Doctors say babies can go out or travel overseas as long as parents take precautions
Since she was born, eight-monthold Gwendolyn Ng has never been anywhere other than her grandparents’ home, just two blocks away from her parents’ flat in Bishan, and a nearby clinic where she gets her vaccinations.
“My wife and I are both working fulltime, so my parents who are retired help us look after Gwendolyn,” says her father, civil engineer Royston Ng, 32.
“They don’t take her out at all because they are afraid she will fall ill. So the only times she is outdoors are when we take her home in the evenings and when she sees the doctor.”
While the first-time father believes “it is okay for babies to go out as long as they are healthy”, he does not wish to go against his parents’ wishes because “their intention is good and I don’t want them to be worried”.
Like Mr Ng’s parents, construction manager Gary Choo does not take his nine month-old son out “unless it is for his medical appointments or if it is really necessary”.
For him, it is a case of being once bitten, twice shy.
“My wife and I took him to East Coast Park when he was about four months old and he fell sick that same day after he got home. After that, we decided not to take any more risks until he turns one.”
His son, Alex, was diagnosed with viral fever and suffered from diarrhoea for about a week.
Doctors whom LifeStyle spoke to say such extreme measures are unnecessary.
Dr Chua Mei Chien, a consultant at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, says “there is no reason why parents can’t take their healthy, full-term babies out”.
However, she says, “for the first few weeks, it may be prudent to avoid crowded confined spaces to minimise the risk of catching coughs and colds”.
In fact, there are benefits in exposing your baby to new environments from an early age.
Dr Lee Le Ye, a consultant at the National University Hospital’s University Children’s Medical Institute, says “exposure to the external environment will stimulate a child”.
This is exactly what army officer Seow Soon Teck, 30, and his wife Grace Goh, 28, had hoped to achieve when they started taking their only son, Aaden, to new places from the time he was two months old.
So the 17-month-old even goes “baby swimming” every Saturday at a shop in HarbourFront Centre, where he wades in a tub of warm water with a float around his neck.
Senior customer service manager Kalsom Isman, 37, takes her eight month-old baby Aydan to places such as shopping centres and beaches whenever possible.
“Every encounter brings new discoveries. Now, he responds well to strangers and loves to interact and observe other children at play,” she says.
About the only piece of medical advice Dr Lee gives to parents who want to take babies to a mall is to make sure their little ones are adequately covered, as most shopping centres in Singapore are rather cold.
There are parents who take their young babies to places much farther than the neighbourhood mall.
When marketing manager Ryan Chong, 29, was posted to Melbourne, Australia, to work for three weeks in 2008, he decided to take along his wife and six-month-old daughter.
“Melbourne is a family-friendly place and there are enough medical facilities there, so I was not worried about my daughter falling sick,” he says.
Although doctors say there are no major risks associated with overseas travel for full-term babies under six months, they advise parents to exercise due diligence before confirming holiday plans.
Dr Lim Kwang Hsien, consultant paediatrician at private paediatric practice Kinder Clinic, recommends that babies younger than six weeks old should not travel at all because during this time, “the babies’ immune system is not fully mature and they are susceptible to infections”.
“The main risk of travelling with infants is the possibility that they might be exposed to germs during their trip. The younger the child is, the more likely that he might have complications arising from these infections,” says Dr Lim.
In comparison, it is “generally safe” for babies above six months to travel as “they will recover with minimal complications”.