Once your baby reaches 6 months old, something magical seems to happen. Suddenly they are making moves to sit up and are taking a real interest in the outside world. Their skin is also getting a little more mature and resilient which means that whilst you should still follow the basic baby sun exposure guidelines (see below for a recap), you can make a couple of changes to their sun care routine.
The first is that you can start to use sunscreen as part of their daily sun care. Don’t forget that here in Australia, sun care is needed pretty much all year round, so building sunscreen into their normal, daily routine is a sensible action. But don’t rely on this as the only method of sun protection – you’ll still need to use all the other methods of sun protection, such as hats and shade.
The second is that during low UV times (when the UV is three or below), you can start to expose your baby to limited amounts of direct sunlight without using sun protection.
The key word here is “limited” which is open to interpretation and is ultimately up to you as the parent. As a guideline however, it means just a few minutes. The older your baby is, the more you can increase this limit but, in all probability, 10 minutes in direct sunlight may be too much for most babies.
Also, don’t forget that if you are at the beach or near snow (or other reflective surfaces) you’ll still need to use all the methods of sun protection on your baby even during the low UV times.
As a recap, here are the basic baby sun exposure guidelines:
- Plan your outdoor activities to take place early morning or late afternoon as the UV levels are naturally lower then.
- Keep an eye on the UV level. The easiest way to do this is to download the SunSmart app on your phone which tells you current and maximum UV levels are in your area.
- During moderate and high UV times (when the UV level is 3 or above)you should keep your trips out relatively brief. The higher the UV level (or outdoor temperature), the shorter your outdoor time should be.
- Use sun protection methods which create a physical barrier between your baby and the sun, such as pram shades, large-brimmed sun hats which shield the eyes, ears and neck, and clothing which covers the arms and legs. You can also try sunglasses if your baby will tolerate them.
- Choose to apply a sunscreen designed specifically for babies. Apply to small unclothed areas (such as the backs of their hands). However, creating a physical barrier between the sun and your baby should remain the first line of defence.
- In the car, use a shade or barrier to block the UV rays coming through the backseat window to where your baby is sitting. Don't cover your baby's capsule seat as this could cause heat stress and NEVER leave your baby unattended in a car.
- Make sure your pram cover provides adequate ventilation for your baby by using a tested pram cover. You can also leave side or front air gaps in the cover.
- In hot weather, keep their pram cool and comfortable. Don’t let your pram heat up before you put your baby in it and putting the cover on. You can also try removing the back panel of your stroller (if possible) or using a pram fan or cooling liner. Check on your baby frequently in their pram.
- Don't forget to keep your baby well hydrated by offering more breastfeeds or bottle feeds and check on their temperature frequently by placing your hand against the skin of their torso.