The dog days of summer will soon be upon us, and if you will be caring for a newborn or young baby for any length of time between now and the end of September you need to understand a few key points about summer baby care. You may call some of these tips a bit obvious, but I spend lots of time with parents who simply don’t understand. Not trying to insult anyone’s intelligence, just stating the facts.
First and foremost—if it is 95 degrees outside and you are strutting a tank top and shorts, what makes you think your baby should be in a full sleeper (yes with the feet), socks, and two blankets? No. No. No. I have heard parents say “he sleeps so well when he’s covered”…no, actually he or she will fall into a deep sleep as their body overheats—so that five hour nap your baby took at the company picnic? Not so great if she was dressed for an arctic blizzard while you snacked on snow cones. Your baby is comfortable sporting the same attire that you are—so just remember that.
We all know that leaving children alone in any car, even for a moment is a truly stupid idea. An even dumber idea is to leave a baby in a hot car. While this happens across the country all the time (and usually makes news for the tragedy that followed) it can be easy to overlook just how hot it can get. At outdoor temperatures of 70 degrees, the temperature inside a vehicle can soar to 90 degrees or higher in less than 30 minutes. That’s hot for a baby who is probably overdressed to start with. Overheating can lead to respiratory compromise and even death if left long enough in the heat. Babies lack the ability to properly regulate their temperature as we do, so pay close attention to how the environment feels. If you are hot, so is your baby.
My sister in law took my three month old nephew out under the shade tree one afternoon last week. After about 30 minutes she took him inside and later that evening discovered he had developed a sunburn. Feeling like less than mother of the year, she was left kicking herself—never imaging that a short visit outside would damage his skin.
No doubt babies have tender skin. If you have one of the very rare babies that even enjoys being out in direct sunlight, it’s pretty obvious that new skin will require some sort of protection. Shade is a sneakier culprit altogether though. UV rays can easily penetrate and just because you are in the shade does not mean you are free from the sun’s damaging rays. Invest in sunscreen for your baby—an SPF of 30 or higher is usually enough to prevent burning. Apply at least 30 minutes before going out and reapply as needed. Make sure the sunscreen will not burn your baby’s eyes should it run into them. Also consider investing in a good quality hat or sun shade for baby’s car seat, stroller or outdoor play equipment to further reduce exposure.