With the hot weather due to make another appearance anytime soon and lots of families planning their holidays, we feel it’s important that parents are aware of the latest recommendations to protect their babies and young children from the sun and heat.
The first thing to remember, and why this topic is so so important, is that babies can easily overheat. Something we discuss in our BabyNatal Practical Baby Care classes is that young babies don’t yet have a way to regulate their own body temperature. This means that if we cover them too much, they have no way to cool themselves down on their own. They literally rely on us, the parents, to remove some layers of clothing or shade them from the heat!
Overheating is, unfortunately, one of those factors that can increase the risk of Sudden Death Infant Syndrome (SIDS), so it’s important that parents know how to protect their babies in the hot weather.
Avoid the sun during the hottest times
If you’re on holiday in a very hot country or due to be out and about on very hot days, the best advice in terms of sun safety is to stay indoors between the hours of 10am and 2pm, when the sun’s burning rays are at their strongest. We do realise this may sound a bit restrictive (depending on your circumstances), but that is why these other recommendations, combined together, give you the best chances of protecting your family.
If possible, shade your baby from direct sunlight
This may not always be possible, but if you do find a spot in the shade, your baby will be a little cooler and more comfortable there. If you’re at the beach or an open space with no trees or shade, you can consider investing in a small pop up tent. They tend to be very inexpensive and perfectly portable, and they give you peace of mind – your baby is shaded and shouldn’t get too hot.
On a pushchair, DO NOT cover the baby with a muslin or blanket
Unfortunately, something that not all parents know is that covering your baby in their pushchair with a blanket or muslin can cause serious overheating. When even a thin cover is placed over the pushchair, the temperature in the pushchair increases, instead of decreasing. The baby might not be directly exposed to the sun, but they can become dangerously hot.
Instead of using a cover, you can use a clip-on sunshade or parasol. It’s important that air can come through, to prevent the seating area from becoming too hot.
Protect your baby’s skin from exposure to direct sunlight – with clothing!
The best way to protect your baby’s sensitive skin is to dress them in lightweight, light-coloured (consider white or cream colours) clothing. Light colours reflect the heat and tend to keep the skin much cooler than dark colours, like black, which absorb the heat. You can also easily find clothing (swimsuits and t-shirts) made from fabric which has sun protection built into it – you’ll see them advertised as ‘UV-protection clothing’.
Also, pop a hat on your baby. This is easier said than done when your baby becomes a little more mobile and independent – you’ll see that they’ll decide it’s a lot of fun to take their hat off! But thankfully, clothes designers are finding more ingenious ways to make it a little harder for babies to take things off! Choose one with flaps in the back for neck protection and a brim that helps shade the face and cover the ears.
And once again, if your baby lets you put them on, pick up a pair of UV-protective sunglasses. They’re super cute for photos too, so it’s a double bonus!
Use sunscreen (mindfully)
If you decide to use sunscreen, make sure it has a high SPF (Sun Protection Factor) – products specially designed for babies and children normally have an SPF of 50 or more. If your baby is really young and their skin is very sensitive, when you put on sunscreen for the first time, be sure to be on the lookout for any possible skin reactions. Brands or products that are marketed for ‘sensitive skin’ may be the best option when you’re applying sunscreen for the first time. If you want to find out more about why sunscreen may cause a reaction on your baby’s skin, you can read our blog post on protecting your baby’s skin from exposure to chemicals.
In the car
As you probably know if you’re used to driving a car, it can get very hot inside the car during the summer. It doesn’t help that car seats are often made in dark colours (black, grey or brown), and can become extremely hot during warm days. You may want to place a muslin or a light-coloured towel on the seat before you sit your baby on it. And be especially careful of the metal buckles – if they have been in direct sunlight, they will be too hot for your baby’s bare legs to be in touch with. They will burn! Consider using a light muslin to protect your baby’s legs, if they’re not wearing long trousers (and they’re probably not if it’s really hot!)
Before you put your baby in the car, make sure you air it – leave the doors and windows open for a bit. If you have A/C put it on during your journey, or keep the windows slightly open if you can. It is also a good idea to get window shades to protect your baby from direct sunlight.
And finally, make sure that your baby is also wearing loose-fitting and light-coloured clothing for the car ride – like pushchairs, car seats can also get very hot, even when the car is on the move.
Always make sure that your baby has plenty of fluids
Outdoors and at home, make sure your baby has sufficient fluids, either through milk only or through a combination of milk and water (if they’re older than 6 months).
At home and at night
As we all know, when temperatures rise, our homes can also become really uncomfortable and warm, especially at night! Make sure you use light bedding and light clothing when putting the baby to sleep, and try and keep a door or window open if it’s safe to do so.
Do you have any other tips to add? Share them with us!