The beach can be a daunting place for the parents of a four-month old. Sun, sand, wind and salt water can pose serious threats to infants. But few people benefit more from a relaxing day at the beach than a couple of exhausted new parents! Families with infants should not feel bound to their homes on hot summer days. As long as you take the proper precautions and prepare for the day ahead of time, you can enjoy a worry-free experience with your infant.
Protecting your 4-month-old's delicate skin from the sun is important. Whether the sun shines brightly or the sky is overcast, the sun can be dangerous because the invisible ultraviolet rays do the most harm, according to Healthy Children.org. An infant's new skin is more susceptible to burning than an adult's. But unlike with older infants, sunscreen poses a problem. The skin of babies under 6 months absorbs chemicals more easily, according to the Food and Drug Administration. So it's best to simply keep your 4-month old's skin covered. When you dress your infant for the beach, choose loose, lightweight, light-colored garments that provide ample ventilation. Bring a well-made hat with a large brim, which will keep the sun off his head, and to a lesser degree, his face. If you do choose to use sunscreen, use a brand made specifically for babies. Rub the lotion on wherever skin is exposed, including his tiny features such as feet, neck and ears.
The sun can pose other dangers besides a burn on the skin. In addition to covering your infant with clothing, an umbrella is also important. An umbrella will keep him out of the direct sunlight, protecting his sensitive eyes from the bright light. While most U.S. beaches have pleasant temperatures, babies are more vulnerable to heat than older children. An infant's temperature-regulating system isn't fully developed. Consequently your baby is less efficient at keeping cool, which places him at risk for hyperthermia, which can be fatal, cautions Joan Liebmann-Smith, PhD and Jacqueline Egan at "Huffington Post." Carrying your infant into the ocean to cool off may not be a good idea before the age of 6 months, when his temperature regulation and immune systems will be better developed. Move the umbrella as the sun moves across the sky. If you decide to keep your baby in his car seat or stroller and you don't want to use a beach umbrella, use a car seat or stroller with attached sun visor or umbrella. Face him away from the sun. A baby beach tent, another option, allows an infant to nap on a blanket inside the tent, safely out of the sun. Keeping your baby in the shade will prevent overheating, which can lead to heat rash, heatstroke and other uncomfortable and potentially life-threatening reactions.
Timing is key when heading to the beach with a 4-month old. The heat can be overwhelming after a period of time, and spending the entire day in the sun is not ideal. If you do need to be at the beach for a whole day, go to a spot that has a shaded area where you can take breaks. Restaurants, stores or even locker rooms can serve as places to take a time out. If you are going to the beach for a shorter period of time, avoid the peak sun hours of 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. You should especially shield your infant from the sun between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., when the sun's rays are most intense. Baby Center explains that while these peak hours are more dangerous, sun rays can damage tender skin at any time of the day. So even if you go to the beach in the early morning or late afternoon, you should still take precautions.
Babies do not perspire as effectively as adults but still lose fluids in hot weather. While 4-month-old infants aren't typically drinking water yet, they still need to be kept hydrated. If your infant is formula-fed, bring formula or prepared bottles along in a cooler. Nursing mothers should breastfeed often to keep baby hydrated. Babies need at least 50 percent more fluid than usual in the summer months. If you suspect your infant is dehydrated seek medical attention.
- healthychildren.org: Sunburn: Treatment and Prevention
- Parents Magazine: Making Your Baby Comfortable in the Summer Heat
- BabyCenter: How to Keep Your Baby Safe in the Sun
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Should You Put Sunscreen on Infants? Not Usually
- The Huffington Post: Keep Your Baby Safe in the Heat: 4 Essential Tips
- George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images