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The Sun and Your Newborn

by Lori Sciame | May 9th, 2011 | Infants/Toddlers

A visit to a water park in the Wisconsin Dells a few years ago proved to be a terrible experience. Why? Because I witnessed a young mother standing (for what seemed like hours) in the wave pool, an infant sleeping in her arms. What made me so upset? The baby was fully exposed to the burning rays of the sun. I tried to focus on my children playing in the waves, but my attention kept going back to the unprotected skin on the baby’s tiny arms, legs, and head. That day continues to haunt me, and I sometimes wonder how much of a sun burn that baby suffered that day.

If this is your baby’s first summer, I know you are already dreaming of visits to the park, the beach, and the zoo. What fun you will have! It is an exciting time, but it is also a time that requires planning and preparation. Keep the following tips in mind.

Shade Whenever Possible

The sun can burn the delicate skin of an infant in a relatively short time. For this reason, it is best to keep a baby younger than 6 months out of direct sunlight. So, if you plan a visit to the beach or the pool, make sure there is plenty of shade available, and that your baby wears a hat to protect his or her eyes. Of course some exposure to the sun is healthy, as our bodies use it to manufacture vitamin D, but with newborns extra special care must be taken.

Don’t Let Clouds Fool You

Even if it’s a cloudy day, you still need to take steps to protect your baby’s skin. You may not realize it, but most of the sun’s burning rays still come through clouds. This is especially true on days that many call “hazy.”

Plan on Protection

Purchase sun screen or sun block for your baby. There are products available that are specially formulated for infants. Many dermatologists recommend products with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, as these ingredients sit on top of the skin to form a barrier against the sun. You may also choose a sunscreen formulated to have a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30. Ask your doctor which type is right for your baby.

Understand as well that many products will need to be re-applied as the day wears on. Make sure to follow the directions carefully.

(Child sized sunglasses provide protection from the strong rays of the sun. Although not feasible for infants, sunglasses can work for children six months or older. Make sure to purchase glasses with 99% UV protection).

As for my terrible water park experience – I will never again sit by and watch as an infant is exposed to the angry rays of the sun. I don’t care if I’m called a “busybody!” Making sure that an infant does not suffer from a sun burn is more important.


  1. Laura says:

    Your story makes me extreamly angry. I cannot stand to see a helpless child put in danger and an infant in prolonged sun exposure is definantly dangerous. I am very angry with you not the mother. You stated that she was a young mother, which alot of young mothers don’t know what they are doing and don’t have someone to give them advice. Most young mothers are happy to know what will hurt their babies and will thank you for telling them about the health risks if you confront them in a caring way and not judging. You should have explained to her the risks of sunburn, and the pain the baby will endure. If you have to be a “busybody!”, if a mom isn’t apreciative of your caring advice it may come to having to call the athuritys, which no one wants to deal with but not protecting a helpless child is neglect and child abuse.

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