India is a widely diverse country, so it’s difficult to give it just one category and rating. I will probably make an effort at some point to break up India into different states and/or cities to give appropriate descriptions and ratings for baby-related travel. For now, though, I’ll attempt to give it some general ratings (3/5 overall) and information based on my own experience traveling there pregnant and with baby, and will try to qualify all of my descriptions and ratings as much as possible. There is, after all, India Light and India Heavy.
India is a hectic place anywhere there are congregations of millions of people (think Bombay). It’s easy to use the train system to get to and from many cities, and can be accommodating traveling with children (the locals do it all the time), even for overnight travel if you get a sleeping class train car. Just beware of any food or water being sold on the train for potential contamination (bring your own for you and baby), and sometimes there are some shady characters, so be on guard, especially if you opt for overnight train travel.
However, once in cities, the main mode of transport is taxi or auto-rickshaw. I wouldn’t recommend renting a car in India- traffic is crazy, and even my native Indian husband who has spent most of his adult life in the U.S. is not comfortable driving there.
It can be stressful walking around with a baby due to the lack of sidewalks. India, in general, would be a ridiculous place to use a stroller. There are a very few upper crest neighborhoods in Bombay and Delhi where you might be able to use a stroller, but in most cases, using a stroller would most likely just be a health and safety hazard to baby.
Health & Safety
India is full of clinics, doctors, and health centers, including pediatricians and ob/gyns, and has lots of pharmacies. When we have been in more remote places in the mountains, though, we of course are further away from civilization and health care access in case of emergencies. It’s up to you and your comfort level how far you want to be from emergency medical care, but it’s always a good idea to pack any prescription medicines and an emergency health kit for baby with essentials (pain relief and fever reducer, gas relief, teething relief, etc.) wherever you are.
Restaurant hygiene and sanitation I wouldn’t trust in general, especially for baby. Food- and water-borne diseases are plentiful in India, and even if a restaurant appears clean and decent, I wouldn’t take my chances feeding baby. When we travel in India we are usually in homes of family where we can trust the sanitation, so we do feed our baby Indian food in that manner. If you are staying at a reputable hotel, the restaurant may have better health standards, and there are many upscale restaurants in Bombay and Delhi that would be better than others. I would definitely make sure to come prepared with food and snacks for baby (and you can also purchase baby food at most grocery stores there).
Definitely take precautions with water, such as boiling water or using bottled water, and I always make sure to sterilize any bottles/ pumping/ baby eating ware by boiling it all in hot water.
Visit the CDC website for up-to-date information on health recommendations for travel to India.
Although I would have expected India to be more open about breast-feeding, I have found that it generally is not. People are very accommodating in terms of showing you to a private room or area to feed, but women do not generally openly breast feed, and I am not comfortable doing it myself in public unless I am fully covered with a shawl over me and baby’s head, particularly in public places with many men present. I never had to breast feed on a toilet seat, though.
I had one experience breastfeeding publicly sitting on some steps to a shopping mall with my husband when Veda was six months old. We were waiting for a friend to meet us, and just as Veda was finishing up a female mall security guard approached my husband and said, “Your wife would be more comfortable sitting inside,” and suggested that my husband take me inside to a more discrete place to feed baby. We were done, so left without incident, but it’s definitely not an open place when it comes to breast feeding.
Finding Baby Stuff
There are lots of babies in India, and so lots of baby stuff, too. It’s easy to find disposable diapers and wipes, bottles, and standard baby foods and cereals and most grocery stores or pharmacies. However, if you are looking for specialized products such as dairy-free cereals or dairy-free formulas, this is very difficult to find unless you are at a high-end grocery store in a very big city like Bombay or Delhi.
It is also easy to find general baby toiletries like baby shampoo, talc powder, etc. I would definitely bring enough standard medicines such as fever reducer, gas relief, etc. as I am a bit skeptical of what is sold over-the-counter there for baby use and safety. It’s also more difficult to find organic products or things like baby-safe sunscreen and bug repellent, so come prepared with your own.
If you are looking for baby clothes or toys, these are also plentiful and many shops or malls. There will be a wide variety of very bright, sparkly, colorful, and generally obnoxious choices.
Things to Do
1) Visit the Taj Mahal, only a three hour train ride from Delhi.
2) Explore what Mumbai has to offer, from Juhu Beach and Colobar Market to the cave temple ruins on Elephanta Island a ferry ride from India Gate.
3) Relax in the slow-paced Bohemain atmosphere of Varkala Beach in Kerala (South India), playing with baby on the sandy shores of the Arabian Sea.