Looking after babies outdoors can be a tricky business, especially now that the weather has warmed up again. Not only are their delicate skins susceptible to UV damage, but they can also easily become overheated which in turn can lead to heat stress.
Of course, the most sensible advice is to stay inside with your baby when the weather is hot, but that’s not always realistic when there’s shopping to do and older kids to collect from school.
So what are the different ways you can protect your baby when you’re out and about? Here are 7 of the best tips.
1. Limit your baby’s outdoor time
If the outside temperature or the UV level is high, you should limit your baby’s exposure to the sun. Checking the UV level in your local area every day will also help you time your outdoor activities with your baby; before 11am or after 5pm are usually the safer times.
2. Use sunscreen
Sunscreens are a great way to protect your baby. Both the Skin Cancer Foundation and the American Academy of Dermatology recommend that you are free to use sunscreen on unclothed skin for babies over six months. Before six months of age, sunscreen usage should be kept to a minimum i.e. only on small, exposed areas such as their nose.
Use a sunscreen designed especially for babies. Formulations where zinc and/or titanium dioxide are the main active ingredients are usually the kindest on their skin. And remember to apply it in a sufficient amount to cover the area of skin you are protecting, as one of the main drawbacks of sunscreen is that people don’t tend to use enough of it.
3. Use barrier protection
Creating a physical barrier between your baby’s skin and the sun is absolutely key to protecting your baby.
With clothing, the trick is to choose loose, lightweight tops and pants with a closed weave; that way it provides some protection against UV rays whilst still being breathable.
Pram shades also provide an effective barrier method, but don’t use a blanket to shield your pram as this can be mean a hot and stifling environment in the pram. Overheating and breathing stale gases have both been identified as contributing to the possibility of SIDs.
Instead, choose a commercially-made pram cover and look out for those which have been tested for air permeability as this is a good indicator of airflow. If your pram shade also allows you to create extra gaps in the fabric or mesh, this is also a great feature to look for, particularly as SIDs organisations such as Red Nose recommend that your pram shade allows you to see in on your baby to check it frequently.
Make sure your pram cover is also rated UPF 50+ to protect against UV. Normal muslins are not a good choice as they don’t block many (if any) UV rays at all. A UPF 50+ rating means that at least 97 % of UV rays are blocked.
Studies have also shown that prams facing the direct sun (whether covered or uncovered) can heat up very quickly, so never leave your pram stationary facing the sun.
4. Pop on a sun hat
Sun hats are an essential part of summer in Australia, and a good habit that should start from birth. Bucket and wide-brimmed hats are the best, but legionnaire hats (though perhaps not very stylish) provide pretty good protection too. Whichever style you choose, check that the brim has enough depth (at least 5 cm) to shade your baby’s face.
5. Try sunglasses
It’s not only babies’ skins that are vulnerable. Their eyes are also rather more delicate than adults’ eyes and in need of protection. Along with a wide brimmed hat, sunglasses can provide an extra level of protection for your baby’s eyes, if she or he will tolerate them. Choose a pair with a soft strap to keep the sunnies comfortably in place for your baby. Make sure they meet Australian standard AS/NZS 1067:2003.
6. Seek shade
Seek the shade of trees and buildings wherever possible in the hot weather – this will help cut down your baby’s exposure to the sun’s rays. Portable shade solutions such as umbrellas or shade cloths are also a great way to create shade where there is none.
7. Check on your baby
Finally, you should check on your baby frequently. Make sure that they are not displaying any signs of heat stress or heat exhaustion. Give baby plenty of their usual liquids to drink.
About our Guest Writer:
Former lawyer, now mum who is passionate about protecting babies’ delicate skin, Natasha Jacquot is the creator of the Ultimate Guide To Looking After Your Baby In The Sun and founder of musluv.