A bottle of sunscreen next to a collection of stuffed animals and other toys.

Protecting Your Babies – Sun Safety for Young Children

Welcoming my grandbabies in an unexpected way

Last November, three months before her due date, my daughter unexpectedly went into labor. What she initially thought were Braxton Hicks contractions weren’t Braxton Hicks contractions. I drove her to the hospital, hoping that the doctors and nurses could stop her labor. They couldn’t, and my twin grandbabies were born at 26 weeks.

A new chapter of my life

They have been in the NICU since then (nine weeks later) and may have another few weeks there. I was fortunate that I was able to stay at the hospital during her labor while waiting on her fiancée to be able to leave work and get to the hospital, and I was even more fortunate that the nurses let me stay with her while she was in the recovery room after a C-section, until time for my daughter and her fiancée to be transferred to the postpartum floor.

I'm already thinking about protecting their skin

Because of the coronavirus, though, I wasn’t able to see the twins, other than in photos, and I’ve not been allowed to visit them in the NICU. I cannot wait until they come home. Because they are preemies, I am sure I may be prone to being overprotective of them. And one thing I’m definitely going to be doing is protecting their skin.

I don't want them to go through what I did

My grandbabies have been through so much already, and the thought of them going down the same path I did of sun damage and far too much sun exposure when I was younger isn’t something I want for them. I have had skin cancer for over 25 years. I don’t want them to have skin cancer at all.

They used to tell you not to put sunscreen on babies

It has been a long time since I’ve had young children, so I have been brushing up on sun safety for babies. I remembered the rule from years ago was to not use sunscreen on babies until they are at least six months old, but I was not sure if that was still the standard.

Information on the internet is conflicting

Not surprisingly, I found conflicting information on the internet. The American Academy of Dermatology Association continues to recommend no sunscreen on babies until they are six months old, while the American Academy of Pediatrics states that a small amount of sunscreen on exposed areas, such as the face and backs of hands (meaning do not slather your baby all over in sunscreen) is acceptable for babies younger than six months old.

The best protection is avoidance

Both hold steadfast that the best protection is to keep babies out of direct sunlight, and to cover the skin if at all possible with a hat, lightweight long-sleeve shirt, and lightweight long pants. Both also recommend finding shade for your baby, whether under a tree, under a tent, or in a stroller with the canopy top over them.

Sunscreen considerations for babies

If you do find it necessary to use sunscreen on your baby (or grandbabies), the recommended sunscreen, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, is one that is a broad-spectrum with both UVA and UVB coverage, has at least SPF 15 (American Academy of Dermatology Association recommends at least SPF 30), is waterproof, is hypoallergenic, and is fragrance-free.

The best protection, again, is to keep them out of direct sunlight. Take good care of your babies, and as soon as I get to see my grandbabies, I will do the same. And when they grow up a bit, make sure you teach them about sun safety.

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