Sun protection for babies isn’t just about sunscreen. To keep your infant safe, there’s a few important tips you must know.
Sun exposure can put a little one at risk for skin damage and heat stroke. Although it becomes most important in summer, sun protection for babies is important all-year round.
Keep reading to learn how to keep your baby safe from the sun.
Can Babies Wear Sunscreen? Baby Sunscreen Age
Like children and adults, every baby should be protected against the sun. However, sunscreen isn’t suitable for babies under 6 months.
Sun Protection for Babies Under 6 Months
Newborns and babies not over 6 months shouldn’t typically wear sunscreen. That’s because they’re more likely to experience lotion side effects—like a rash. At this age, a baby’s skin is very sensitive and fragile, so you need to be especially mindful of the products you’re using. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says it’s okay to apply sunscreen to small areas that aren’t covered by clothing or hats.
So what’s the solution to sun protection for newborns if sunscreen isn’t ideal? The FDA and the AAP recommend keeping your baby out of direct sunlight at this age. When you’re outside, don’t sit in a ray of sunshine. Instead, find a spot of shade under a tree or umbrella, etc. You can find more practical ideas on sun protection for your baby later in this post.
Sunscreen for Babies Older Than 6 Months
Babies older than 6 months should wear sunscreen whether it’s direct or indirect sunlight. Make sure to apply it to all the areas that are uncovered, like:
- Tips of ears
- Back of neck
- Back of hand
- Top of feet
Apply baby sunscreen about 15 to 30 minutes before going out. Reapply every one and a half to two hours. According to the AAP, no sunscreens are truly waterproof, making reapplying necessary.
Baby sunscreens are formulated for sensitive skin. Select a brand of at least 30 SPF (up to 50 SPF).
Sun Protection for Baby: 12 Ideas
Sun protection for your baby is an important consideration before spending any amount of time outside. Even a short walk with direct exposure can damage a little one’s skin. Here’s a full list of ways you can protect your baby.
Avoid Peek Sun Times
Sun protection isn’t foolproof. Sometimes, it’s better to avoid it altogether. The FDA recommends keeping infants out of the sun when the sun is most intense. UV rays are typically strongest between 10 am. and 2 pm. If you need to be outside during this period, plan to take extra precautions.
Although babies under 6 months can wear sunscreen on areas uncovered, be mindful about using a small amount. You can use lotion more liberally with older babies.
Before applying sunscreen to your baby, test a small amount on an area such as the back of her hand. Wait 48 hours to see if any reactions occur before fully applying it.
Sunscreen should never be your only form of sun protection. Lotion helps protect against the sun’s rays, but it doesn’t mean they won’t have an effect. That’s why it’s best to avoid direct sunlight altogether. You can do several things to create shade from your baby (which make up the rest of this list).
The way you dress your baby also helps protect her against the sun. On hot days, you might think shorts or a dress is a cute choice, but it also leaves the skin open to more damage.
Aim for long pants and a long sleeve shirt that’s also lightweight and breathable. How do you know if a fabric doesn’t offer much protection? The FDA says to hold the material against your hand. If it’s sheer enough to see through your hand, it won’t block the sun enough.
On the flip side, keep in mind that dressing your baby up too much or in heavy clothing can lead to overheating. Since babies can’t sweat yet, they can’t cool themselves down and could become dehydrated.
Look for Shady Spots
Whenever you’re sitting outside, instead of sitting in direct sunlight, select a shady spot. For example:
- Under a tree
- Deck awning
- Park canopy
Sometimes, shade isn’t available and you need to create it. Here’s how:
- Umbrella— Bring a sun umbrella to the beach or park. If you’re sitting in your backyard, tables with umbrellas are ideal.
- Infant sun protection tent— Infant sun protection tents are pop-up tents you can take with you. They provide shade anywhere outdoors and give your baby a safer area to play. When shopping for a tent, consider how windy your area is and the type of material that can withstand it.
Keep in mind that umbrellas and canopies may only reduce UVR exposure by 50%, according to the AAP.
Baby Sun Protection Hat
One of the most popular UV-blocking items are hats, but not all baby sun protection hats are created equal. While baseball hats are cute, they don’t block the neck and ears—which are fragile areas for a little one. Instead, select a sun protection hat with a brim that shades the neck.
Baby Sun Protection Shirt
Although not necessary, there are some shirts branded specifically as baby sun protection shirts. These garments have varying claims with varying levels of benefits. One advantage is that some baby sun protection shirts have a high ultraviolet protection rating. While the typical white cotton t-shirt has a 5 UPF rating, protection shirts can have a 50 UPF rating. Before buying a special garment, make sure you do your research on the brand.
Baby Sun Protection Swimwear
Similar to sun protection shirts, you can also buy baby sun protection swimwear. These are full body suits that have higher UPF ratings. This is a convenient option for parents who find reapplying sunscreen tedious.
Beyond skin damage, the sun can also lead to eye problems like cataracts and macular degeneration. To prevent this, you can try baby sunglasses. However, many parents have a hard time keeping them on. You can try glasses with straps but a brimmed hat is your best defense.
<h3>Sun Protection for Baby Strollers
It’s also important to consider sun protection for baby strollers. Since a short walk on a bright day can still hurt your baby, what extra steps can you take to protect her?
- Reconsider covering stroller. Some parents cover the stroller with a blanket in an attempt to shield their baby from the sun. However, even lightweight fabrics can cause the stroller to overheaton hot days. It also makes it difficult to see your baby and how they’re reacting to the heat.
- You can buy an attachable stroller umbrella to shade your baby while still being able to see her.
- Use canopy.Choose a stroller with a canopy and an opening at the back so air can freely flow. Depending on the climate where you live, it might make sense to purchase a model with lightweight fabric.
Baby Sun Protection for Car
The glass in your car blocks UVB rays but not UVA rays. Windshields are treated to protect against some UVA, but that doesn’t include the rest of the windows. To protect your baby while you’re driving, you can buy car sun shades. These are fabric pieces attached to your windows to create shade.
The sun can do more than just damage a baby’s skin, it can also make them dehydrated. To help prevent this, pack a cooler to store formula or breastmilk. Feed your baby more frequently as liquids get depleted faster in the heat.
Baby Sun Burns
Since a baby’s sensitive skin can burn easily, you should monitor for signs of sunburn, like redress. However, look for less obvious signs too.
A baby who’s irritated can become fussy and start excessively crying. If you notice that your baby is becoming burned, get out of the sun and use a cold compress on the area. Call your pediatrician to ask about the next steps to treat the burn. Seek medical attention if your baby becomes lethargic or experiences breathing changes, such as rapid breaths.
Summary: Sun Protection for Babies
There’s several ways to offer sun protection to your baby. Sunscreen is usually the first thought, but it shouldn’t be your only option. Use a brimmed hat, sunglasses, keep covered up and most importantly—stay in the shade.
When possible, during really hot hours, try to stay cool inside. While sunscreen isn’t ideal for babies under 6 months old, you can test a patch and apply a small amount if no reaction occurs. Over 6 months, babies should wear sunscreen on all uncovered areas.