It’s no secret that, in moderation, natural sunlight is beneficial to people of all ages.
However, sun exposure in children 0-3 has been identified as one of the most important stages they can benefit from natural light.
Like many parents…you may be hesitant to expose your baby's gentle skin to potentially harmful UV sun rays.
But what if we told you that soaking up some sun with your little one can actually improve their physical and mental development?
Out of all the advantages of natural sunlight, we found 5 amazing ones that your baby can start benefiting from today.
- Extra Vitamin D - Vitamin D is essential for growing babies because it allows their body to absorb more vitamins, specifically calcium. This will help strengthen their tiny bones and teeth. Vitamin D also aids in the body’s ability to maintain a strong immune system, helping your little one fight off more cold germs.
- Improved Insulin Levels - Receiving sunlight early on in life can help the body manage insulin levels and prevent the onset of diabetes. While sun exposure is not the only factor that plays in the body's insulin levels, sun exposure at an early age plays a unique role.
- Elevated Serotonin Levels - Serotonin is a natural chemical that is known to improve your baby’s mood and make them feel more content. Increased levels also help to regulate your babies digestive system and their sleeping patterns.
- Higher Energy Levels- The more sun your baby gets, the less melatonin their skin has to produce. As a result, they will feel more energized and can stay up for longer periods. More energy may not be ideal for new parents looking to get rest. However, staying up for longer periods during the day offers long term benefits. Babies who are up longer develop their Circadian Rhythm more quickly, which results in improved sleep patterns over time.
- Decreased bilirubin levels - While sunlight increases levels of vitamin D, insulin, serotonin and energy, sunlight decreases levels of bilirubin in baby’s experiencing jaundice. Babies with more severe cases of jaundice are required to sleep under a UV blanket at home until their bilirubin levels lower. Luckily, the natural UV rays from the sun accomplishes the same goal and helps bring a balance to bilirubin levels.
Now that you know the impact sunlight can have on your baby, you may want to head right outside with your little one to catch some rays.
But too much sunlight can be just as damaging as it is beneficial.
Health experts stress that babies should only experience indirect sunlight.
The difference between direct and indirect sunlight can get confusing, especially when you’re outdoors.
Nonetheless, it’s important to know that direct sunlight exposure occurs when your baby has no barrier between their skin and the sun’s UV rays.
Indirect sunlight can be enjoyed while sitting by a lightly covered window, under a tree or umbrella outside, or in a stroller covered by a thin blanket.
Since 90-95% of the body's vitamin D comes from sunlight, many health experts suggest that babies be exposed to indirect sunlight on a daily basis; up to 10 minutes per day.
If their skin is darker, children can be in the sun for a little longer. No matter their skin tone, babies should not be in the sun for more than 30 minutes per day.
Besides monitoring the time your baby spends in the sun, there are several other ways to ensure their skin is protected while enjoying the sun
- Head Outside Early - The best indirect sunlight can be enjoyed early in the morning from 7am-9am. After that, it’s best to avoid going outside between 10am to 4pm. During these peak hours it becomes more challenging to avoid direct sunlight.
- Stay Hydrated - If you have to head outside during peak hours, always keep your baby covered and hydrated. Keeping their favorite bottle or sippy cup close by using our Bottle Bungee is one way to give them easy and consistent access to liquids.
- Plan Ahead - Since most busy babies like to stay active outdoors, it may be challenging to keep them in a shaded area away from the sun. But planning activities ahead of time can help keep them settled in one place for longer periods of time. Whether you’re enjoying an afternoon picnic under a tree or grabbing lunch at an outdoor restaurant, our Busy Baby Mat is one way to keep your baby occupied with a clean surface to eat and play on. If they aren’t quite old enough to join you at the table, our teething spoon and toy bungee are also two great ways to keep them content while you're out and about.
- Decide on Sunscreen - Sunscreen recommendations are different for newborns to older babies. The FDA and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advise that children 6 months and under should not wear sunscreen because it can have harmful effects on their skin. If your baby is under 6 months and no shade is available, it’s okay to apply 30 to 50 SPF sunscreen to any area of their body that will be exposed. The same can be applied for babies 6 months or older. When choosing a sunscreen, it’s best to avoid as many chemicals as possible. Chemicals like oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate, octocrylene and homosalate can cause harmful and lasting effects to the skin.
- Apply & Reapply - If you decide to use sunscreen, it should also be reapplied every 3 hours during the duration of your time in the sun. If your child participates in any water activities, sunscreen should be reapplied every hour; even with sunscreen labeled as “water resistant”.
- Dress for the Occasion - Whether your baby will be in direct or indirect sunlight, wearing sun protective clothing is key. In fact, many companies make clothing using specific fabrics and dyes that help protect kids from UV radiation. Aside from clothing, accessories like sunglasses or wide brim hats also offer a great barrier between your baby's skin and the sun.
The Sun is one of the greatest natural resources we have to support the well-being of our children.
And as long as you’re practicing sun safety, time in the sun is always something you and your baby can look forward to every day.
Before enjoying the sun, always check with your health care provider to be sure your baby is ready for sun exposure. Babies with certain conditions or that are preterm may not need to be exposed to the sun for several weeks after birth.