How to Enjoy Summertime Fun With Baby in Tow
Now that you’re a parent, will summer be all music classes and stroller boot camps? That stuff’s fine and dandy, but there’s no need to cut out your usual grown-up fun. “You can essentially do everything that was in your pre-baby life,” says parenting expert Tammy Gold, founder of Gold Parent Coaching. “You just have to prepare.” Read on for some great summer tips from Gold and other real-life moms.
Planning a family outing to the shore? Shy away from the hottest times of day; hit the beach in the early morning or late afternoon. (That leaves a nice gap for lunch and naptime, anyway.) Regardless of when you go, sun protection is key. “Put sunblock on baby a half an hour before you’ll be in the sun,” Gold says. “This is virgin skin. It will fry in 15 minutes.” If your little one is under 6 months old and not ready to wear sunscreen yet, keep them covered with breathable, long-sleeved clothing. For babies of all ages, a wide-brimmed sun hat, baby sunglasses and even UPF-rated bathing suits can all help shield your child from the harsh rays. You might also consider bringing a baby beach tent, which can provide some much-needed shade and an enclosed spot for naps and diaper changes.
Babies love playing in the sand (so stock up on beach toys!), splashing in the water and even standing in the gently lapping waves—while supervised, of course. Always keep a watchful eye on little ones anytime you’re near water. If you take baby for a dip, Gold insists on super-quick changes afterward. “Don’t let them sit in their wet bathing suits,” she says, since that can lead to yeast diaper rashes.
If you have a newborn, you may have to put that sunset sail on hold for now. The US Coast Guard doesn’t recommend bringing infants onboard a recreational boat. While manufacturers do make life jackets (or PFDs) for newborns, the Coast Guard cautions there’s no guarantee it’ll properly fit babies who weigh less than 18 pounds.
Once baby is bigger, though, you can enjoy a family boat ride—just keep safety top of mind. You should have baby wear a Coast Guard-approved PFD at all times. If you can, test it out in a swimming pool first, so you know it works before you’re out in open water. It should keep baby’s face above water and facing the sky. Always do a baby hand-off before climbing on or off the boat; whoever is holding your child should have super-steady footing. While on board, hold baby in your arms (while wearing your own life jacket). Car seats are safe for the car, but if the boat were to capsize, the seat would instantly sink. Also, make sure the captain isn’t drinking—a large portion of boating accidents each year involve alcohol consumption. If you’re concerned about a rough ride, head to the back of the boat, which tends to bounce the least. Babies are at a higher risk for hypothermia, so make sure your little one warm stays warm. If they’re shivering, wrap them up in a dry blanket or towel.
What’s more summery than an outdoor music festival? Good news: You can still rock out this summer with baby in tow. “Festivals are great as long as they’re not too loud,” Gold says. Protect your child’s ears with a set of baby headphones, and steer clear of big speakers. “We’ve found that it helps to look for other people hanging out in the back with kids and sit near them,” says The Bump user CleoKitty, especially since even the smallest tots can help entertain each other. (They probably won’t be enthralled by the band for quite as long as you.)
For long drives with baby, timing is key. “If you can get them in their PJs and do a big chunk of the trip while they sleep, that would be perfect,” Gold says. Of course, that’s not always possible, so focus on comfort to keep the peace. Gold recommends dressing baby in loose cotton clothing and socks and using a light blanket as a layer. Depending on baby’s schedule, you might have to plan for a few pit stops so you can feed them and do a diaper change. “I always stash a few plastic bags in the car, in case we’re stuck with a dirty diaper and no trash can in sight,” says another Bumpie mom. No matter what time of day, put baby in an overnight diaper loaded up with the diaper cream that you’d use for bedtime. (Rashes and leaks are the enemy.) On that note, bring more than you think you’ll need—more diapers, more wipes, more pacifiers, more food and by all means more toys. Distractions are golden. And if baby gets into a crying fit and nothing seems to help? “Try pulling over and burping them,” Gold says. “Chances are it’s trapped gas from the bumps on the road.”
When taking baby into the wild (or to the local campground), arm yourself with plenty of food, formula and clean drinking water; a first-aid kit; mosquito repellent and a big blanket to spread on the ground (aka a barrier between baby and the billions of things they could stick in their mouth). As for sleeping arrangements, if you’re car camping and have a roomy tent, bring a lightweight travel crib. If you’re tight on space, sleeping pods like the Kidco Peapod is a good choice. “There wasn’t much of an adjustment to camping with baby; we just have extra stuff to pack,” says The Bump user mrsmikey. One of her must-haves: a canopy. “Having shade has gone from being a luxury to a necessity,” she says. If hiking is on the agenda, bring a good baby carrier (look for one with a supportive metal frame for long hikes) or an all-terrain stroller. Gold also recommends mapping out the nearest medical facility before you set off and putting a plan in place for emergencies.
The same basic rules apply to nearly any sort of summer fun: Stay safe, keep cool and pack extras of everything you’d need. And take loads of pictures!
Updated June 2019