By Karen RobockUpdated May 26, 2021
Experts agree that babies under six months are generally too young for sunscreen, and they can overheat easily—which can make sun protection during family outings challenging. Here’s how to keep your little one safe.
According to the Canadian Paediatric Society and the Canadian Dermatology Association, babies under six months shouldn’t wear any sunscreen because their delicate skin barrier is vulnerable to everything you put on it—including the ingredients in sunblock. In the case of unavoidable or unforeseen sun exposure (like if you find yourself sitting outside during a wedding ceremony, for example), Ottawa dermatologist Jennifer Beecker does recommend applying either a chemical or physical sunscreen to any exposed skin and then washing it off once you’re out of the sun. “Ultimately, we think the risks of sun exposure—and potentially a sunburn—at that age outweigh the risk of using a limited amount of sunscreen,” she says.
Without sunscreen, infants need complete sun cover, which means you’ll need an umbrella, a shade tent or a baby float with an overhead attachment. But these products don’t provide full UV protection, says Victoria Taraska, a dermatologist at the Derm Centre in Winnipeg, especially if you’re using them in or near water. “For little babies in floaties, it’s important to remember that the sun can penetrate up to a metre into the water, and there’s a reflection off the surface as well,” says Taraska. “Parents should not use these as the sole sun protection measure.” A hat, sunglasses, a full-coverage swimsuit or rash guard and limited pool time are still necessary to avoid sunburns, she says. (Always stay by your baby’s side in the water, of course.) If they're too young to sit upright in a pool float, you might consider wearing your infant in a lightweight wrap, baby carrier or ring sling designed for water use. Make sure you stay in the shade while babywearing—a large sunhat for yourself could help shield the baby, too.
Stroller canopies and muslin blankets only provide partial sun protection, and they should be used with caution. The temperatures inside an enclosed stroller can skyrocket within minutes on a blistering summer day. If you’re draping a light blanket over the stroller or using a car seat cover, never close your baby in completely. Put your hand inside frequently to keep tabs on the temperature. Placing a damp cloth over their bare feet can help keep them cool while you stroll. “If you think they’re getting too hot, use a water-misting spray bottle,” says Beecker. She also suggests dressing your baby in a rash guard, even if they’re not going swimming. “Because it’s bathing suit material, you can just wet them down for more temperature control.”
Check out these sun-protective baby products below:
It's like an Exersaucer for the water, with a mesh seat and a UV-protective removable canopy. Your baby can cool off, bob around and kick their feet a bit while you stay by their side. Of course, make sure your infant has the neck strength to hold herself upright before using a product like this. $28, amazon.ca
This UVA- and UVB-protective mesh cover allows air to circulate freely, and the stretchy elastic edge means it can fit over most strollers and play pens. It also folds up into a compact carrying pouch, which is handy for tossing into your stroller storage basket. $16, walmart.ca
If you've got a baby who will actually nap at the beach (lucky you!), you're gonna need to create some shade. This pop-up tent is lightweight, has a UV-protective coating, and comes with its own shoulder-strap carrying case. It also makes a good sand-free diaper change station or chill-out spot for a toddler who needs a break from full sun. $60, westcoastkids.ca