27th January 2016

“Can I breastfeed in Dubai?” and other questions I am frequently asked…

Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 11.42.43As my blog readership has grown, the messages I receive from readers have increased. I receive at least two messages every day with a question about Dubai – and whilst at the beginning I had time to answer each individually, I just don’t have time anymore. This makes me feel sad – but most of all, it makes me feel a bit rude, as I wasn’t brought up to ignore people when they chat to me. So I’m truly sorry if I haven’t replied to you personally – but I have a solution!

I’ve decided to answer some of the most frequently answered questions through a blog post. That way, your questions are answered – and I can quickly post a link to this post whenever a new message comes in. Genius (I hope).

1 – “Can I breastfeed in Dubai? I’m coming to Dubai on holiday and I’m worried about the decency laws.” 

My usual answer to this question is ‘Of course!’ In fact, the UAE is so pro breastfeeding that the powers that be would like to make it obligatory (terrifying thought for Mums like me that struggled with it the first time, but I digress). I have breastfed in cafes, in parks, in play areas, and in malls – and never once has anyone batted an eyelid. In the early days of being a Mum, my friends and I would gather in cafes with our newborns and at least 5 Mums would be breastfeeding at the same time. So yes, you can definitely breastfeed in Dubai.

However, there is one important thing to note here – you do need to cover your boobs, whether that’s by hooking up your top discreetly or using a giant muslin or breastfeeding cover. To be absolute sure on the laws before reporting to you, I asked Dru Campbell, senior midwife and lactation consultant at Health Bay Polyclinic (and definitely the person to go and see if you need any support or advice in Dubai, Mummies!). She says: “The official word is that breastfeeding is very much promoted in the UAE by health professionals and Government departments.  Women are encouraged to breastfeed in public, as long as they are covered and there is no breast tissue showing.”

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2 – “I want to holiday in Dubai. Where would you recommend to stay with children?”

My favourite family friendly hotel in Dubai is Fairmont The Palm. This is for various reasons – including the fact it has a great kids pool and award-winning kids club, a sandy beach, and menus of yummy, but healthy kids food in every restaurant. In fact, kids under 5 eat for free when ordering from the kids menus in most restaurants – and will get kids-size cutlery, and colouring pencils  to keep them entertained. Interconnecting rooms, babysitters, and child-size bathrobes and amenities are also available. This hotel is located on Palm Jumeirah and most of the big attractions and days out in Dubai are close by.

However, if you’d like apartment-style accommodation, I’d recommend heading down to the JBR area. This is the area where a lot of the 5-star hotels are located – and for good reason, as there’s a great beach, hundreds of restaurants, and kid’s play areas right on your doorstep. Rates really depend on the time of year, so check out Amwaj Suites, Suha Hotel Apartments, and Nuran Marina Serviced Apartments. It’s also worth checking out Airbnb.

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3 – “What can I do with small children when I come on holiday to Dubai?”

I have this one covered in a blog post here – My Top 10 Things To Do With Small Children in Dubai.

4 – “My husband has been offered a job in Dubai. Do you like living there? Is it an OK place to bring up kids?”

I find this a strange question in some respects, as I constantly rave about how much I love living in Dubai and enjoy bringing up my kids here.  But I understand that the question is asked as reassurance – they know I am going to say YES I LOVE IT HERE! which is usually exactly what they want to hear.

I never envisaged moving to Dubai and certainly never thought I’d bring up children here – but here we are and we love it! My boys get to go to the beach every weekend for 8 months of the year (October to May). Our afternoons are spent on scooters in the sunshine and outside in friend’s gardens. And the community spirit and friendliness of the expat community is amazing – we are all in the same boat and people go out of their way to be friendly and helpful. We don’t really have to worry about crime – I park my buggy on the grass above the beach and forget about it until we return 2 hours later, the same goes for scooters outside restaurants (crime does exist here, of course, but there are few threats on the street and we all feel very safe). Staff everywhere are cheerful and friendly and everything is completely focused around families – sometimes to an extreme, as you’ll see children in restaurants, cinemas, and malls late into the night.

There is one negative here. Despite being tax free, Dubai is insanely expensive. Rental costs, whilst finally starting to come down, are ginormous (my two-bed in London Zone 2 was peanuts compared to this) – plus you have school fees and regular flights home. And whilst you can find bargains if you are prepared to shop around, food is on the whole eye-wateringly expensive (think £5 for a box of cornflakes, £6 for a small punnet of strawberries and £7 for a cauliflower). So if I have one bit of advice to anyone considering moving here – negotiate a contract where accommodation, school fees, and medical insurance are thrown in. Life will be amazing and you will probably even be able to stash money away. You can make it work without those things (we personally get neither accommodation nor school fees) – but my goodness, life would be easier if we did.

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5 – “But how do you deal with the heat?”

Between June and September every year is pretty toasty, admittedly. It will hit at least 40’C every day, but sometimes up to 50’C. Plus it’s humid, so it’s sticky and uncomfortable – and you feel like you’ve jumped in a swimming pool just walking through a car park to collect your car.

However, Dubai is set up for it. We move inside during the summer months and we still have a great time. We have play areas designed like mini kid’s villages, we have dinosaurs in malls, we have cafes with play areas attached, we have kids’ cinemas and theatres, and we have AIR CONDITIONING everywhere!

We can still swim during the summer too – we just go late in the afternoon when it’s cooled down a bit. Early morning trips to the beach are feasible too (although I can never manage to get mine out quite early enough!)

I obviously prefer the winter months (just as those of you prefer the summer months in the UK), but it gives us a great excuse to escape to the UK for a few months over the summer, which breaks up the heat. Lots of my friends do this too – while others opt to take holidays in cooler parts of the world or just enjoy the quietness of Dubai during the summer when we’ve all left!

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6 – “Did you give birth in Dubai? Do you recommend it?”

I had both my boys in Dubai and had great experiences. I didn’t even consider giving birth in the UK as my husband would have missed a good chunk of their newborn days – and that didn’t seem fun or fair.

My first was born at American Hospital and my second at City Hospital (the latter was definitely my favourite). I had a lovely private room both times, with a bed for my husband to also sleep overnight. The staff were brilliant and the 2-3 days I spent in hospital were quite a special experience. I had a TV on the wall to flick through channels, WiFi to update everyone with photos, and visitors could come any time.

I did, however, have some great medical insurance – and this is important, as you aren’t going to get this kind of experience if you don’t. If you are considering having children in Dubai, check your policy carefully first.

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I think that answers all the main questions I am sent. I may well update this post if a few different posts start coming in. And sorry again if you got in touch and I didn’t reply – I hope this makes up for it 🙂