Being pregnant in the heat of summer may be something of an ordeal, but having your baby during the summer does have many advantages – not least of which is the fact that you don’t have to shiver through those night feeds! It’s also lovely to be able to sit out in the garden with your summer baby kicking her legs in the summer sunshine. That said, you do need to take some precautions to keep your baby safe and well, since her inbuilt temperature regulation system won’t yet be working efficiently enough to keep her cool when the weather is hot.
Keeping your newborn cool
It is essential that you keep your baby cool during hot weather. Exposure to sunlight, especially early afternoon or summer sunshine (which is very powerful), can cause a range of complaints such as sunburn, heatstroke, heat rash and, in the worst cases, skin cancer.
Keeping your little one in the shade in the hottest part of the day is the safest thing to do, especially if you child is fair skinned. If you do need to go out in the sun, make sure your baby is wearing a sunhat with a large brim. You can also buy many different pushchair shades that conveniently un-clip to move around as the sun does so your baby is always shaded.
On really hot days it’s best to keep your newborn indoors in the cool. As a rule, if you’re uncomfortably hot outdoors then your baby will be even more so. Lay your hand on the back of her neck or her chest to judge how cool she is – don’t be guided by how her hands or feet feel since these extremities always feel cooler than her body. If she feels hot and clammy, remove her clothes down as far as her nappy so she can cool off, and if necessary sponge her body with tepid (not cold) water.
Keeping your newborn cool whilst she sleeps is vital as when a baby overheats it can be a huge risk factor for cot death. It’s important that you don’t let your baby get too hot, so checking the room temperature is important and making sure your baby has the right amount of blankets to keep her warm depending on the temperature. Make sure her head is not covered over by blankets (put her feet to the bottom of the cot so she can’t wriggle down under the covers). Read our feature on Creating a safe sleeping environment for more advice.
Keeping your baby hydrated
Keeping your baby hydrated on those hot summer days is especially important to stop your baby from becoming dehydrated. If you are breastfeeding your baby it might be a good idea to offer an extra feed or two in the hot weather, making sure she has enough fluids. If you are bottlefeeding your baby you need to ask your GP or health visitor for guidance on how much more you can give her. It might be an idea to speak to your GP/health advisor about giving your baby a little bit of cooled boiled water on really hot days.
If your baby is showing any signs of dehydration in the hot weather, it is important to get them to A&E as soon as possible.
Signs your baby may be dehydrated:
-More than six to eight hours without a wet diaper
-Urine that looks darker in his diaper and smells stronger than usual
-Lethargy (low energy)
-A dry, parched mouth and lips
-No tears while crying
Signs that your baby may be seriously dehydrated:
-Hands and feet that feel cold and look splotchy
-Excessive sleepiness or fussiness
-Sunken fontanels (the soft spots on your baby's head)
For an older baby, it might be a good idea to give pieces of thirst quenching fruit, like pieces of melon or pears. Babies may not feel like eating much in the heat, so something like fruit and yoghurt (especially if they are cool from the fridge) should suffice until it cools down.
Protecting your baby from the summer sun
Your newborn’s delicate skin is vulnerable to the damaging ultraviolet rays of the sun. Play it safe and stay indoors between the hours of 10am and 4pm, when the sun’s rays beat down from directly overhead. Make sure your little one has loose cotton clothing on, with legs and arms covered if possible.. If you do need to be out in the sun, or on holiday with your baby, you must always make sure they have suncream on. Remember that babies lying in a pushchair can easily burn the palms of their hands and feet so either cover them or remember to cover the suncream everywhere.
Baby checklist for spending time in the sun:
• Sun hat
• High protection factor sun cream
• Parasol for pushchair/pushchair shade
• Plenty of cooled, boiled water
• Right amount of clothes in a suitable fabric
• Shade to sit under
Older babies and toddlers will no doubt have more exposure to the sun as they are active and running about. It is, however, just as important to follow the same sun safety advice as above. You can buy sunsuits for children to wear which have an SPF factor. Remember it’s also important to put high factor suncream on the skin that will be exposed. If toddlers are running in and out of a paddling pool, make sure your sun factor is water resistant and re apply every two hours or every time he gets wet or is dried off with a towel. Click here to look at Mothercare’s summer range of childrens sunsuits.
It is very important for parents to be sun aware so you can keep your children safe in the hot summer sun, whether you are in the UK or abroad. Read our article on Buying Sun Protection for your Baby and Sunburn.