As you and your newborn emerge blinking from the safety of the hospital into the outside world for the first time, you’re almost guaranteed to start questioning yourself. Mostly about whether you are doing everything you can to keep your precious baby safe and sound. One of your first questions might be if and when you can first expose your precious new baby to sunlight.
In the first six months, newborn skin is delicate and is not yet mature enough to form a good barrier against UV. Their eyes are also not fully mature as they lack the pigment that filters out UV. This means that UV can reach the retina more easily than in an adult, and can cause damage there. At this stage your baby is very vulnerable to UV, perhaps more so than they will ever be again in their lifetime.
This does not mean, however, that you need to be cloistered away indoors! If you follow a few simple guidelines, you can ensure you and your baby both enjoy being outside, even when they are only a few days’ old.
Sun Exposure Guidelines (0-6 months old)
- If possible, plan your outdoor activities to take place early morning or late afternoon as the UV levels are naturally lower then.
- However, this isn’t always practical. For trips out during the day, 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.
- Keep your baby protected from direct sunlight, even during low UV times (when the UV level is below 3), by sticking to shady areas or using a pram shade and other forms of sun protection for babies.
- 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.
- Whilst the ideal is not to use sunscreen at this stage, if you are worried about the UV levels, you can choose to apply a sunscreen designed specifically for babies. Apply to small unclothed areas (such as the tops of their feet). 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.
Next week we’ll be considering the changes you can make to your baby’s sun care routine once they hit the six month mark.