Summertime is upon us, and that means spending more time outside! Keeping babies safe in the hot summer sun is imperative; sun damage is cumulative over a lifetime, and overexposure early in life can increase your risk for skin cancer. Practicing sun safety doesn’t have to mean keeping your children cooped up all day long; instead, a little forethought and preparation is all you need to keep your little ones safe on the playground and in the pool.
An infant’s limited amount of melanin, our skin’s naturally protective pigment, makes them especially susceptible to the damaging effects of sunlight. Unfortunately, sunscreen isn’t the answer for infants. Pediatricians advise not using sunscreen on babies 0-6 months old; the skin is too sensitive at this age for sunscreen. Instead, infants should have limited sun exposure by covering their body as much as possible and keeping them in the shade. Dress your baby in lightweight clothing that covers arms and legs, and choose a wide-brimmed hat to protect baby’s face and neck. I am partial to Swim Zip’s stylish and functional rashguards, sun hats, and sunsuits.
Taking early morning walks and evening strolls also limits the amount of sun exposure. The hours of 10 am to 4 pm are when the sun’s rays are at their strongest, so finding a shady spot in the middle of the day for your picnic or playground outing is essential. Shade isn’t always easy to come by, so consider keeping a baby pop-up shade dome in the car. I liked this one from Redmond Beach.
Once your baby reaches 6 months of age, you can use a broad spectrum sunscreen of at least 30 SPF. This type of sunscreen protects from harmful UVA and UVB rays. If you choose a spray-on sunscreen, be sure to mist it into your hands and then apply to your child. Sunscreen should be applied 30 minutes before venturing outdoors, and should be reapplied every 2 hours or more often if swimming. Be generous when slathering on sunscreen; the American Academy of Dermatology estimates that most only apply half as much sunscreen as they should. A good rule of thumb is about half an ounce (enough to fill the palm of your toddler’s hand) to cover a child’s body. And even though it seems counterintuitive, cloudy days still necessitate skin protection; 80% of UV rays penetrate cloud coverings.
Choosing a sunscreen can be confusing; the Environmental Working Group recommends finding a brand of sunscreen that does not contain potential hormone disruptors like retinyl palmitate (vitamin A) and oxybenzone. Some of the suncreens on this list can be hard to find. Look for Kiss My Face and California Baby brands, both of which are easier to find in stores.
The best way to ensure your baby is safe in the sun is to make it easy on you – keep extra sunscreen, layers of clothing, and a hat in your diaper bag. You’ll be ready for impromptu outings and you and your little ones can safely soak up some vitamin D.