Regulating our little one’s body temperature
Unlike in winter, when you can simply wrap your baby up in more layers or another blanket, in summer, your baby relies more heavily on their own body to adjust to the surrounding temperature. As adults, our bodies increase sweat production in an attempt to cool us down. Though babies arrive in the world with their apocrine (or sweat) glands formed, these don’t start functioning until some weeks after birth. A newborn, then, is still very much reliant on us to keep them cool. WaterWipes can help here; some Mums suggest keeping a packet in the fridge to make it nice and cool to use on baby’s body on really warm days.
Watch out for the signs of overheating, which can include: warm, flushed skin; rapid breathing; fussiness; and decreased activity of the arms or legs. And don’t worry too much if your baby seems to get particularly sweaty overnight. Babies spend more time each night in the deepest stage of sleep (although it may not always seem like it), so they’re more likely to sweat during the night than adults or even older children. This is natural and not normally a cause for concern, but it’s worth making sure they have a milk feed in those earlier months, or a drink of water, soon after waking to make up for fluid lost overnight.
Keep an eye on what they eat and drink
It is believed that a baby who is still exclusively fed milk (whether that be breast, formula or a combination of the two) gets all of the water intake they need in a day already. However, it’s worth making sure that during the warmer months your baby is feeding as frequently as they normally would so that they are keeping hydrated.
If your baby has been sweating a lot, they are losing more fluid than usual, so be prepared for an additional milk feed if they want it. The experts advise not giving water to a baby under six months old, as this fills their tiny tummies and can interfere with their body’s ability to absorb the nutrients in breast milk and formula.
For babies over the age of six months, offering frequent sips of water is recommended, especially when the weather is warmer. Once your baby is eating solids, opt for foods with a high water content – like cucumber, tomatoes, spinach, broccoli and apples – to help with fluid intake.
Signs of dehydration in babies to watch out for can include sleepiness and irritability, sunken-appearing eyes or fontanel, a decrease in wet nappies and a decrease in or the absence of tears while crying.
Heat rashes are common on babies during summer. They often show up as tiny red bumps on the face, neck, arms, legs and upper chest. It can often be uncomfortable and itchy, but despite causing baby some discomfort, they’re not usually cause for concern. Similarly, diaper rashes are more common in the summer months, because the heat generates moisture in your baby’s nappy and then exposure to that moisture irritates their sensitive skin.
The priority when it comes to caring for your baby’s skin at this time is keeping them as comfortable as possible. Opt for loose-fitting clothing in natural fibres like cotton or linen, cut down the time your baby spends wrapped up in a sling or carrier when it’s sweltering, and allow them to have extra nappy-free time where possible (just keep the wipes handy in preparation for any accidents!). A lukewarm bath can also help to cool a tot who is feeling a bit too hot and prickly – and adding some oatmeal to the bath can also help to calm itchiness.
The other concern for your baby’s skin in summer is sun protection. Because a baby’s skin is thin and delicate, it can burn very easily – so it’s best to keep them out of the sun, or covered up. For babies over six months, you can use a child-safe sunblock that is suitable for delicate skin and reapply it often, as well as limiting sun exposure. Too much sunblock isn’t recommended on younger babies because their skin is so sensitive, however the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) now says that parents of babies under six months can apply a minimal amount of baby-safe sunscreen with a proven SPF of 30-50 to small areas of an infant’s body. Either way, opt for a natural sunblock and try a patch-test prior to use to check for irritation.
Where possible, instead try to avoid the sun when it is at its harshest in the middle part of the day; this is when a good long lunchtime nap can come in handy! Otherwise keep them in the shade as much as possible (which is much easier with babies who can’t move yet!) and invest in a wide-brimmed hat and lightweight clothing that covers as much of the skin as possible. Aloe vera or a cool wet wipe can provide relief, or if any sunburn does occur then try a dollop of cold plain yoghurt and allow it to sit on the skin for 10 minutes before wiping off.
Keeping bugs at bay
Unfortunately, with those lovely, mild evenings comes an influx of mosquitoes, and as we all know, our baby’s smooth and silky skin looks just too tempting and kissable! Some claim that baby oil can repel mosquitoes, or if you opt for a bug spray, look for one with only natural ingredients and avoid areas like your baby’s hands, or near their eyes or mouth, as well as any skin that has a rash. Ideally apply the repellent to your hands first, then rub it on your baby’s skin and only use enough to protect skin that is not covered by clothes. A mesh net over the stroller can also help, as can – again – long clothes that cover the skin and prevent your baby from being a bug buffet.
Summer is a wonderful time to start making family memories and, with a little extra care, it’s possible to keep your little one safe, healthy and comfortable. Enjoy the warmer months!