How to protect your little one from the damaging effects of the sun
Yes! Summer is officially here in the UK. Ditch those winter jumpers and stockpile Mars Bar ice creams before the freezer section of Asda is decimated. If, like me, you found yourself using your head as a human sun shield while pushing your little one around today, you will intuitively already be protecting your baby from direct sunlight. But the problem with the mum head eclipse technique is that the sun moves, and so do you! So what more can you do to keep your baby safe?
The science bit
It’s common sense that babies and children have more delicate, sensitive skin that can burn more easily. There is also evidence showing that exposure of newborn skin to UV radiation from the sun can cause changes in skin cells that persist into adulthood, and which could play a role in the development of skin cancer.
Top sun safety tips for babies and children
Seek out shade
Yes, it’s obvious. But if you’re used to staring out your office window thinking, “Why is the best weather reserved for work days”, you’ll have an urge to soak up those rays. So ignore the urge and find play spots under trees, walk on the shady side of the road, sit under a parasol. The NHS recommends keeping babies under 6 months completely out of direct sunlight, but especially around midday (I would go further and say avoid exposure between 11am and 3pm).
Dress for summer
This is the fun bit, right? Cute summer rompers worthy of Prince George. Of course we want to keep our little ones cool and protect their heads, but don’t forget to cover the other parts of the body that will see the most sun. For toddlers on the move, that means shoulders and the back of the neck. T shirts with short sleeves are far better than strappy tops, and hats with a neck flap or a soft brim that you can pull down at the back are better than baseball caps. Check out British brand Toby Tiger for some gorgeous bucket-style sunhats, and organic kids clothing company Frugi for hats with neck flaps that can be worn in the water.
Get a Snoozeshade
This is a great invention, and best of all it was designed by a fellow sun-dodging mum. It fits over any pushchair in either the bassinet or upright formation, and blocks out 80% of UV while still allowing your little one to see out. The breathable cover is super easy to fit and, because it folds down into a tiny little drawstring bag, I keep mine with my buggy at all times alongside my rain cover (it’s England, land of snow in March and 25°C in April). It also creates a nice dim environment for naps on the go and keeps all nature of flying pests away from your little munchkin. A UV cover or parasol specifically designed for the job is far better than a loose muslin over your pushchair, as they allow for ventilation and block the harmful UV rays.
Slap on the suncream
Most sunscreen isn’t suitable for babies under 6 months, hence the advice to keep them completely out of direct sunlight. There are, however, a couple of brands that have been specifically formulated for babies under 6 months. Mustela and La Roche Posay both offer sunscreens that are suitable for newborns and are also good options for children with eczema or very sensitive skin.
For older children there are a whole host of options available. A sunscreen specifically designed for children is best, as the chemicals in adult creams are too strong for their sensitive skin (adult sunscreens absorb and dissipate UV radiation, whereas children’s suncreens use minerals to reflect it). Apply thickly 30 minutes before going outside and reapply every two hours as a minimum.
Here are the key things you’re looking for:
– SPF of 15 or above
– UVA and UVB protection (a UVA rating of 4 stars or higher if you’re going abroad)
– Maximum of 1 year since opening – if it’s from last year, bin it. My top mum hack is to use a permanent marker to write the date you opened it directly onto the bottle
– Waterproof if you’re heading to the beach or pool
Hydration, hydration, hydration
If you’re breastfeeding, be prepared that your little one may want to feed more often than usual to hydrate themselves. It’s therefore really important that you also stay hydrated. I love this bottle from the Breastfeeding Network . If you’re formula feeding, you can give your baby cooled boiled water throughout the day on top of their normal bottle feeds. If your little one is over 6 months old and they get bored with water, try a few covert techniques to get water into them. Ice cubes or homemade fruit lollies can be popular, or fruit and veg that’s high in water content such as melon and cucumber. I’ve found that Mr J loves sucking water out of a flannel – usually bathwater but that’s not advisable!