Before you head out on warm weather family adventures and walks with your new baby, it’s super important to know how to keep your baby safe in the heat. Babies love being outdoors, but they cannot fully sweat (your body's way of cooling itself off and regulating body temperature), so once it gets over about 80 degrees they can often suffer heat stroke or get dehydrated much quicker than an older child or adult. They rely on you to keep them cool! Plus, baby skin is extremely delicate, and can burn very easily.
We asked Tinyhood’s experts to round up the top things you need to know about how to enjoy hot weather in a responsible way. Keep reading for their top tips, and for everything you need to know about how to keep your baby safe from overheating and survive the newborn months — including infant CPR, safe sleep and more — check out Tinyhood’s Baby 101: The Parenting Prerequisite online course.
How to keep your newborn baby safe in the heat
1. Lightweight clothing: Dress your baby in lightweight, breathable fabrics, like cotton or linen, with long sleeves, long pants, and a wide-brimmed sun hat to protect their face and back of their neck.
2. Don’t use socks. Forget socks. Babies only sweat from their neck, hands, feet, and head, so socks can prevent sweat and inhibit babies’ (limited) self-cooling mechanisms.
3. Avoid sunlight. Babies younger than 6 months should be kept out of direct and indirect sunlight because of the risk of heat stroke. For babies older than 6 months, apply sunscreen sparingly, 15-30 minutes before you’re in the sun. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) now recommends applying sunscreen to small areas of skin not covered by clothes or hats, such as the face, back of the hands and neck, tips of the ears, and tops of the feet. Use a gentle sunscreen made for children with an SPF of at least 30. As always with sunscreen, reapply after going in the water or every 1.5-2 hours.
4. Avoid mid-day. Avoid spending time in the sun during its hottest hours. High temperatures and extreme heat usually occurs between 10am-2pm.
5. Stay in the shade as much as possible and avoid direct sunlight. Take advantage of natural shade, like trees, or bring your own with a beach umbrella, shade tent or structure, or stroller canopy.
6. Cloudy days count. Cover up your baby even if it’s cloudy. Ultraviolet rays can reach through clouds and can damage your baby’s sensitive skin. Be mindful of surfaces that can reflect UV rays, like sand, water, and snow, and don’t forget extra protection at high altitudes.
In addition, if your baby is in a stroller, you should know that the common practice of draping a blanket over the stroller to protect your baby from the sun can actually put them at risk of heat stroke. A Swedish study found that covering your baby’s stroller in even a light blanket, like a muslin swaddle, creates a “furnace-like heat” in the stroller. It also makes it hard to see your baby to detect any issues or discomfort. Combined with the poor circulation inside the stroller and young children’s sensitivity to heat — a child’s body heats up 3-5x faster than an adult’s — a stroller-covered blanket quickly becomes an unsafe environment.
How can you keep your baby safe in the stroller in warm weather?
• Choose a light-colored stroller without excess cushioning that can prevent your baby’s skin from breathing
• Look for a model with a large canopy to block the sun without trapping the heat inside the stroller
• Attach a small fan to the stroller’s handlebars to keep baby cool
• Check your baby for signs of heat exhaustion often, which can include extreme thirst, sweating, acting tired or weak, rapid/shallow breathing, and/or skin that is hot to the touch
• If your baby shows any warning signs of heat exhaustion, get them into air conditioning as quickly as possible and offer fluids and cool water
Lastly, what do you do if your baby gets sunburned? If your baby was accidentally exposed to too much sun, their skin may become red, warm, and uncomfortable about six to twelve hours later. Try cool baths, cool compresses, or acetaminophen at the recommended dose for your baby’s age/size to relieve any discomfort as well as hydration. If you see symptoms such as blisters, fever, chills, headache, or general signs of illness, the sunburn may be more severe. Call your pediatrician immediately, who can help determine next steps.
With thoughtful prevention and precaution, you and your new baby can enjoy the warm weather. If you are looking for further guidance on how to keep your baby safe, as well as get our expert’s tips on the ultimate on-the-go diaper bag essentials, Tinyhood’s online course Baby 101: The Parenting Prerequisite covers all of that and more.