Moms of winter babies are most likely eager to emerge from their flu season-induced hibernation and enjoy the phenomenon of sunshine once again. Having a baby in tow requires some extra preparation and a much bigger beach bag, but it’s still possible to relish in modified versions of prebaby summer activities. Whether you’re hitting the sandy shore or enjoying a little backyard relaxation, remember to take some important safety measures to ensure a summer full of giggly fun.
The best way to keep your baby safe at the pool is to maintain physical contact at all times. Older babies may be able to sit in an infant float, but even then an adult should keep a hand on the side to steady it. Babies can tip face-first into the water in a matter of seconds, so constant supervision is imperative.
Swimming pools are not recommended for babies under 4 months of age, since young infants are not able to regulate their body temperatures effectively. According to Ben Spitalnick, MD, a practicing pediatrician in Savannah, Georgia, parents should also be wary of prolonged chlorine exposure in infants, as new data suggests a possible correlation with increased risk of bronchitis and other respiratory infections.
One of the greatest risks associated with extended sun exposure for babies is dehydration. Spitalnick explains that water is a large component of breast milk and formula, so generous feedings play a large role in keeping baby hydrated. He also recommends Pedialyte rather than plain water to supplement. “While plain water is ideal for rehydration of older children, it should be avoided in infants since it does not contain the electrolytes that are important for a baby to keep in balance,” Spitalnick says.
Signs of dehydration to watch for are decreased urination, warm skin and dry lips. Because these signs are often too subtle for even experienced parents to detect, it’s best to call baby’s pediatrician with any concerns.
Many pediatricians now give the thumbs-up for sunscreen use at 4 months with more liberal use after 6 months. As sunscreens have improved in quality and natural products have found a market niche, moms have more options than ever when it comes to sun protection for their babies.
Whether you go natural or not, the product you choose should have an SPF of at least 30 that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Sunscreen should be applied at least half an hour before going out into the sun to allow adequate time for absorption into the skin. If you’re concerned with allergic reactions, test a small area of your baby’s skin before using it all over. Infant sunscreens tend to be thick, so be prepared to spend some extra time rubbing it onto your baby’s skin.
Nobody wants to smear sunscreen into an infant’s hair and then attempt to wash it out later on. Instead, use a sun hat with SPF to protect your child’s head. Don’t forget to pack an umbrella for extra shade. Sunglasses provide excellent eye protection, but if your baby refuses to wear them, try infant frames with a soft strap that fits across the back of baby’s head.
Mosquito repellent is a must-have for summertime, but which products are safe for your baby? The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that the use of insect repellents containing DEET be avoided with infants under 2 months old, and many parents and pediatricians prefer the use of DEET-free products for older babies and children as well. If your baby is over 2 months and you choose to use a repellent containing DEET, opt for one with 10 percent or less concentration. DEET concentration levels are usually listed on the front label of repellent and written out as N, N-diethyl-meta-toluamide.
There are also organic products available that rely on eucalyptus rather than DEET to detract pesky critters. Avoid spraying any product near baby’s eyes or on baby’s hands, and steer clear of scrapes and skin abrasions as well (ouch!). Keep in mind that insect repellents are not water-soluble like sunscreen, so repeated applications are not necessary.
If your baby should happen to get a bug bite, watch for skin reactions like swelling, excessive redness or drainage. Treat itching with topical antihistamines, like Benadryl Cream, and keep little nails trimmed and clean to avoid possible infection from scratching. Severe anaphylactic or systemic reactions to insect stings (such as intense itching, wheezing or swelling lips and tongue) warrant an immediate trip to the hospital for evaluation and treatment.
Although parents may initially feel intimidated with the information overload that goes along with summer safety, taking precaution will not always feel so overwhelming. Don’t be afraid to ask your pediatrician questions or seek out experienced moms’ input. Once you have your summer safety routine down pat, you’ll be able to kick back and enjoy your family fun in the sun.