Hey Mama- are you worried about being in the sunshine with your baby this summer?

I worried to and there seems to be a lot of conflicting information regarding babies exposure to sunlight.  In fact, the AAP says, "parents can apply a minimal amount of baby-safe sunscreen with an SPF of 30–50 to the face, back of the hands and tops of the feet." for babies under the age of six months.  So let's talk about sunscreen, clothing, and the possible benefits of sun exposure.

Sunscreen

There is limited research on the use of sunscreen on babies under six months of age.  In addition, babies over six months of age are often putting hands and feet in their mouth and may accidentally ingest sunscreen on hands and feet.  Zinc oxide (that's what is in most diaper creams)

Truly Mama has a good list and information regarding sunscreens.

Clothing

Clothing and shade are the best ways to beat the sun.  There are various ways to stay outside throughout the day at the beach or at the park.  The part of the day that the sun is most intense is considered between 10am and 2-4pm (depending on location).  

Clothing can give 30-50spf protection.  There are many great swim suits, rash guards and lightweight play clothes that can help keep babies safe from the sun.  Clothes offer ongoing protection throughout the activity and offer an easy way to parents to keep babies protected without having to fight the slather sunscreen battle several times during one day trip.

Benefits of sunshine

This is a great place to look at some international research into sunshine and sunbaths for babies.  I have included three international research articles regarding the benefits of sunshine:

Abundant sunshine and vitamin D deficiency: In general people derive most of their vitamin D via exposure to sunlight and with increased indoor time there is increased vitamin D deficiency

Prevention of rickets and vitamin D deficiency in infants, children, and adolescents: Sunlight exposure has a lots of health benefits for infants, it helps the body to produce vitamin D that helps the body to absorb calcium [1]. Also has a function of strengthening bones thereby preventing rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults and possibly inhibiting growth of some cancers [2]. Visible sunlight to the eyes gives health benefits through its association with timing of melatonin synthesis; maintenance of normal and robust cardiac rhythms and reduce the risk of seasonal affective disorder [3]. A daily requirement of vitamin D can be obtained by 30–60 min exposure to sunlight in the morning [4].

Soaking up the sun: The study found that an exposure of as low as about 30 minutes per week with about 40% of the child’s body exposed to sunlight can help achieve adequate vitamin D status at six months of age.

A lot of information provided about sunshine and babies focuses on the risks associated with sunburn and skin cancer.  However, if we look abroad we can see some interesting differences in the view of sunlight for infants.  Here are my beliefs on the benefits of sunlight for our babies:

  1. Increasing natural Vitamin D in the body
  2. Orienting the child to the rhythm of day/night
  3. Stimulating the immune system

The use of clothing, shade, timing of outside play and sunscreen can be used with sunbaths or sun exposure to minimize the risk for sun burn and maximize the benefits to be gained by sunshine.

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