Sun protection for your baby, and avoiding direct sun exposure, should always be a priority, but it is especially important in these early months. Because an infant’s skin has less melanin, the pigment in skin that provides some sun protection, newborns and young babies are especially susceptible to sunburn. This means your baby’s skin is sensitive and immature enough that the FDA advises not using sunscreen until she is 6 months old, so the best protection from the sun is going to come from avoiding direct exposure altogether.
If you can, keep your baby inside or in the shade during periods of particularly high sunlight, like the late morning or the early afternoon. You may also want to consider getting screens for your car windows around her car seat. When you take her out without a car, stroller covers, or a light blanket to drape over her carrier can keep her protected, too.
When your baby is outside, make sure that she wears a hat with a brim that covers and shades the sensitive skin of her head, face, ears, and neck. Add some stylish sunglasses to keep your little rockstar’s eyes and face shielded, and dress her in lightweight clothing that covers her arms and legs. Tightly-woven fabrics or knits work best, while more sheer materials are less effective.
Accidents do happen! If you notice that your baby is more flushed than normal, is fussy, or is crying more than usual, it might be a sign that she is picking up a sunburn. Don’t panic, just move her out of the sun and cool her skin with cold compresses over the sunburned area. If she continues to be fussy or irritable, or if her skin is red and irritated, call your healthcare provider, who may recommend bringing her in for a checkup.
When your baby is old enough for sunblock, at around 6 months or so, choose one with an SPF of over 30 (50 is recommended). Make sure the sunblock you choose doesn't contain insect repellent. You should reapply a fresh coating every 2 hours.
It might seem like a lot of layers of precautions just to enjoy a summer day, but your baby’s skin is going to thank you one day. And of course it’s important to be careful, but that’s no reason for your baby not to get the chance to enjoy outdoor play.