Do Babies Need Sunscreen?

Do Babies Need SunscreenDuring yesterday’s fun Father’s Day at Fenway Park we discovered one problem with taking Arya to new places.

Because of the crowd and the venue, we weren’t able to use our normal umbrellas to shield our baby from the sun.

We did have a wide-brim hat, long socks, and pants on her to protect most of her body. Unfortunately she was still exposed to the sun on small portions of her face, neck, and arms during the day.

Our experience left me with a question: do babies need sunscreen?

Arya normally has her hat, stroller cover, and an umbrella available to protect her from the sun. Yesterday was the first time we weren’t able to use either the stroller or umbrella to block her from direct sunlight.

Mommy and I were able to use our bodies to shield our daughter from most of the sun, but during our time at Fenway there was nothing to block the sun from shining directly onto the field. My wife and I used sunscreen for ourselves but we were concerned about using adult sunscreen on our baby without more information.

Do Babies Need Sunscreen - ParkTwo pediatric dermatologists described a straightforward view of babies and sunscreen in a 1993 letter to the editor in the journal Pediatrics. The authors point out that they do not recommend using any sunscreen for babies younger than 6 months because babies that young are not able to place themselves in the sun.

The implication is clear: parents should not expose their babies to direct sunlight.

While the advice is good, I don’t think it’s very practical for everyday life with kids.

Using adult sunscreen may be bad for young babies. Research has found [pdf] high levels of a chemical common in sunscreens cause birth weight problems for pregnant women.

The use of sunscreen with chemicals is particularly bad for young children and babies. The relative ratio of skin area to body weight is higher for babies causing them to absorb a higher proportion of chemicals.

Pediatricians now recommend using sunblocks with either zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as active ingredients. Whereas other ingredients are absorbed into the skin, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide form a barrier on top of the skin to physically block sun rays.

Some products are advertised as baby sunscreens. Most are very similar to adult sunscreens with cosmetic additions such as packaging or interesting colors.

Given the danger of not using sunscreen, it is likely better to use baby sunscreen if less invasive products like hats, stroller covers, and umbrellas are not available. But with little research on the safety of sunscreen for young babies, we will first focus on limiting Arya’s exposure to the sun.

Since there are rare occasions when she will be exposed to the sun, I will also buy safe sunscreen for babies under 6 months. Once she gets a little older, I’ll be less worried about using chemical sunscreens on my baby.

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