How to Protect Baby From the Sun, Naturally (PHOTOS)

Michele Zipp | Jul 7, 2015 Baby

baby on beach sun hat

With the fun of summer comes the worry about the sun and its potentially harmful rays. We want our little ones to play outside, but we also have to make sure they are protected without having to slather on chemicals. There are natural ways to protect your baby from the sun and guidelines to follow when it comes to sun exposure.

J Lee Jenkins, MD, is an emergency physician, emergency public health expert, health blogger, and mom to two daughters. As a doctor and mother, she also worries about the chemicals in sunscreen and has shared her knowledge on the best natural protection, when to apply, and more helpful insight into keeping our babies safe from the sun's rays and toxins.

How do you keep your baby safe from the sun and heat?

natural sun protection for babies

Image via Jonny Hughes/Flickr; © Alexey Losevich/Shutterstock

  • Newborns should avoid sun exposure as much as possible.

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    "The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under the age of 6 months avoid sun exposure as much as possible by being dressed in lightweight long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and hats with brims that shade the neck," Dr. Jenkins shared. "Areas that are not covered with clothing should have a small amount of sunblock (at least SPF 15 or above) applied. These areas might include the infant's face, neck, and hands not covered by clothing."

    More from The Stir: The 10 Playground Hazards Most Dangerous to Kids 

  • Harmful chemicals aren't necessary for protection.

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    We want to protect our kids from the sun, but we also don't want to put toxic chemicals on them. Dr. Jenkins uses natural sunblock sticks with clear zinc oxide on her own kids. She also prefers titanium dioxide over chemical sunscreens.

  • Try protection in the form of clothing.

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    In addition to sunscreen, you can also get swimsuits for your baby that have sleeves -- many also have leggings. Hats are not only cute, but they protect well, and the same goes for sunglasses.

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

  • Limit sun exposure during these times.

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    We still need to be careful about the sun's harmful rays even for older kids, notes Dr. Jenkins. "For children older than 6 months, recommendations are still made to limit sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.," she says. Sunscreen along with a hat and protective clothing and sunglasses should be worn whenever possible.

    More from The Stir: 10 Golden Rules for Playing With Your Baby 

  • Use sunblock even with it's cloudy.

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    The clouds won't completely protect you or the kids from getting burned. Sunblock is still needed even when the clouds are out or if it is overcast.

  • Know when and how to apply and reapply.

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    "A young adult will need about one ounce of sunblock for each application," says Dr. Jenkins. But parents should stay away from spray sunblocks or do not spray them near the face. Inhalation of the mist can be very dangerous to the lungs, she notes.

    It's also important to reapply sunblock every one to two hours, especially when swimming.

    More from The Stir: Spraying Sunscreen on Your Kids Could Be the Worst Thing You Do This Summer

  • Protection from the heat is important as well.

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    It's not all about the sun. We have to pay attention to the heat and how much time we spend in high temperatures and humidity, too. "Physical activities greater than 15 minutes even for older children should be limited during high heat or humidity unless strict precautions are taken for hydration with sports drinks and water," says Dr. Jenkins. "The body should be allowed to adapt to higher temperatures and exercise outdoors over a 1-2 week period.   

    Babies younger than 6 months may not tolerate heat even for very short periods of time, and care should be taken when they are outside in the summer sun. Parents should keep them lightly covered and well hydrated and should watch them for behavior changes indicating they should be taken to a cooler area, Dr. Jenkins advises.

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