I am a Canadian redhead which essentially means I’m a vampire, so when I had a baby I was understandably concerned about sun safety seeing as he was an even paler shade of blue than me.
Baby's Need Sun Protection
Babies have very perfect immature angel skin and have a higher surface area to body weight ratio than bigger kids and adults.
Think of skin like fabric – you have three yards covering your body whereas they only have half a yard (I’m trying to figure out a non-gross analogy here.) That means that anything you slather on them has a bigger impact on their system.
Because of this, it is recommended that you only use sunscreen on babies older than 6 months old and opt for protective clothing and shade on a child younger than 6 months.
However, almost everyone agrees that sunscreen is way better than a sunburn. So if you are skipping through Phoenix with a 3-month-old with no sign of a tree, so get something on that kid. (Chemical or mineral.)
Sunscreen vs. Sunblock
Yep, there’s a difference. Sunscreens come in two categories: chemical and physical.
Chemical sunscreens contain ingredients that penetrate the skin to effectively filter and absorb UVA and UVB rays, whereas physical sunscreens (or sunblocks) physically block the sun’s rays.
Mineral Sunblocks usually contain zinc oxide and titanium oxide, which are non-toxic in small amounts, which is good to know if you have a baby that is a big hand chewer. (I don’t know what happens if you eat a bucket, so maybe don’t.)
In addition to sunblock, we have come a long way regarding sun protection whether it be gear or clothing. Here are some of my faves.
These are great for baby sun protection, diaper changes, naps and general escape from the chaos. I really love the Coleman Beach Shade Shelter because you can zip the front up if you need privacy. Veer also makes these incredible Base Camp Shelters too.
Sun Protective Clothing:
If you can easily see through a piece of clothing, then it’s probably not providing enough protection, so keep an eye out for these duds when you’re in full sun. I love this stuff because I don’t have to worry about those high burn areas like shoulders. Ones with zip or snap crotches make for easy diaper changes too.
Hands down, Green Sprouts is my favorite source for baby sun protection clothing. They have a great assortment of styles and their hats have a cult-like following. You can find all their sun gear here as well as on Amazon.
Before I had kids, I thought it was so cute and novel to see a baby in sunglasses – like somehow they didn’t need eye protection. My tip is to get these on weebles early so it doesn’t dawn on them that they should be pitched (same with hats). My picks are either Green Sprouts or Babiators.
I was surprised at how many UVA rays (the ones that don’t cause burns but damage skin cells) get through your car window. It looks like window tinting is the most efficient way to block it out, but window clings are a less expensive and easier alternative.
I just want to point out that if go this route, go for a cling over a roll down shade so it’s not a projectile in an accident – in other words, opt for something that won’t do a lot of damage if it hits your head at 60mph.
I like the Magnetic Stretch to Fit Sun Shade from Brica (shown above) and the Britax B-Covered All-Weather Car Seat Cover (shown below).
I find babies fall into two different camps: ‘Hat? No problem.” And “Get this tarp of Satan off my head!” Like sunglasses, I find if you get them used to hats early it’s less of an issue but I fully recognize that a cognitive switch often flips and what was cool on Tuesday is completely unacceptable Wednesday.
Green Sprouts (you can also find them on Amazon) is my favorite for excellent coverage that includes a little Houdini proofing.
I also found that if I wore a broad-brimmed hat when my kids were in the carrier, it provided some nice shade – this was also me beyond caring that I looked like Speedy Gonzalez trying to get into the Royal Ascot.
OTHER IMPORTANT TIPS:
- Try to stay out of the sun between 10 am and 4 pm when the sun’s rays are the strongest. That said, I fully recognize that most family picnics aren’t held at midnight.
- Keep that kiddo hydrated. Babies (and toddlers) don’t have a lock down on their heating a cooling system yet, so they tend to get cold and overheat quickly. Keeping them topped up on breastmilk or formula will help fend off dehydration.
- Summer is the prime season for heat rash. It looks like tiny red bumps and tends to crop up where clothing trapped heat and sweat in your baby’s tiny pores. The best way to treat it is to cool your baby down. Take off the clothes, have a cool bath, and air dry the heck out of that kid. Steer clear of moisturizers and creams because you’ll just trap the moisture and heat in which will anger the rash even more.
Whew, now I want to hit the beach! I think that covers it like SPF 2,000. What do you think? Any tips I can add? What am I missing?
Related: Beach Tips for Babies and Toddlers