How to Keep Your Baby Safe in the Sun

By Michelle LaRowe

Five Parenting Tips for Summer

Spending time outdoors is essential for the healthy growth and development of children. Being out in the sun ensures that children get the vitamin D they need for healthy bone development. Spending too much time in the sun though, especially without the proper sun protection, can be dangerous. Repeated unprotected exposure to the sun can cause skin and eye damage and even lead to skin cancer. If you want to learn how to keep your baby safe in the sun this summer, follow these five tips.

  1. Seek out shade. While it’s especially important that babies 6 months and younger be kept out of direct sunlight, when outdoors with your baby it’s always a good idea to head to locations that you know will have shady spots available. Parks with trees, playgrounds with fabric canopies, outdoor shopping areas with large awnings and beaches and lakes that provide umbrellas for guests are good choices. Remember to put your stroller canopy to good use and even consider purchasing a stroller sun shade to maximize sun protection when walking outside with your little one.
  2. Choose and apply sunscreen properly. There are two types of sunscreens, ones that provide chemically based protection and ones that provide a physical barrier of protection. Those that provide a physical barrier will have zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as their active ingredient. These products can be less irritating to sensitive skin and are a good option for babies. Whichever type of sunscreen you choose be sure to opt for one with broad spectrum coverage. This will protect your baby from both UVA and UVB sunrays. You’ll also want to be sure to choose a sunscreen with a sun protective factor, SPF, of 15 or 30. If babies younger than six months of age end up in the sun, and no shade or protective clothing is available, apply sunscreen to small, exposed areas of the body only, like your baby’s face, using caution not to get any in her eyes. Always apply sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before heading outdoors to maximize protection and be sure to reapply as the packaging indicates, typically every two hours and after swimming, sweating and towel drying. Remember, like with anything else you’re putting on or into your baby, it’s always a good idea to speak with your child’s doctor before starting your summer sunscreen regimen.
  3. Opt for protective clothing. For babies, especially those younger than 6 months of age, sun appropriate clothing can offer important sun protection. Dress babies in lightweight clothing that covers their arms and legs and opt for large brimmed hats that shade the face, neck and ears from the sun. Look for clothing, hats, rash guards and swimsuits that have ultraviolet protection factor (UPF), and choose fabrics that have a tight weave. A tight weave will minimize the amount of light that shines through it, which can aid in sun protection. Have your baby wearing sunglasses from the start to minimize battles later. Look for infant and child size sunglasses that offer UV protection.
  4. Keep little ones hydrated. The FDA recommends giving your baby formula or breast milk if you’re out in the sun for more than a few minutes. Signs of dehydration include irritability, sleepiness, a decrease in urination, thirst, and soft spots on the head appear sunken. Be sure to store breast milk or formula in a cooler to ensure it’s safe for your baby to eat. It’s also important to remember that the FDA strictly regulates formula to keep little ones safe, so there’s no need to spend a fortune to feed your baby. Store brand formulas, like Wal-Mart’s Parent’s Choice Formula and Target’s Up & Up, are nutritionally comparable to national brands like Enfamil® and Similac® and meet FDA standards.
  5. Limit sun exposure during peak times. Hit the beaches, parks and playgrounds early in the morning or after dinnertime, whenever you can. UV rays are the strongest between 10 am and 4 pm, so avoiding direct sunlight during these times of the day can help to limit exposure and keep your baby protected from the sun.

By following these five tips for summertime safety, you will learn how to keep your baby safe in the sun. Now enjoy the weather!

About the Author

Michelle LaRowe is the author of the Nanny to the Rescue! parenting series, Working Mom's 411 and A Mom's Ultimate Book of Lists. A return-to-work mom and expert on formula fed babies, Michelle is called on by the media as a parenting expert and has appeared on local, national and international television and radio and has been featured in print.

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