We live in a region of the world where sunlight is in abundant supply. For healthy development your child needs a small amount of exposure to the sun each day (10-15mins), however, your baby’s skin will burn much more easily than adult skin so some special care needs to be taken. Just one blistering sunburn in childhood more than doubles a persons chances of developing melanoma later in life.
Clothing, hats and shade combined with a very small amount of sunscreen is the most effective way of protecting your baby.
Clothing: The use of tightly woven fabrics such as T-shirt material will protect the skin from the sun; loosely woven fabrics like muslin will allow the sun and UV rays to penetrate. The easiest way to tell if a garment is OK for sun protection is to hold the fabric up to the light, that way you can see how much sun may get through. Cotton clothes worth long sleeves and leggings will generally be cooler than acrylics.
Hats: offer great protection from the sun, look for a soft hat – it will generally be more comfortable
Sunscreen: Sunscreens labeled for babies or infants are less likely to cause any skin irritation. Lotions are better than heavy creams. Apply sunscreen using enough to cover the area you are trying to protect, possibly face and hands. Ideally the sunscreen will be water resistant and have a SPF of 30+. The sunscreen should be re applied every two hours. Sunscreen does have a relatively short shelf life so check the expiry date before using. The Australasian College of Dermatologists recommends the use of a sunscreen at any age when there is exposure to the sun. The American Academy of Pediatrics has stated that sunscreens may be used on infants younger than six months if adequate shade and clothing are not available.
Shade: The worst time for UV radiation is from September to April each year and the worst time of day for sunburn is from 10am, until 3pm, check the outdoor area where you are going and ensure there is enough shade. If shade is limited then an umbrella or some other form of barrier should be used. When travelling in the car use a shade visor or hang a blanket over the side windows in the car.
Even though shade may offer coolness and some protection from UV radiation babies can be burned by reflected sunshine. If the baby is in a pram then cover with a shade clothe being careful to make sure you have good ventilation.
Sunglasses: To protect the eyes look for close fitting, wrap around sunglasses that meet the Australian Standards. The combination of a hat and glasses can reduce your child’s exposure to UV rays by 98%.
As always, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Midwife & Lactation Consultant
Dr Morris | Sydney Mother & Baby