It doesn't matter if the outside temperature reads 30 degrees or 80 -- if the sun is shining, delicate skin needs to go undercover with a coating of sunscreen or clothing.
The First 6 Months:
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has long recommended against the use of sunscreen for infants under 6 months. But it's not because sunscreen is dangerous for little guys; the AAP just doesn't want parents to develop a false sense of security when they take their sun-sensitive newborns outside. So while some docs might suggest treating your young baby like a mini-vampire -- keeping him indoors during peak sun hours (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.), then cloaking him in a blanket and heading straight for the shade or a pop-up tent when you do head outdoors -- that's not always realistic.
What to do: Dress your baby comfortably for the weather, always put a hat on him, and make use of your stroller's sunshade, but do apply sunscreen to any part of his body that might be exposed to the sun. For the younger set, dermatologists recommend physical-barrier sunscreens that contain titanium dioxide or zinc oxide.
The Second 6 Months:
Once your baby hits her half-birthday, you can switch to regular SPF sunscreens formulated for children. (You can keep using the physical-barrier types, too.) What else you need to know:
- Go high. The higher the SPF (sun protection factor), the better, but definitely make sure your tyke is wearing at least SPF 15 anytime she's in the sun. And throw out any sunscreen that's been open for more than a year; the effectiveness will be diminished.
- Think ahead. Try to apply the sunscreen before you head outside; it's easy to forget once you're on the go, and even a few minutes of exposure is risky. A good idea is to slather it on before you get your baby dressed. That way, you protect the skin under her clothes, too (if you hold one of your baby's tiny tees up to the sun, you'll be shocked by how much light filters through). Then, reapply every two hours or after swimming, even if the product says it's waterproof.
- Don't skimp. Apply an amount of sunscreen that's more than half the size of a golf ball. And don't forget the tops of your child's feet, her ears, and her nose. Good news: You don't need to use a separate product for your baby's face, which means one less thing to carry in your diaper bag.
- Be D-fensive. Yes, sunlight allows our bodies to produce vitamin D, and sunscreen blocks the absorption. But kids can also get this bone-building vitamin other ways. Don't skip the sunscreen: Provide vitamin D through fortified milk, juice, or supplements so that your child's skin isn't at risk.