Memorial Day has come and gone and it’s officially summer in the Twin Cities! Barbecues, pool parties, vacations and hot weather are upon us and it’s time to get prepared. While having a summer baby in Minnesota may be decidedly easier than the challenges of having a winter baby, there are still factors that you must consider to protect your baby from the heat. Conditions like heat stroke, sunburns and dehydration can be very serious when they happen to a new baby. Here are 10 ways to ensure that your precious babe stays cool in the summer heat.
- Keep baby hydrated: Although babies under six months should not drink water, they should be more frequently breastfed or offered a bottle when it’s hot. Babies need to drink up to 50 percent more breastmilk or formula during the warm summer months to receive sufficient hydration. Babies over six months should be offered modest amounts of water in addition to breastmilk or formula.
- Don’t expose baby to direct sunlight: Your new baby lacks the ability to regulate his temperature like an adult and also is not old enough to wear sunscreen. When outdoors, your baby should be fully covered in loose fitting, lightweight clothing at all times and a broad-brimmed hat. Seek shade wherever possible and avoid outdoor activities during the sun’s most harmful hours, between 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM.
- Use sunscreen wisely: Although sunscreen is not advisable for small babies, the American Academy of Pediatrics has changed their stance now saying that children under the age of six months can wear small amounts of sunscreen on exposed areas when necessary. Children over the age of six months should have sunscreen applied liberally and often when exposed to the sun. Be sure to wipe off sunscreen with a with a cool damp wash cloth upon returning inside to allow baby’s body temperate to regulate most efficiently. For a list of safest sunscreens for kids, click here.
- Choose the right clothing: While baby should be mostly covered when outside, always choose lightweight, loose-fitting clothing on hot days. Natural fibers like cotton, bamboo and linen work best in the heat to keep baby covered but cool. Remember that sunburns can happen even in the shade. Make sure your baby is fully covered or in the shade at all times if he is less than six months and avoid prolonged exposure for babies over six months.
- Never EVER, EVER leave baby alone in a hot car: It does not matter if you roll down all the windows and only intend to be gone for a minute. There is never a time when this is a safe practice. On a 70 degree day, it only takes 20 minutes for the internal temperature of the car to reach over 120 degrees WITH the windows cracked. Leaving your baby in a hot car can be life threatening.
- Choose a summer friendly baby carrier: While baby wearing is wonderful for bonding, it can create extra heat between the two of you. To ensure that you both stay as cool as possible while baby wearing, choose a warm-weather-friendly carrier like a linen ring sling, gauze wrap or SSC with a mesh panel. They also make mesh wraps and slings that can be worn in the pool so that you and your baby can take a cool dip together. Opt for tummy-to-tummy carry positions during the summer to allow baby easy access to breastfeeding.
- Keep baby’s sleep environment cool: The safest room temperature for sleep for a new baby is between 65-70 degrees. If temperatures are high and you do not have an air conditioner, consider installing a window unit or large fan or dress baby in minimal nighttime clothing. Baby should be dressed comfortably and appropriately for the nighttime temperature-not too warm but not too cold either. It’s imperative that you do not over bundle baby for sleep as overheating has been found to play a factor in some instances of SIDS. For more tips on safe sleep for infants, check out this article!
- Choose air-conditioned fun activities: If it’s unpleasantly hot outside and you have a new baby, you really shouldn’t be spending much time outdoors, if any. Think of places in your community where you can go to cool off and get out of the house like bookstores, the mall, the library, the aquarium, the movie theater, Target, Starbucks etc. In the case of extreme temperatures (over 100 degrees), opt for staying home instead and waiting for more comfortable weather before taking baby out.
- Crank the air in the car: When possible, cool your car down first prior to buckling baby into her car seat. Because she lacks the ability to regulate her little body temperature, strapping her into her car seat in a hot car is not a good idea. Let the AC run for a few minutes to begin the process of cooling down the car. Also, if you have them, ensure that your backseat vents are open and working properly to increase airflow to baby once you do get moving.
- Watch for signs of heat distress: Problems caused by hot weather can range from less serious conditions like heat rash (a red and bumpy rash in the creases and folds of the body) to much more serious complications like heatstroke and dehydration. If your baby appears flush, red-faced, restless and lethargic or is vomiting and seems to be breathing rapidly, seek medical attention immediately as he may be experiencing symptoms of heat stroke. While you wait for medical help, take baby to a cool place, strip him down to his diaper and sponge him with a cool wet cloth. Most importantly, take precautions to prevent serious conditions like heat stroke and dehydration before they happen.
Taking the proper precautions to protect your baby from the sun and heat during the summer months is as important as protecting them from the winter chill. Remember that your little one cannot regulate his own body temperature like adults can and therefore relies on you to keep him in a comfortable setting. For questions about infant care, pregnancy, natural birth and more, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and for a tour of our Birth Center. Happy Summer!