Summer is well and truly on the way, which is great news for us, but not so much for our babies’ delicate skin. While we look forward to spending more time outdoors, it’s important to know how to protect our little ones from the sun’s harmful rays and the damage this can cause later down the track. Here are simple tips to follow – not just as the weather heats up, but pretty much all year round.
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation can cause sunburn, skin damage, eye damage, a weakened immune system or skin cancer. When UV index is 3 (moderate) or higher, it is recommended that babies under 12 months should be kept out of the direct sun, and those over 12 months should be well protected. UV radiation can still be high even on a cool or cloudy day so it’s important to check levels at the Bureau of Metrology or SunSmart app.
Choose cool loose-fitting clothing, made of breathable cotton for hot summer days. Source items with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) of 50+, or made of tightly woven fabric that allows less light through. Long pants and long sleeves offer more protection, however in the warmer weather, you can opt for elbow length sleeves and long shorts. When swimming at the beach or pool, rash vests or wetsuits are effective in shielding young skin, while close fitting wrap-around sunglasses are good for protecting little eyes.
It can be tricky to convince a toddler to put (and keep) a hat on, or to stop your baby from tossing their hat out of the pram. However, it’s important to get them in habit of wearing a hat outside in order to establish good sun protection habits. Choose styles that are best for protecting face, necks and ears such as wide brimmed, legionnaire or bucket hats. Ties or elastic straps can help secure hats in place, as long as they’re not a choking hazard. Baseball caps, while popular with kids, are not so effective.
While shade can offer some protection from UV rays, it’s still possible to get burnt. Protective clothing and sunscreen are always needed, even when sheltered from the sun. When out and about with the pram, make sure you use the pram’s shade cloth or canopy, something that will shield your baby from harmful rays while still allowing good airflow. And when traveling in the car, use window shades to protect your precious backseat passengers.
Generally, sunscreen is not recommended for use on babies under six months of age, however, once your baby is old enough it’s important to apply a SPF 50, broad-spectrum water resistant sun cream to their skin.
There are many excellent brands to choose from, such as the Cancer Council Kids Sunscreen, which is Tell Me Baby’s highest rated baby sunscreen in 2021. With a score of 4.8 out of 5 stars, our community members find it effective, non-greasy and easy to apply. “It works well and has prevented sunburn after days at the beach and while camping during summer,” said one parent. Another found it ideal for her child’s eczema and sensitive skin: “I found other brands would make her eczema flare up but this sunscreen is so gentle on her skin and doesn’t cause her eczema any grief.”
MooGoo Natural Sunscreen is another great sun safety product, which has a 4.3 out of 5 star rating from 90 Tell Me Baby parent reviews. An excellent choice for children with sensitive skin, it’s free of all UV filters, synthetic chemicals, penetration enhancers and doesn’t contain any ingredient harmful to coral reefs. “MooGoo sunscreen is amazing and I will never use anything else on my son or my skin ever again,” said one reviewer. “My son has very sensitive skin and he has no reaction to this what so ever and it always protects him amazingly well.”
With any sunscreen, test it first on your baby’s skin to see if it causes a reaction. Once you find a brand to suit, then apply sunscreen 15 to 20 minutes before going outside, and reapply it every two hours (or after going in the water or using a towel). If it does cause a reaction on your baby’s skin, then stop using the product immediately.
Read our baby sunscreen comparison chart.
The best way for children to learn good habits is to observe their parent’s behaviour. So it’s important to be a strong role model when it comes to staying safe in the sun. If your child sees you following all the recommended sun protection rules, such as wearing appropriate clothing, a hat and sunscreen, then they’re more likely to do the same.
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