I haven’t met many people traveling to Brazil with a Baby, but in case you are going to be one of the few, here’s some info you probably would like to know and it might be hard to find.
1) Diapers & wipes: easy to find, there are US (Pampers, Huggies which are sold under “Turma da Mônica by Huggies”) and local brands available. The prices per diaper are much higher than in the US though, and the packages are smaller. Same goes for wipes. The quality is a bit different even for the US brands, I usually bring as much diapers and wipes as I can fit in my bags and then buy the US brands when needed. I bought local wipes once on sale and basically threw the whole package away, they were so thin and dry, simply didn’t work. There are several local brands and I didn’t test them all, so I can’t say all of them are bad like this, but I rather stick with what I’m used to at this point. Swim diapers are outrageously expensive, over USD $1 per diaper, so I always bring a bunch (Brazilians are not used to swim diapers, babies usually don’t wear them unless it’s required by the hotel or water park, which is not widely done either). You can find diapers and wipes in grocery stores and pharmacies. Cool thing to know: lots of pharmacies have delivery services in big cities like Rio and São Paulo.
2) Baby food and formula: pretty much all you can find is made by Nestle, and again, very expensive. Brazilians don’t usually buy baby food unless it’s an emergency, people usually cook their own for various reasons (it’s common for middle class households to have maids and nannies who are responsible for cooking it). Variety is slim and prices are upwards of R$ 7 a jar. The offerings are usually very Brazilian: beef stroganoff with rice for example (which my daughter really liked at the time). Formula brands from the US are very difficult to find, so I would highly recommend you bring your own cans of powder formula in your checked luggage (I don’t think I’ve seen US brands for sale in Brazil at all, although I’ve heard they’re available). You can find baby food and formula in grocery stores and pharmacies as well.
3) Sunscreen: another very expensive item, I always bring my own sunscreen with me. Forget the more “natural” or “less chemicals” sunscreens, they aren’t available. Bring big bottles with you. If you must buy them, grocery stores and pharmacies sell them, and try to find the ones that say “PABA Free” or “Não contém PABA”, which is a common allergen in sunscreens (I’m allergic).
4) Priority access: in airports, banks, public buildings and most places across the country, families with babies (and pregnant women) get to go to the front of the line or there are special lines that you can use. Particularly useful after you are in a crowded airport after having traveled for 8+ hours and needs to bypass an enourmous immigration and customs line. There is also priority seating in public transportation.
5) Restaurants: most places have high chairs and some have kids options (1-3 dishes that are “kid-friendly”, usually rice, beans, either beef or chicken and fries, or some sort of pasta). The high chairs usually have no seat belt or any type of closure at the front, it’s basically a very tall tiny chair with arms, a small baby could slide down through the front opening. Brazilians are usually very tolerant of kids in restaurants, and you see kids around even in “late” hours (9-10 PM).
6) Dinner and bed time: Brazilians usually eat and sleep much later than Americans, your average Brazilian family doesn’t really eat dinner before 7 PM ever, the kids are usually still awake at 9 PM. There are obviously exceptions to this, but in general, the whole country operates about 2 hours later than the average US schedules. Restaurants are usually fairly empty at 6 PM, which is a good thing if you are trying to eat early with your kids (yesterday we had an early dinner and at 6 PM in a fairly well-known place in a busy neighborhood – we were the only people eating, another group arrived when we were leaving).
7) Water: don’t drink the tap water. Buy bottled water or use filtered water, most households have good water filters. Brazilians themselves don’t drink the tap water, so you shouldn’t either.
8) Showers/Baths: it’s very hard to find bathtubs in Brazil. Unless it’s a higher-end hotel or a house, people only have showers, not tubs. Unless you are planning to give your baby showers, bring an inflatable bathtub. Most showers are electric showers, and the water doesn’t get as hot as the water heated up by a boiler like in the US – and the heat is instant, you don’t have to wait until the water warms up. How hot it gets depends a lot on how good the electric shower itself is.
9) Strollers: are fairly common, although sometimes the sidewalks leave much to be desired and you wished you had a jogging stroller. 😉 We always bring our umbrella stroller.
10) Car seats: now the Brazilian law requires that babies use car seats, even if it’s not very much enforced and there are still lots of Brazilians not using them. You can ride a taxi with your baby without a car seat, like in the US. If you are planning to rent a car, definitely bring your own car seat. Don’t even think about buying one in Brazil: they are way more expensive and usually not nearly as good (most don’t even have a 5 point harness, to begin with).
11) Clothes: bring all the clothes your kid needs, simply because clothes in Brazil are ridiculously expensive, even for little ones. You can find good quality and pretty stuff, but it will cost you. An average baby girl dress in a not-brand-name store in a mall in Rio costs around R$ 100, to give you an idea.
12) Cribs: ask the hotel as soon as possible if they provide cribs. Not all do!
13) Changing tables: the common changing tables attached to a bathroom wall that we see a lot in the US is very hard to find in Brazil. Malls have fraldários, which are great family areas with changing tables, high chairs and mini kitchen where you can warm up baby food or prepare a bottle, and a quiet nursing area. Most of them also have a baby tub with running water in case you need to bathe your baby after a blowout. The airports also have fraldários, in Rio’s international airport it’s outside of the boarding area so make sure to change your baby before you enter the secure area (dumb, I had to change my daughter once when we were inside and there wasn’t any place to do so, the bathrooms didn’t have any changing facilities or even counter space that I could use for that purpose). Restaurants usually don’t have any changing tables available. We usually change diapers in the car.
Any other questions? If I haven’t covered something you want to know, just ask me in the comments! Photos to come soon, I’m having a hard time editing photos in this super slow laptop.