Everyone deserves to have some summer fun in the sun. Yes, that includes all you new moms and your babies. There are plenty of fun things to add to your baby’s summer bucket list. There are also things you want to avoid, such as sunburns, overheating, heat rashes and bug bites.
Practice these 7 safety tips to keep your baby cool and comfortable this summer.
1. Keep your baby out of direct sunlight.
Babies’ skin burns easier than adults. They also can’t regulate their body temperature like older kids and adults can. That’s why it’s best to keep your baby in the shade whenever you’re outside, like parking your stroller under a tree. If you can’t find natural shade, make your own. Use your stroller’s sunshade or a baby carrier with a hood. Set up a canopy or beach umbrella with UVA/UVB protection and use a car window shade.
2. Apply and reapply sunscreen.
While it’s best to keep your baby out of the sun, that’s not always realistic. What you can do, however, is get yourself a good baby-friendly sunscreen. Get a sunscreen that’s:
- Broad-spectrum – This means it will protect your baby from both UVA and UVB rays.
- SPF 15 or higher – SPF 15 is the minimum number that will protect the skin. With babies, it’s better to have sunscreen with an SPF of 30-50.
- Water-resistant – No sunscreen is waterproof, but many are water-resistant. This means they’ll stay on the skin despite sweat and water, but only for an allotted amount of time, so reapply as necessary.
- Made with safe, natural ingredients – Babies have sensitive skin, which can be irritated by some sunscreens that use chemicals. The AAP recommends sunscreens that use zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, both of which are hypoallergenic and generally recognized as safe and effective by the FDA.
Sunscreen is recommended for babies 6 months and older. For infants younger than 6 months, it’s recommended to keep them covered up and in the shade. But, if you can’t keep your baby out of direct or indirect sunlight, you can apply a small amount of sunscreen as needed to small areas of their body, like your baby’s face and the back of their hands.
Be sure to apply enough sunscreen to all exposed areas of your baby’s skin, rub it in well and apply it 15-30 minutes before sun exposure so it has time to absorb into the skin. If you’re unsure about how to apply sunscreen or what kind is safe to use, ask your pediatrician.
3. Dress for the sun and heat.
Dress your baby in lightweight, loose-fitting clothing that covers their body. Cotton bodysuits and pants have always been a go-to summer baby style of mine. Cotton will keep your baby cool and protected. You can even buy baby clothes made out of special UV-blocking fabrics if you want added sun protection. And don’t forget their head, ears and feet! Pack a sun hat in your diaper bag and keep those tiny toes covered with a lightweight pair of socks or summer shoes.
If you’re planning a pool or beach day, a wide-brimmed hat and a long-sleeve swimsuit or rashguard provide the fashionable coverage your little one needs.
4. Know the signs of overheating and dehydration.
A baby can’t tell you if they’re too hot or thirsty. They depend on you to keep them cool and hydrated. Overheated babies may have rosy red cheeks, have a heat rash on their body, be sweating or be very irritable. Babies who are dehydrated may have few to no tears when crying, decreased saliva, fewer wet diapers and be lethargic.
If you notice your baby is getting too hot, get them somewhere cool and shaded quickly. To prevent dehydration, offer your baby plenty of liquids. While water is best to keep you hydrated, it’s not enough for infants. Babies younger than 6 months old need to drink plenty of breastmilk or formula for good nutrition and to stay hydrated in warm summer temperatures.
5. Change your baby’s diaper more often.
Summer is the season for swimming – it’s also diaper rash season. The summer heat produces moisture in your baby’s diaper, and that moisture exposure irritates your baby’s sensitive skin, which causes diaper rash. Since you need to keep your baby extra hydrated in the summer, it also means more wet diapers. The remedy? Change your baby’s diaper more often, let your baby’s diaper area air-dry before fastening on a new diaper and use a diaper ointment, like Aquaphor, to create a moisture barrier.
6. Protect against bugs.
Mosquitos love hot, humid climates. They’re also most active at dawn and dusk. If you live or are visiting somewhere with this kind of climate or are near standing water, you should be prepared. Heavily wooded areas can have ticks as well so be cautious.
The AAP says you shouldn’t use bug repellents with DEET on kids younger than 2 months old. Instead, it recommends using mosquito netting around a stroller. For babies older than 2 months, you can use bug repellant. Be sure not to spray it on their face or hands, and wash it off before bed. The best protection against bugs, though, is to dress your baby in long sleeves and pants and then tuck their pants into their socks.
7. Time your summer outings just right.
Too much exposure to UV rays can damage your skin and cause skin cancer. They’re especially harmful to your baby’s sensitive skin. UV rays are stronger during the summer months; they’re most intense at noon and at their strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Life happens and you’re not always in control, but do your best to avoid taking your baby out during the hottest parts of the day. Opt for early-morning park playdates and evening strolls around the neighborhood.
Follow these safety tips to have a happy and healthy first summer with your baby!