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As the sun shines brighter and temperatures soar, caring for our little ones requires special attention. Motherhood Center’s founder, Gabriela Gerhart, recently visited with Houston Pediatrician, Dr. Sam to explore everything you need to know to keep your baby safe and happy during the summer months. From sun protection to hydration and ensuring comfortable sleep, let’s dive into the valuable insights from Dr. Sam on summer baby care.

Is there a limit to how long a baby should be outside?

I always encourage new moms and their babies to enjoy the benefits of natural light and fresh air. However, I understand it can be challenging during Houston’s hot summer months. While there’s no strict limit on outdoor time for babies, it’s wise to keep outdoor sessions brief, around 10-15 minutes, and to avoid the peak sunlight hours between 10 AM and 6 PM. The best times for a stroll are early in the morning or later in the evening when the temperatures are cooler. Dress your baby in lightweight clothing to keep them comfortable and cool, and always keep a close eye on their comfort to adjust outdoor time as needed.

Summer Baby Care
When can you start using sunscreen on your baby? Are there any ingredients to avoid? Ingredient must-haves?

For infants younger than 6 months old, I generally recommend protecting them from the sun by keeping them in the shade, dressing them in lightweight clothing that covers their arms and legs, and using wide-brimmed hats.

Once your baby reaches six months of age, you can begin using sunscreen specifically formulated for infants and children. Look for sunscreens with an SPF of at least 30 and are labeled ‘broad-spectrum’, meaning they protect against both UVA and UVB rays. I recommend opting for hypoallergenic formulas free from fragrances and harsh chemicals.

I prefer mineral-based sunscreens for children, which act as physical blockers sitting on top of the skin and are less likely to cause irritation than chemical sunscreens. Look for active ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. To minimize the risk of skin irritation, avoid sunscreens with fragrances, parabens, phthalates, and other harsh chemicals. 

In Houston’s sweltering summer, consider using water-resistant sunscreen and reapplying every 2 hours for optimal protection. Some sunscreen brands I recommend for babies under 1 year old include:

  • La Roche-Posay Anthelios Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50
  • Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Sunscreen
  • Aveeno Baby Continuous Protection Sensitive Skin Zinc Oxide Sunscreen
  • CeraVe Baby Sunscreen SPF 45
  • Blue Lizard Australian Baby Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30+
  • Hello Bello’s Baby Sun Stick SPF 50
  • Thinkbaby Baby Mineral Sunscreen

Are there any gadgets or other fun ways to keep babies cool?

Keeping your baby cool and comfortable during hot summer days can be a challenge, but there are some great gadgets and creative solutions that can help. Here are a few practical ideas that might work well for you and your little one:

  • Stroller Fans: Clip-on stroller fans are portable and can provide a gentle breeze to keep your baby cool while on the go. Look for fans with soft blades and multiple speed settings for versatility.
  • Sun Hats: Wide-brimmed hats made from lightweight, breathable fabrics help shade your baby’s face, neck, and ears from the sun. Choose hats with UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) for added sun protection.
  • Cooling Towels: These towels are designed to stay cool when wet and can be draped over your baby’s stroller or car seat to provide relief from the heat. They are reusable and easy to carry.
  • Breast Milk Popsicles: For older babies who are eating solid foods, breast milk or formula can be frozen in popsicle molds to make soothing breast milk popsicles. These can help cool down and hydrate your baby.
  • Portable Shade: Use a portable, lightweight sunshade or canopy that attaches to your stroller or car seat to provide shade wherever you go.
  • Cooling Mats: There are cooling mats specifically designed for strollers or car seats that can provide a cool surface for your baby to sit or lie on.
  • Misting Bottles: Some baby-friendly misting bottles allow you to spray a fine mist of water to help cool down your baby’s skin without getting them too wet.
  • Cooling Clothes: Look for baby clothes made from lightweight, moisture-wicking fabrics that help keep your baby cool and dry. Avoid dark colors that absorb heat.

Summer Baby CareWhat are signs that your baby may be getting too hot?

It’s important to keep an eye on your baby for any signs that they might be getting too hot, especially during Houston’s hot and humid summer weather. Here are some cues to watch for:

  • Flushed or Red Skin: If your baby’s skin appears red or flushed, particularly on the face, ears, or neck, it may indicate overheating.
  • Excessive Sweating: While it’s normal for babies to sweat, excessive sweating, especially if it’s dripping off their forehead or body, can be a sign of overheating.
  • Rapid Breathing: If your baby is breathing rapidly or seems to be panting, it could be a sign that they are struggling to regulate their body temperature.
  • Irritability or Fussiness: Babies may become cranky or unusually irritable when they are too hot. They may cry more than usual and be difficult to console.
  • Lethargy or Weakness: Extreme heat can make babies feel tired and weak. They may seem unusually drowsy or less active than usual.
  • Dry Mouth and Lips: If your baby’s mouth and lips appear dry or cracked, it may indicate dehydration, which can be exacerbated by heat.
  • Sunken Fontanelle (Soft Spot): In infants, a sunken fontanelle can be a sign of dehydration, which can occur more quickly in hot weather.
  • Cool, Clammy Skin: While hot weather typically makes skin feel warm, if your baby’s skin feels cool and clammy, it may indicate that their body is trying to cool down due to overheating.

If you notice any of these signs, take immediate steps to cool your baby down:

  • Move to a cooler, shaded area.
  • Remove excess clothing and hats to allow heat to escape.
  • Offer fluids (breast milk, formula, or water if over 6 months old)
  • Use a cool damp cloth to gently wipe your baby’s skin.
  • Monitor your baby closely and seek medical attention if you are concerned about their condition.

When can you start using bug spray on babies?

When it comes to protecting your baby from insects, I generally advise to avoid using insect repellents on infants younger than 2 months old. Instead, use physical barriers such as mosquito nets over strollers, keep them indoors during peak mosquito activity times, and dress them in long sleeves and pants.

For Babies Older Than 2 Months:

  1. Choose Safe Formulations: I recommend opting for insect repellents specifically formulated for infants and children. Products with Picaridin (concentrations of 10% or less) are suitable for babies. In children older than 6 months of age, DEET-based products (concentrations of 30% or less) are considered safe when used as directed. For children aged 3 years and older, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE) or para-menthane-diol (PMD) can be used.
  2. Apply Carefully: This can be hard with wiggling little ones! Do your best to avoid the hands, eyes, mouth, and any irritated or broken skin. It is best to spray the repellent onto your hands first, then gently apply it to your baby’s skin.
  3. Clothing: Dress your baby in lightweight, long-sleeved shirts, long pants, socks, and shoes to minimize exposed skin. 
  4. Natural Alternatives: If you prefer natural options, consider citronella-based repellents or those containing essential oils like geraniol or soybean oil. However, keep in mind that the efficacy of these alternatives can vary.

Summer Baby Care
Breastmilk storage in the summertime:

Breast milk storage during the summertime requires extra attention. Here are some general guidelines:

  • Cooling and Refrigeration:
      • Breast milk can be stored at room temperature (up to 77°F) for up to 4 hours. If the temperature is higher, it should be used within 2 hours.
      • Refrigerate breast milk immediately after pumping if it will not be used in the next few hours. Store it in the back of the refrigerator, where temperatures are most consistent. Breast milk can be stored in the refrigerator for 4-6 days. 
  • Transportation in Hot Weather:
      • Breast milk can be stored in a small cooler with ice packs for up to 24 hours. This is helpful while traveling and in hot weather. 
  • Freezing:
      • Breast milk can be stored in the refrigerator freezer for up to 6 months. In a deep freezer, it can be stored for up to 12 months.
      • Leave some room at the top of the container or bag to allow for expansion when freezing.
  • Thawing and Using:
    • Thaw frozen breast milk in the refrigerator overnight or under cool running water and use it within 24 hours after thawing.
    • Avoid microwaving breast milk! It not only can create hot spots that can burn your baby’s mouth, it also destroys valuable nutrients in the milk.
    • Gently swirl the bottle to mix the milk layers before feeding, as the fat in breast milk can separate.

Should you ever give your baby water?

For babies under 6 months old, it is recommended to exclusively feed them breast milk or formula. These provide all the hydration and nutrients they need. Breast milk contains the perfect balance of water and nutrients for a baby’s growth and development, eliminating the need for additional water, even in hot weather. Formula-fed babies also receive adequate hydration from their formula.

Once your baby begins eating solid foods (around 6 months old), you can start to introduce small amounts of water in a sippy cup or bottle. Offer water with meals or between feedings as needed.

Be sure to watch for signs of dehydration, such as dry lips and mouth, fewer wet diapers than usual, or dark yellow urine. If you notice any of these signs, consult your pediatrician.

Conclusion

Summer brings unique challenges for baby care, but with these expert tips from Dr. Sam, you can ensure your little one stays safe, comfortable, and happy during the hot months. From sun protection to keeping cool and staying hydrated, these guidelines will help you navigate summer parenting. Remember, every baby is unique, and you know your child best.

We extend our heartfelt thanks to Dr. Sam for sharing her invaluable insights in this interview. As a certified pediatrician and lactation consultant, Dr. Sam’s expertise is rooted in her belief in proactive healthcare and tailoring medical care to each patient’s unique journey. If you’re looking for personalized care that helps your child thrive, consider Dr. Sam for your pediatric needs. For more information on summer baby care or to explore our range of services, contact Motherhood Center today. Let’s work together to make this summer a joyful and healthy season for you and your little one.

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