Vermonters love the winter, for sure, but there’s nothing like a gorgeous warm summer after the long months of dark and cold. I love being outside with my baby daughter no matter the weather, but I want to make sure we can enjoy the outdoors safely. During winter, that meant keeping her cozy and safe in layers of warm clothing, booties, hats, and blankets. But what about summer? There’s a certain amount of common sense and “trust your instincts” involved, just like anything, but I like knowing some facts, too. I did some research as well as asking other parents their advice.
Here’s how I’m planning to keep my daughter happy (and safe!) during hot months ahead.
This seems obvious but wasn’t to me – blame it on new mom brain? I kept trying to figure out what “stuff” I needed for my daughter but this one you can’t buy (unless you purchase a beach umbrella) but you must seek out at every outdoor excursion. Experts agree that the absolute best way to keep your baby safe is to keep them out of the sun entirely, especially if they are under 6 months old. Find a shady spot under a tree, umbrella or building overhang. Use one of those pop-up shade tents if you have one. Find a lean-to. Climb into a treehouse. Add a UV-blocking film to car windows. The important thing is to block sunlight any way you can.
In Burlington: Most outdoor areas have trees or covered structures. Even if it feels awkward, don’t be afraid to duck into a store or shop when out-and-about, or “chase” the shade on certain sides of the street or under building overhangs.
2} Avoid mid-day sun
Try to stay indoors during mid-day when the sun’s rays are most intense. Generally avoid the outdoors between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. (some sources recommend 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) Obviously this isn’t possible every day, so use your best judgement. If you must be outside at high noon, make sure you are in the shade or can get to it quickly if your baby gets fussy or starts to seem too hot.
Just like adults, higher temperatures makes little bodies dehydrate faster. Breastfed babies will want to nurse more frequently. Breastfeeding mamas should bring a bottle of water everywhere and wear a nursing-friendly shirt so you can comfortably and easily nurse anywhere. You might be able to nurse in any attire but my favorite no-fuss shirts are by Boob Design. Consult with your pediatrician for the best course of action to keep your formula-fed baby well hydrated.
In Burlington: Find Boob Design tank tops and t-shirts at The Green Life off Church St. Find water bottles everywhere – there are probably 17 hidden in your car/kitchen right now. My favorites are by Liberty Bottleworks, available at Outdoor Gear Exchange and other shops around town.
4} Cover up
Babies under 6 months old shouldn’t be exposed to the sun, and it’s a good rule of thumb to make sure most skin is covered on older babies, too. Grab a hat with a wide brim. All fabrics protect skin from UV radiation to some degree, but try to choose clothing with a tighter knit (hold up to light to see how much you can see through) or items with a Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) rating on the label. Up the protection – and the adorableness factor – with sunglasses. Babiators and iPlay are two highly-rated brands.
In Burlington: All of these items can be found at a variety of stores in the area. For hats, Buttered Noodles had the biggest selection of brands and styles I’ve seen. Rash guards and UPF-rated clothing are also available at several stores but Buttered Noodles has the iPlay brand in many colors and sizes as well as zip-up one pieces. Babiators are available at Little Citizen on Church Street and iPlay are carried at Outdoor Gear Exchange.
The US Food and Drug Administration and The Skin Cancer Foundation recommend using sunscreen only on children older than six months. If your baby is over 6 months, The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests applying a baby-safe sunscreen carefully and sparingly on the body and face, but to rely on shade and clothing for primary sun protection. Call your pediatrician if you have questions or concerns about sunscreen.
In Burlington: A myriad of stores carry baby safe sunscreen from City Market to Hannaford’s (in the Natural/Organic aisles.) Look for all-natural brands as chemicals are more likely to cause a reaction on baby’s sensitive skin. You might see more of that white haze because most baby sunscreens forgo iffy ingredients (that make the white color soak into skin) in favor of zinc oxide. Also look for fragrance free or unscented. California Baby and Badger both have great non-toxic options.