use this for his sippy cups, spoons, plates, whatever we need!! We love this one by OXO. It's the OXO Tot On-the-Go Travel Drying Rack with Bottle Brush. It has been a life saver as we spent the whole month of July traveling, moving nearly every three days. We set this up on bathroom window ledges, sinks, on top of mini fridges, on dressers and side tables, even just on top of our luggage in a cramped room. Then we spent half of August living in lodges while we looked for a house in Zomba. Now that we are moved in, we still use it every day because it's just so dang handy!! This is not a gadget specific to Africa, it's great for all travel with a baby ever! Go get one today. You will not regret it.
5. Mosquito Net
This is one of the most important things on our list for traveling with a baby in Africa!! In every single hotel/lodge/hostel we stayed in during our 1.5 months of constant travel, there was always a mosquito net hanging....for our bed, and only our bed. We brought Ben's pack-n-play and we also brought him a travel mosquito net that fits snugly over the entire pack-n-play. Mosquitos are no joke here and neither is malaria. It is absolutely deadly. And the mosquitos carrying malaria come out at dusk. Ben never goes to sleep without his net and even if he is resting in the net in the evening (anytime from right before sunset to after the sun goes down), we will toss it over him just as a precaution.
You can find these mosquito nets for super cheap at Babies R Us or possibly Target. You can also obviously find them online. We prefer this kind to ones we could have bought here because it fits tightly around the crib, rather than draping around the crib and falling to the floor. We also have a mosquito net that will fit over Ben's carseat and we modified the stroller mosquito net to work perfectly with his green backpack! Go away mosquitos!! This baby is not your snack!!
NOTE: Bring an extra net for the crib because they tend to tear easy. Once the net has holes it is no longer really safe to keep using it!
So, this is our first edition of TOP 5 BABY GADGETS! Tune into the blog for future updates. The longer we stay, the more we learn which gadgets are essential and which we can live without. If you are planning your own trip soon and have questions or concerns, feel free to reach out! Please note, we have no experience going to areas north of Zambia, so our expertise is rather limited, but we will help where we can and we can also get you in touch with tons of other parents traveling with babies on the continent!
From one Adventure Family to another, GOOD LUCK!!