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April 19, 2024

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Three Times Baby Skin is No Match for the Sun

A morning walk. Stopping for a chat in the Kroger parking lot. A ride in the back seat. The surprisingly quick way a baby's skin can burn needs revisiting as summer steams along.

Seeing babies in the sun without a little hat on has always worried me. I want to run over and plop a bonnet on the child lickity split. The truth is, many well-intentioned parents are surprised when their baby gets a sunburn — afterall, they tried to protect him. What went wrong? The answer: It happens super-fast.

The bottom line is, babies under 6 months of age should not be in the sun at all, and from 6 months old and onward, parents need to take extreme measures to protect young skin. According to Bernard A. Cohen, author of Pediatric Dermatology, the less pigmented your baby’s skin, the more susceptible to sunburn he is. But ALL babies need protection. Cohen says babies can get a sunburn after just 15 minutes in the sun. That means slathering on the sunscreen even for that quick stroll with Baby after breakfast. A quick rule of thumb, Cohen says, is that if your baby looks red it’s a sign he’s been in the sun too long.

Here are several scenarios when babies can get a sunburn, totally catching you off guard.

A walk around the block in full or even partial sun can be tricky. Turn one way and Baby’s protected. Turn another, he’s in full sun. Navigate carefully by using the stroller canopy or even a UV cover and frequently checking to make sure Baby is protected. If Baby is 6 months old or older, smoothing on a layer of baby-safe sunscreen is a great idea, too. Other walking essentials include: hat, sunglasses, water, a cooling towel, a clip-on stroller fan.


While it’s not easy to get a sunburn through the windows of your car, the skin can still be damaged through car windows. If your car has clear glass, 75 percent of UVA rays (the worst kind) can pass through the glass, says the Skin Cancer Foundation’s Sun Safety for Drivers page. Tinted and reflective glass allows 25 to 50 percent to pass through. Car sun shades are must-haves for Baby. Numerous types of shades are available for your car. You can also move Baby’s car seat to the middle of the back seat for further protection, but keep an eye on your sunroof just in case sun is pouring through there.

Babies often tag along when there’s an older sibling playing sports. Sitting in stands under a bright, blue sky may seem innocent enough, but prolonged exposure to sun can happen here. Follow the ABCs of suncare:

• AVOID: (refrain from extended, unprotected exposure to sun, especially between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.).

• BLOCK: For any children over 6 months old, always apply a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher that blocks UVA and UVB rays. Make sure to apply a liberal amount – generally about two tablespoons — and reapply every two hours. Be extra, extra careful for babies under 6 months of age by keeping them covered with protective clothing.

• COVER: Clothing is the best defense against the harmful rays of the sun. Lightweight, light-colored, long-sleeve t-shirt, pants, sunglasses and a brimmed hat will keep your baby protected.

Many of these sun tips for little ones can be applied to just hanging out at home in the yard, too. Apply these ideas to any outdoor event and it’ll be smooth sailing for Baby!


About the Author

Susan Swindell Day

Susan Day is the editor in chief for this award-winning publication and all-things Nashville Parent digital creative. She's also an Equity actress, screenwriter and a mom of four amazing kids.