My daughter was just 5 weeks old when we moved to Dakar. I was a first-time mom and to say that I was freaking out a little is probably an understatement. Would it be safe for her? Would we find a pediatrician who spoke English? Do they vaccinate? Would I be able to find clothes, toys, medicine that she needed? A colleague that I was in contact with told me to bring EVERYTHING I needed for the baby, and four years ago, that was the truth. After having my second baby in 2018, I am happy to say that Dakar has really upped their baby and kid game recently and there is so much more available! Here is what you need to know about having babies and kids in Dakar.
1. There are doctors that speak English and they come right to your house for appointments! In fact, I would say you have a lot of options for pediatricians, general physicians and specialists that are trained in either the US or Europe, speak English and are more than happy to help when needed. Vaccinations and medications are readily available at local pharmacies, and usually for a fraction of the price of US medications. But, you’ll want to bring your favorite go-to medicines (like Tylenol) so that you won’t have to call a doctor each time. You’ll want to save the numbers for SOS Medicine (338891512) and Remede 24 (338608333) in case of medical emergencies.
2. The expat community is booming with parents looking for activities to occupy their littles. There is not a Chuck-e-Cheese around here, but there are beaches, trampoline park, some play structures, skate park, and kid-friendly restaurants. On top of that, there are lots of expat parents that host yoga, music, dance, gymnastics, soccer, swim lessons, art classes and more! Some of these activities, you’ll have to pay for (something like 5,000cfa per class), but some are free! It is also easy to find others in your neighborhood for regular play dates. And of course, there is always ISD’s playground, swimming pool, and field – best space in the city to play!
3. You don’t need to bring everything, but you will need to bring some things. Buying baby/kid items second-hand from other expats is the best way to obtain those larger items without having to ship it over your self (ie. Toys, storage, cribs, bikes, baby swings, walkers, jumpers, high chairs, etc.) so save your suitcase space. If your baby has favorite brands – bring them – because options are limited for things like bottles, nipples, sippy cups, pacifiers, baby wash, lotions, water bottles, baby food, etc. You’ll also need to bring all breast pump supplies – extra parts, milk storage bags, and sterilizing bags. Otherwise, you’ll be able to find just about anything you need. There are even familiar brands that you can buy in the pharmacies, shops and the American Store like Nuby, Avent, Chicco, and Johnsons, but you will spend at least double the price.
4. Buy clothes for the whole year, in all the sizes you’ll need! The weather is mostly warm, but it can get cold during the “winter” months, so don’t forget pants, sweaters, and even a light jacket. If you have any travel plans for a cold Christmas holiday, don’t forget to buy winter jacket, hat, boots, gloves, etc. because you definitely won't find those here. You’ll be able to get plenty of kids clothes made of wax, but buying other clothing can be difficult and expensive. The best kind of shoes for kids in Dakar are Crocs, Natives, or something similar, because they withstand the ware and tear of the dirt and heat. They can be easily purchased locally from our very own "Croc Man" who sells them outside of ISD, but you'll want to bring other types of shoes with you (sport or dress shoes) as those are not as easy to find, or super expensive (like $50!). If you’re lucky, you’ll find a friend that can pass over lots of hand-me-downs.
5. Relax. Dakar is a baby-loving community. It is truly a place where you feel the village behind you in raising children, whether it be other parents, nannies, guards, colleagues, or the guy packing up your groceries at the market. Everyone is willing to lend a helping hand!
Melissa Breiter, Kindergarten Teacher