Babies & The Beach: What You Need to Know For a Successful Summer Outing

beachWith the arrival of summer, all we want to do is spend our afternoons outdoors. The kids are out from school and parents are gearing up to take their vacations, so naturally, it means one thing: family beach time!

So you can gather up the kids, pack the basket, and set out on your adventure. But while you can easily have the big kids have alone-time on the sand, your baby requires much different attention and some really special care.

We chatted with Dr. Elizabeth Powell, an attending physician at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. Here's what she had to say about babies and the beach:

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  1. Remember the sunscreen. The Mayo Clinic and the American Academy of Dermatology suggests that you wait until your baby reaches the 6 month mark to put them in direct sunlight. That means that once they pass the half-year point, you should liberally apply a sunscreen of SPF 15 or more and reapply every two hours. According to Dr. Powell, any national brand of sunscreen will do, but make sure to buy the kids versions. Most tend to be hypoallergenic, but if your baby has skin sensitivities, you should first perform a patch test. 
  2. Stay in the shade. Once you've applied sunscreen (and don't forget to do so every hour or after going in the water), "you can be outside all day," says Dr. Powell. Bring an umbrella, and sit with the baby in the shade to keep them cool when they're outdoors.
  3. Watch the time. The sun is strongest and brightest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. During these peak hours, be extra serious about reapplying sunscreen and spend more time under the umbrella. There's no set amount of time that you should be outside, says Dr. Powell, but always be extra watchful during the hottest part of the day.
  4. Pack appropriate clothing. "Since a baby's skin is so thin, you want to keep them covered up," says Dr. Powell. Light, long-sleeved cotton clothing, as well as a brim hat work best. Since heat stroke is a very serious issues, especially with little ones, make sure that they're staying cool by choosing really light fabrics and thin layers. Plus, there are plenty of super adorable outerwear options.
  5. Don't forget footwear. Water shoes are important, especially if you'll be letting baby walk in the water. To make sure they don't step on any stray rocks or hurt the bottoms of their feet, get a nice pair of flexible water shoes. Or Crocs -- those should be fine as well.
  6. Be sanitary. Invest in diapers that are extra water-resistant to keep baby's bottom dry. Avoid the disposables, which collect water poorly, have bad drainage, and often lead to diaper rashes. This time, go for reusable diapers, which have better elastics, keep baby drier, and are easily washed and repeated.
  7. Watch the waves. Obviously, stay with the baby at all times when you're in the water. Cradle them, hold them, always be within one arm's length (so you can get to him or her within one second, says Dr. Powell), and don't go further in than knee or thigh-deep. That way, you'll always have control and be cognizant of the waves.
  8. Sand is not an issue. "Kids might want to eat sand, but a even a mouthful won't hurt them," says Dr. Powell. Don't worry if your baby swallows a cup of it, it'll be alright. For their eyes, you don't necessarily need glasses, but they're a nice touch. Remember to get the ones that have a wrap-around necklace. And if they get sand in their eyes? "They should be able to wash it out themselves," she adds. "Just cry and rinse and it's gone."
  9. Water, water, water. "You want to have adequate hydration so it's always best to have water access," says Dr. Powell. Stay close to the beach's water fountains, and always keep a constant cooler of drinks close where you're sitting. You and your baby will appreciate it.

What are your beach plans with your baby?

 

Image via Shawn Harquail/Flickr

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