Summer is fast approaching here in New Zealand. The days are getting longer, the temperature is getting warmer, and the weather is only getting better and better! Most of us will find ourselves wanting to make the most of these gorgeous days by going outside to enjoy the spectacular activities and natural beauty our country has to offer.
Heading out and about with your precious bub is an excellent way for you to get some fresh air after being cooped inside the house after a long dreary winter. It also gives your baby the opportunity to see and explore more of the world around them! While many mamas can't wait to take their babies outside, it is also vital to be cautious with the sun. Just as you apply sunscreen and wear a hat to protect yourself from getting sunburnt, you also need to take the right precautions to make sure your baby's delicate little skin is protected too!
When can I take my baby outside?
Paediatricians will usually recommend that it is best to wait at least two months after birth before taking your baby out into the big wide world. The reason behind this is to make sure their immune systems are well developed enough to cope with any germs or other nasties they might come in contact with while they're outside.
When you do take your baby out, be sure to keep them out of direct sunlight. It's best to keep them in shaded areas – whether that's under a tree, or with a cover over their pram. Because babies have super sensitive and delicate skin that can sunburn easily (and by that, we mean within a few minutes!), it's especially important to keep your bub inside between the hours of 10 AM and 4 PM, as this is when the sun is at its strongest. Even if you think the weather is harmless because the day looks cloudy and overcast, harsh UV rays are still able to penetrate through the clouds and damage your precious one's skin.
Can I put sunscreen on my baby?
Many different sunscreens will advise you not to apply sunscreen on babies less than the age of six months. That is because your baby's skin is still so thin and delicate while they're in these early stages, to the point that their skin is extremely permeable! That means it can easily absorb the chemicals found in sunscreen, consequentially causing rashes, irritation, dry skin or even systemic toxicity.
The most effective way of protecting your baby from the sun is to keep them out of strong sunlight entirely. If you must use sunscreen on your child after six months because there is a risk of sunburn, it is best to go for a mineral-based one as it is minimally absorbed into the skin, but will still deflect UV rays. Try only to apply sunscreen on uncovered skin and be sure to use an SPF 30+ broad-spectrum sunscreen. Follow the instructions on the packaging and apply it thickly onto your child's skin, at least 15 minutes before going outside. Afterwards, remember to reapply every 2 hours to make sure their skin is continuously being protected.
If you find that the sunscreen you are using causes an adverse skin reaction from your child, stop using it and switch to another brand. If you need further advice about which sunscreens your child can use, it is best to consult with a pharmacist.
How can I protect my baby from the sun?
The absolute best way to protect your baby from those harsh UV rays and strong sunlight is to cover up their delicate skin! You can dress your child in loose-fitting, long-sleeved clothing that covers up their arms and legs whilst preventing them from overheating in the warm weather. If possible, choose clothing made from fabric with a special sun-protection factor to further defend your bub from the harsh sun.
Give your baby a sun hat; a wide brim is best to help keep the sun off their face, neck and ears. Some stores even carry baby sunglasses! These are incredibly helpful to protect your baby's eyes, as the melanin is still developing. Children are also more likely to look up to you as a role model of what to do, so set a good example and slip, slop, slap and wrap!
When taking your little one out in a pram or stroller, use a sunshade or keep an umbrella over them, to ensure they stay in the shade as much as possible. It's best not to use a blanket or plastic cover as this can stop airflow and make the inside of the stroller too hot! Be aware though, that sun can still burn in the shade by reflecting off surfaces such as water, sand and the inside of sun umbrellas.
In addition to protection from the sun, make sure your baby doesn't get overheated during these warmer months and help them keep up their fluid intake.
As the weather gets better, we hope you enjoy the lovely long summer days ahead! Take the time to make some beautiful, cherished memories with your little ones. x