Sun protection is essential for your newborn to avoid a higher risk of skin cancer, melanoma, and other health issues such as cataracts, retinal injury, and autoimmune diseases. Babies under 12 months of age need to be kept away from direct sunlight. When taking your infant out, ensure they wear full coverage lightweight clothes, stay hydrated by breastmilk or formula, and wear a hat and sunglasses. Don’t use sunscreen on infants below 6 months, as it could cause a skin rash or allergy. In case of any sunburn, immediately seek medical attention.
Your first outing with your infant is a moment to remember forever. This is when you finally introduce them to the outside world, and as wonderful as this moment is, it also means introducing them to harsh weather.
Taking them in a stroller or not, your little one deserves the right kind of protection from the harsh UV rays of the sun. Children’s skin is already sensitive, so protecting it is a must!
Let’s learn how to let your child play carefree under the sun without harming their skin or health.
Note: We have another dedicated post on sun protection for toddlers during outdoor play.
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Why does my infant need sun protection?
Babies who are under 12 months of age need to be kept away from direct sunlight if this index is 3 or above. Too much sun exposure for a baby under 12 months could lead to a medical emergency.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has stated that infants should be protected from the sun as much as possible, and vitamin D requirements can be met through diet and fortified foods rather than deliberate sun exposure.
Some of the health issues an infant might suffer if exposed to too much sun regularly include:
- Predisposition to skin cancer
- Retinal injury
- Autoimmune diseases
Sun safety tips for infants
An infant is at a greater risk of getting sunburn or other health issues from exposure to direct sunlight.
Since they have sensitive skin and are still adapting to the harsh climates of this world, it’s best to keep them out of direct sunlight for the first 6 months of their life.
Tips you must follow to protect your baby (0-6 months) from harmful sun rays include:
- Dress your infant in lightweight clothing but with something that covers all their body parts. Long-sleeved shirts and pants are a good way to dress them up.
- A hat and sunglasses to protect their face. Even if they try to throw it away, buy hats with comfortable elastics to be put around the face so they can’t remove it.
- Always use a stroller or umbrella.
- Get removable mesh screens for your car windows, and always use them when sitting in the car with your infant.
- Use sunglasses to protect their eyesight from UV rays and ensure the sunglasses have UVA/UVB protection. About 80% of UV damage is done by the age of 18; sunglasses are a must to prevent any eye damage.
- Since your infant can’t play alone, try taking them to the playground in a stroller in the early morning before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m.
- Keep them hydrated with formula or breastmilk stored in a cooler.
As an older sister, when my brother was an infant, we always used to keep him indoors until he was 6 months old.
We would make sure to bring it to the balcony in the evening when the sun would be setting. Sitting and playing with him in the shade would keep him entertained while still getting some fresh air.
Only after he turned 6 months and older would we take him outside in the evenings to the park or the playground. We would usually take him out after dinner when the hot air wouldn’t bother him anymore.
Also, we mostly kept him inside during the spring season to prevent any allergies.
Can I use sunscreen on my infant for outdoor playtime?
When going outdoors with your infant and especially taking them to the playground for some playtime, a simple question about sunscreen might arise in your mind.
While it’s an obvious choice to use sunscreen on yourself, is it common to use it on your infant?
As the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends, you shouldn’t be applying sunscreen on your infant younger than 6 months old.
An infant’s skin is at a greater risk than adults regarding the side effects of using sunscreen. Keeping them under some shade is the best UV protection you can provide them.
You can use sunscreen on your baby if they’re older than 6 months old. It would be better to get a doctor-recommended sunscreen or one that doesn’t hurt their eyes.
A broad-spectrum sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30 and UVA/UVB protection is necessary. Apply them on the uncovered areas, including the face, neck, hands, and feet.
Also, make sure you choose your sunscreen that doesn’t cause an allergic reaction. First, test the sunscreen on a small part of the skin.
While most parents think sunscreen is waterproof and stays on for a longer time, as advertised by the brand, you shouldn’t fall for such traps. You must re-apply it every two hours or after swimming or excessive sweating.
Remember to apply the sunscreen 30 minutes before you step out of your home with your little one to get its full effect.
How to avoid dehydration in infants?
For infants, it’s better to keep them hydrated with your breastmilk or even formula.
Since infants don’t need water at this stage, breastmilk or formula would be sufficient for them.
Keep plenty of breastmilk at hand as they might drink more than the usual quantity. Even if you’re thinking about giving them water, you should first boil it and let it cool down to give to your little one.
Ask your pediatrician for more information on keeping your little angel hydrated enough.
While infants are solely dependent on breastmilk until 6 months of age, they can start drinking water after turning 6 months old.
Now they can drink water with their semi-solid food and so take plenty of water with you to the playground.
How to treat my baby’s sunburn?
The signs of sunburn usually appear 6 to 12 hours after sun exposure which is indicated by physical symptoms depending on the severity of the situation.
If the sunburn was light, you’d only see their skin turning a bit red, feeling warm, and feeling slight discomfort. This can be treated at home by you in different ways. You can use:
- A cold compress on burned areas
- Give cold showers or baths
- Keep them inside cold shady places
- Give them paracetamol or ibuprofen if they have pain or swelling
However, If their skin has blisters, swollen, showing signs of infection, and they’re in severe pain, then you need to give them immediate medical attention.
Other signs to look out for include the following:
- A general feeling of sickness
Ignoring this severe condition might require hospitalization, and blisters could get infected, leading to further health issues.
Therefore, you need to pay close attention to their situation.
How do I know if my baby is dehydrated?
Babies and children are at more risk of getting dehydrated. This means your body is losing more water than you take in. It can lead to serious health issues if not treated immediately.
Minor dehydration includes:
– Dizziness or light-headedness
– Dark yellow or brown urine
– Fewer wet nappies
– Dry lips and mouth
In children, you’ll see signs which include:
– Feeling thirsty
– Feeling cold
– Breathing fast or having a fast heart rate
– Being irritable, tired, or confused
In babies, signs of dehydration include:
– A sunken soft spot (fontanelle) on top of their head
– Sunken eyes
– Few or no tears when they cry
– Not having many wet nappies
– Being drowsy or irritable
Is it safe for my infant to touch grass or dirt?
Babies can and should play in the grass to develop their sensations and get exposure at this age.
The Journal of Allergy and Clinic Immunology suggests parents should encourage their children to spend more time outdoors in grass and dirt.
Exposure to allergens and bacteria during a baby’s first year might prevent allergies and even asthma-related wheezing as your child grows.
While grass could be itchy and might cause a rash, getting used to it might help them develop stronger immunity.
Ensure the grass doesn’t have lots of fertilizer, weed killer, or chemicals on it before letting your child play on it.
It would be best if you sat beside them when they’re playing so they don’t end up putting dirt or grass in their mouth.
What precautions should I take for outdoor play during allergy season?
Seasonal allergies are always a pain for parents to handle.
For parents, it’s time they usually avoid their children from going outside because of the allergy symptoms caused by airborne irritants or allergens which enter the eyes, nose, and throat.
But infants are less likely to have environmental allergies. The same goes for all kids under two years of age.
Is it safe for my newborn to be around garden pets?
If you have a garden or are taking your newborn and pet to the garden, keeping them in separate areas is best.
Instead of handling both on your own, make sure you have one person handling the pet, and you should be responsible for your baby’s safety.
Be it any kind of pet; you can’t leave your baby too close to them.
No matter how gentle your pet might be, there’s still a chance they could suddenly become aggressive and do something that could harm your newborn.
Supervision is always a must.