Monday, November 08, 2010

The Expecting Expat Mom's Buying Guide: For Mama

Knowing what to buy when you're pregnant with your first child is a daunting task no matter where you are in the world. But living abroad away from all of those familiar faces and places can make buying for you and for baby seem altogether impossible on your own in a foreign country.

I know. I felt the same way.

When I was pregnant last year with our son, Cairo became a very different place for me. There was so much that I didn't know about pregnancy or babies. And I'd been here for over 4 years, so all those old insecurities came flooding back. I didn't know where to buy maternity clothes; I didn't know where to get baby items - the reasonably priced, good quality ones - in Egypt.

And I didn't know what I needed for me and baby in the first place.

The first thing I did when I found out I was pregnant was to go out and buy a pregnancy book in English. Reading was like balm for the soul for me during this time. I was more freaked out by the not knowing than anything else.

So I devoured information from anywhere I could get it. I bought books. I got on websites like Baby Center and What to Expect. I signed up for weekly emails about my pregnancy progress.

And if you're anything like me, this overload of information will somehow comfort you. I realized that I was stronger, more competent, and more informed of a woman than I thought I was. I could survive having a baby overseas in a foreign country by myself.

It was just the self-doubt that was holding me back.

Buying maternity clothes abroad. The first few months of pregnancy went fairly well for me. I was tired all the time, but I was still wearing all my normal clothes. However, after those first 3 or 4 months it was clear that my belly was outgrowing my pants.

Maternity clothes are available in Egypt but they're expensive. And a lot of basic items like plain t-shirts and pants or jeans aren't so easy to find. A lot of what's available is trendy and won't work with what's already in your closet.

I bought something online called a Tummy Sleeve that I would definitely recommend all expecting moms to get. It's basically a stretchy band that fits comfortably over your belly. Make sure you get one made specifically for pregnant women because it's made to support but not to constrict. This really helped me stretch an extra few weeks out of my regular pants by leaving them unzipped with the belly band stretched down over the front.

My advice for buying maternity clothes in a foreign country? Well, it depends on the foreign country you're in (sorry). Buy sparingly. And be smart about what you buy. You'd be surprised at how far just 1 or 2 pairs of pants will take you. Buy basic items (like a pair of black pants) that will work with what you already have at home.

If you can buy things online (like we can in the States), be careful about sizes. Depending on your weight gain (and I'm not just talking about your belly area), you may get larger in some areas earlier than you expect. So make sure you buy a few items the next size up.

And it can be tempting to buy lots of stuff (because it's just SO cute), but try to minimize what you buy as much as you can (after all you'll only be wearing these clothes for around a year).

If you go home to your home country while you're pregnant. If you can, I would definitely recommend that you go home to stock up on some stuff before baby comes. Or if family is coming to visit from home, have them bring some of this stuff with them when they come.

One thing to remember about buying maternity clothes is that you'll be wearing them into your baby's first few months. Just because you had the baby doesn't make that belly go away overnight. So make sure you buy a few pairs of pants that don't have the full panel built into them (these get really baggy real fast as you start to lose the weight) as well as something like the Tummy Sleeve for when you begin to fit into your old pants (but can't quite button that button up yet.)

A few other things I picked up in the States that made a big difference for me (after I had the baby) were nursing bras and nursing tanks. Focus on soft, comfortable, breathable items that support well and allow easy access. And remember that night-time support is just as important as the daytime.

One great investment I made was in a nursing cover. Now the good ones in the States are around $35-40 but this was well worth the cost. I'm serious, you will need this and once you learn to use it, it will make nursing your baby anywhere so much easier (i.e. on a plane, at home w/guests around, out in public, etc.)

Look for nursing covers online or in specialty stores in your local area. If you search for "nursing cover" online and go to a website, find a store close to you. You won't find these in Target or Babies R' Us (not the really wide ones with the pretty designs). Just call the store before you go because they may not carry them anymore.

And don't forget the prenatal vitamins. You will want to continue to take these well into your baby's first year so bring enough with you (if you can) for several months.

What to splurge on. The most expensive item I bought for myself was a good quality diaper bag. I know it sounds crazy but I didn't have a good one when our son was born. And let me tell you it was a real hassle trying to get everything I needed into the cheap bag I had picked up at Target. Now I love Target, but not for buying diaper bags.

This might be the last thing on your mind, but this is what you'll be carrying around all day every day for at least a year. So live a little and consider it an early (or late) birthday or Christmas present to yourself. You deserve it!

I bought mine from Skip Hop and I highly recommend this one. My main problem was that I didn't like carrying around a "diaper bag." This one solves that problem because it doesn't even look like one (but has all the amenities and more inside). I have space for my stuff and for baby's too. And I think I'll have a hard time separating from it once I no longer need a diaper bag.

The Quick List
  • Pregnancy book(s)
  • A Tummy Sleeve (or similar item)
  • Maternity clothes
  • Nursing bras and tanks
  • Nursing cover
  • Prenatal vitamins
  • A good diaper bag
This may just be a starting point for what you need to buy for yourself if you are pregnant and living abroad. You may have more available where you live abroad, or you may have less available so you'll have to get a little more creative to get the things you need.

A note about shipping items. If people want to send you things, especially clothes, through the mail they need to make sure they remove all tags before shipping. Customs fees on clothing can often be a subjective thing so you may end up spending just as much or more on customs fees as the cost of the clothes themselves. And honestly in a place like Egypt, I'm not always sure that I'll get everything that gets shipped to me.

It is a good idea to use companies like DHL or UPS (this is coming from the U.S.) this is better because they're more reliable. DHL Egypt's Easy Shop service where you can buy stuff online, ship it to a U.S. address that they give you, and then have them ship it directly to you in Egypt. It can be a bit expensive, but like I said, more reliable. I have heard that Aramex offers a similar service. We have used the DHL service with excellent results so I can definitely recommend it.

Buying for yourself when you're pregnant doesn't have to be so stressful. Just remember that women all over the world have given birth to children so even if you're a little out of your comfort zone, there is probably someone local who can help you through this time. And you don't have to buy all of this stuff brand-new. You may find someone who's had a baby recently who will let you borrow clothes or may even give them to you.

Stay tuned next week for The Expecting Expat Mom's Buying Guide: For Baby.

If you've been pregnant or had a baby overseas, how did you find the things you need? Is there anything missing from the list above?


  1. Glamourmom makes a wonderful nursing bra tank + bras. Glamourmom came highly recommended to me by friends and now I wearing them everyday! The tanks are supportive and comfortable while giving your tummy a nice compression (which let's be honest we can all use after the delivery). The tanks are stylish very much like your pre-pregnancy style tanks.

  2. Thanks Angie for sharing! For anyone interested, you can find these online at I might be doing a little shoppin' myself since I don't have any of these nursing bra + tank combinations myself. =)


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