Traveling With Your Baby This Summer? Here’s How To Keep Them Safe In The Sun And Water


Whether you’re heading off on a family trip to a beach resort, a lakeside cottage or any place where you’re hoping to spend some quality time in a pool, the number one concern is protecting your baby from the sun and keeping them safe in the water.

Fun in the Sun

Because neither the FDA and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend using sunscreen on babies until they’re at least six months old, it’s important to find other means of protection.

“For babies under six months and even for older babies, we recommend staying in the shade as much as possible,” says Dr. Krupa Playforth, board-certified pediatrician and founder of The Pediatrician Mom. “If you’re out and about, you can use an umbrella and find spots under trees. You also want to focus on alternative methods of sun protection like UPF protective clothing that covers the body as well as wide-brimmed hats, many of which are also available with UPF protection.”

According to Dr. Playforth, UPF clothing really does work. “UPF is the Ultraviolent Protection Factor and you should pick a minimum of UPF 30 although UPF 50+ is ideal,” she explains. “Fabric that is more tightly woven is going to offer more protection since it is harder for UV radiation to get through and you want to pick clothing that covers as much of the body surface as possible.”

Dr. Playforth suggests limiting time outdoors between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm when the sun is most intense. “If, for some reason, an infant does need to be in a situation where they will experience sun exposure, using a small amount of mineral-based, zinc oxide containing sunscreen is unlikely to be harmful,” she says. “Remember, this is the same ingredient in diaper ointment, which we use liberally on babies! If you do end up in this situation, monitor your infant closely for any signs of overheating or dehydration, which can be subtle.”

For older babies, look for mineral stick sunscreens that are easy to apply to wiggly little ones. “A mineral stick sunscreen with SPF 50 and 20% zinc oxide as the active ingredient is my usual go-to for babies and toddlers,” says Dr. Sheilagh Maguiness, board-certified pediatric dermatologist and co-founder of Stryke Club, a personal care brand for teen boys. “Though I understand that a spray sunscreen is convenient, most spray formulations are chemical filter based, which I don’t recommend for young children or infants. It is also not ideal to be spraying these compounds near a baby’s face where there is potential for inhalation. To top it off, spray formulations are just difficult to apply evenly, so you might not be achieving the SPF coverage you really need.”

Dr. Maguiness recommends Mustela’s mineral stick and cream. “I also really love Pipette Baby’s mineral sunscreen lotion,” she says. “Another brand doing a great job with both mineral sticks and creams is the Think company. Their brand, Thinkbaby, is wonderful.”

Protecting sensitive young eyes from the sunlight is also important but it can be challenging to keep sunglasses on little ones. “Infants who are used to sunglasses from a young age and who see their parents wearing them are more likely to comply,” says Dr. Playforth, “so this is a habit to start as early as they’ll tolerate and fit. Pick sunglasses with 100% UVA/UVB protection and an adjustable strap, along with polycarbonate lenses, which are resilient and lightweight.”

Water Babies

Cooling off in a pool, lake or ocean is one of the joys of summer but, if you want your baby to accompany you, there are a few things to keep in mind. According to Dr. Playforth, “Babies can go in the pool with a parent even when they are a couple of months old for short periods of time. Just know that babies can lose body heat quickly due to their relatively high body surface area, so you should keep their time in the water brief and be attentive to the ambient temperature, the temperature of the water, and your baby’s behavior and comfort.”

Dr. Playforth adds, “Be aware that chlorine can dry out or irritate skin. For brief dips, this is unlikely to be a problem, but it’s worth being watchful. The benefit of a chlorinated pool is that it is less likely to be full of bacteria, which may not be the case with a natural body of water like a lake. For that reason, you want to wait until your infant has a less vulnerable immune system – for example, past the three month mark when they have had their first sets of shots – before taking a dip with them in a lake or ocean. The other reasons to wait a little when it comes to oceans and lakes is that the water may be cooler and it is harder to remain stable and steady if there is a current.”

While in the water, babies should wear a UP 50+ rash guard or swimsuit that covers as much of their body surface as possible, along with a wide brimmed hat. A swim diaper is a necessity and babies over six months old should also be wearing sunscreen.

Although Dr. Playforth believes swim lessons are vital for all children – the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends starting them at one year old – she warns that they can lull parents into a false sense of security. “They’re essential as a layer to prevent drowning but they are simply one layer. The best way to protect a child is to have multiple layers of protection, including close adult supervision when near bodies of water, and TOUCH supervision – having the child within hand distance – for infants. Floatation devices also require TOUCH supervision and kids should not be left alone while using them. Your biggest goal in those early years is to teach kids water safety skills such as not getting into the water without a grown up. And never leave an infant near a body of water unsupervised, even if it’s one you wouldn’t associate with swimming – like a bucket or fountain.”

Here are a couple of sun and swim brands I personally swear by for my three month old grandson.

SwimZip

This is pretty much the only company you need to know for baby swim gear and sun protection. Serious about keeping little ones (and big ones!) safe – their founder started the company after her own skin cancer diagnosis at the age of 26 – they offer great-looking swimsuits, rash guards, hats and onesies, all with UPF 50+ UV coverage. My grandson wears the Jelly Jellyfish Sunsuit – Long Sleeve Romper Swimsuit in the pool and it’s chlorine-resistant, quick drying and easy to put on and take off. We also make sure he wears their wide-brimmed hat that features an adjustable chin strap with a brilliant “no choke” breakaway clip. SwimZip is as much about substance as style and should be your first, pre-vacation shopping stop.

Babiators

My grandbaby hates the sun and closes his eyes as soon as we take him outside. I was skeptical that sunglasses would make any difference at this age so I am shocked to tell you that Babiators are a game-changer. As soon as we put them on him and headed outside, his entire face lit up in a smile. (See top photo!) Yes, I’m sure that part of that was due to our laughing and telling him how cute he looked but his eyes were wide open, he wasn’t squinting and he wasn’t trying to take off the sunglasses. We now use them all the time and he is so much happier outdoors. We switch off between Jet Black Keyhole and Totally Tortoise Navigator, which, like all of Babiators, feature UV400 lenses to protect sensitive young eyes and skin from 100% of harmful UVA/UVB rays. I can’t recommend these highly enough.



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