How to Keep Baby Safe in the Sun

You don't want heat to cause harm to that sensitive skin. Keep baby safe in the sun with these helpful tips.
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Updated August 18, 2021
Mom walking towards the ocean with her baby at the beach.
Image: Isabella Nobell

When the weather warms up, families love to head outside. A sunny day spent out at the park or beach is a great way to stimulate baby’s senses and make special memories with your little one—but it calls for some extra sun safety precautions (especially for babies under 6 months old), and they go beyond keeping baby cool. While your instinct may be to yank off that onesie to help them cool down, remember, the more clothing you remove, the more skin is exposed to UV rays. So how can you protect baby’s delicate skin? Here, we’re sharing top doctor-approved tips for keeping baby safe in the sun.

Sun Safety for Babies Younger Than 6 Months

Babies younger than 6 months should never be in direct sun, says Paula Prezioso, MD, a pediatrician at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City. Infant skin is highly sensitive, and the use of sunscreen is generally not advised until baby is 6 months old. To help keep them away from harmful rays when you’re out and about, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends finding shade under a tree, an umbrella or the stroller canopy. If you’re at the beach, let baby chill out in a pop-up sun shade tent.

To shield baby’s delicate skin without blocking the breeze, dress them in thin, loose, light-colored clothing and cover as much skin as possible. The AAP also recommends dressing baby in hats, swim shirts and clothes made with a tight weave or with an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) label.

If protective clothing or shade isn’t available, the AAP says it’s okay to apply a minimal amount of sunscreen with at least 15 SPF to baby’s face and the back of the hands, about 30 minutes before sun exposure.

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Sun Safety for Babies Olders Than 6 Months

Once baby hits 6 months, slather any exposed skin with baby-friendly sunscreen. Choose a mineral-based option (think: zinc oxide) with an SPF between 15 and 50, and reapply every one to two hours. “It doesn’t have to be $100 sunscreen,” Prezioso says. “It’s even okay to use a store brand.” The AAP also recommends using one that says “broad spectrum” on the label, meaning it will filter out both UVB and UVA rays. Some other ways to keep baby safe in the sun, according to the AAP:

  • Dress baby in cool, comfortable clothes that cover the body;look for clothes made with a tight weave or with an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) label
  • Put baby in a hat that shields the face, ears and back of the neck
  • Use swim shirts and full-length rash guards
  • Limit sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when UV rays are strongest
  • Choose sunglasses that have at least 99 percent UV protection
  • Use and reapply sunscreen frequently
  • Set a good example; Your child will learn to practice sun safety by watching you as they get older

While the above tips are great preventative measures, sunburns can still happen. If you see baby’s skin starting to burn, get them out of the sun and apply a cool compress, rub on aloe vera or use a medicated cream under your pediatrician’s supervision.

Keeping baby’s skin safe in the sun is crucial, but don’t forget to keep on top of hydration! Make sure baby gets adequate fluids, whether you offer breast milk, formula or, for babies older than 6 months, small amounts of water. If you ever have questions or concerns, check in with your pediatrician about the best way to keep baby hydrated and safe during a hot, sunny day.

About the expert:

Paula Prezioso, MD, FAAP, is the clinical associate professor in the department of pediatrics at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, and a pediatrician at Pediatric Associates of NYC. A fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, she received her medical degree from SUNY-Downstate College of Medicine and completed her residency at NYU.

Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.

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