Babies-Toddler Vivian | 29 Mar 2010 07:12 am

Baby Sun-Safe Strategies

Up to 90 percent of all skin cancers result from too much exposure to the sun. It is important that as new parents we take on that protective and (eventually) educative role, of keeping our children sun-wise and sun-safe. For babies and toddlers, the responsibility lies with the parents. The newborn’s skin is so sensitive (see how quickly nappy rash occurs, then recovers) so it is important that we do not take risks (like we would do ourselves) and place our baby under great exposure to the sun. So what are the best sun-safe strategies for our very young ones?

Babies under 6 months should not be exposed to direct sun at all. For toddlers and the rest of us, the most important thing to do is to avoid the midday sun wherever possible. Particularly at the height of summer, after 10 am the sun is at its most powerful and deadly position, in terms of potential sunburn. For activities where shade is limited, such as going to the beach, or a day at the fair, avoid exposure to the sun between 10 am and 3pm, or even later. The great Australian tradition is to spend “the day at the beach”. Unless there is reliable and significant shade for the baby, we have to modify that behaviour, and maybe take two trips to the beach – one after breakfast for a couple of hours, and one before dinner.

Seek out shade. Real shade – not a flimsy umbrella that protects 25% of the time, depending on which way the wind is blowing. Baby will often require a sleep during the activity – real shade is required. Make sure baby’s stroller has a hood or cover. Under no circumstances should you allow baby to fall asleep in full sun.

The clothing we choose is an important consideration. Long sleeve shirts are preferable. A wide brimmed hat is better than a cap – don’t forget those ears and the back of the neck can get burned badly if not protected. When swimming, the rash-shirt made of ultraviolet radiation proof materials is the preferred option. Swimming with a hat or cap works well for babies and toddlers, knee-to-neck swimming suits are a welcome recent addition.

Sunscreen with sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or more should be used when being exposed to direct sun – or indirect sun, for that matter such as the glare from water (if out boating) or snow. Apply liberally and rub in well. Reapply every 2 hours. Don’t forget baby’s hands feet, ears, nose and lips. Consider the activities at daycare, and apply sunscreen before little one goes off to care.

Lindsey Paul is a busy mum of four, who not only holds together and action packed family, works full time, and is on the school board – but has some fun with a couple of sites about baby feeding and baby sleeping issues.

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