With temperatures soaring in the UK, parents are flooding online support groups with queries about keeping their little ones safe in the heat. Infant feeding expert Charlotte Treitl shares her Top 10 tips for keeping your baby safe in a heatwave!
Keep babies indoors during the hottest parts of the day
There's a reason people in very hot countries have a siesta in the middle of the day! During the hottest part of the day (11am to 3pm) it's best to stay indoors and keep cool. You may even want to take a nap with your baby since the heat will probably make you feel more tired!
Keep babies in the shade using a UV protective parasol or tent when outdoors.
It's really unsafe for babies to be in direct sunlight when temperatures soar, especially if they are under 6 months old, so keep them shaded whilst they play or sleep in the sun.
Use sun cream appropriately
Babies under 6 months old should not wear sun cream. For older babies and children, look for a high SPF (Sun Protection Factor) cream that is made specifically for babies and children at 30-50 SPF depending on how hot it is. SPFs are rated on a scale of 2 to 50+ based on the level of protection they offer, with 50+ offering the strongest protection from UVB rays. You also want to look at the star rating on the packaging – a 5 star rating offers the highest level of UVA protection.
Wearing UV protective clothing
Lots of swim and beachwear now comes in UV protective fabric. These can block out harmful UV rays by as much as 98%. Hats with a legionnaire style flap of fabric at the back help keep the sun off the back of the neck and shoulders – an area that burns easily.
Feed on demand!
Breastfed babies of all ages will typically want to feed more often in the heat, and may enjoy more ‘snacky' feeds. This can cause some worry for parents who may think their baby isn't filling up or that their milk is drying out – don't panic! Breastmilk is already around 88% water, and it adapts to the heat to keep your baby hydrated, so your baby will likely have shorter, but more frequent feeds. Baby poos may go greener as a result – again, don't panic!
Do not give sips of water to breastfed babies under 6 months of age. This is highly dangerous.
For formula fed babies, formula should be made safely using 70 degree freshly boiled water, but can be given in smaller quantities more often. Your formula fed baby may also enjoy or require more snacky feeds. The NHS does say that in extremely hot weather, formula fed babies can have sips of water throughout the day between feeds, this should be limited and should only be given in extreme temperatures.
Make breastmilk ice lollies
A great way to help your baby cool down is to make breastmilk ice lollies. Most home-use lolly moulds for infants only need 1-2oz of fluid to make up a lovely ice pop for your baby. It's best not to give them to babies who are under 12 weeks old, as the very cold temperature of frozen milk could harm their delicate lips and tongue. Formula should never be frozen.
Never cover a stroller!
Whilst it's tempting to think that covering the stroller keeps your baby out of the sun and therefore protects them, what actually happens is the cover then reduces airflow, which can increase the temperature of the stroller to 93 degrees within 30 minutes, even if you're using a thin muslin, which increases your baby's risk of SIDS. It's best to use a parasol to create shade.
Keep car seats cool when your car is parked
Car seats get very hot when left in cars, and this can mean metal buckles become so hot they can burn you or your baby. Additionally, the black seat covers can get really hot, which will make your baby uncomfortable when travelling and could potentially over heat them. When your car is parked, use an emergency foil blanket to cover the car seat and reflect heat away. A large white muslin will also help reflect some of the heat, so the seat will be cooler when you're ready to use it. Remember to take your baby out of the car seat after travelling – whilst it's safe for baby to sleep in the seat when travelling, it should not be used as an alternative to a chair or safe sleep surface.
Keep the bedroom at optimal temperature and dress baby appropriately
The ideal room temperature is 16-20⁰C, and it can be tricky to keep temperatures low in the summer months. Use a room thermometer to monitor the temperature, keep the bedroom door open, and if need be, use a fan to keep air circulating – but don't aim it directly at the baby.
It's important to dress your baby appropriately for bedtime to keep them safe. The risk of SIDS is higher in babies that are too hot, so put your baby to bed in appropriate clothing to avoid overheating. This is especially important when bedsharing because you will be sharing body heat. In extremely hot weather, you may only need to put your baby to bed in a nappy. Choose a low tog sleeping bag if your baby sleeps in one of these.
Drinking alcohol and breastfeeding
If you're at a BBQ or down the pub for tea enjoying the beer garden, or simply want to enjoy a cool alcoholic beverage in the heat then it is safe to do so. You do not need to pump and dump, nor do you need to wait any particular length of time to feed your baby. Very little alcohol is transferred into breastmilk. The main thing to be mindful of is alcohol dehydrates you very quickly, especially in the heat, so you may feel more drunk more quickly, and you do need to ensure you are safe to look after your baby. Absolutely no bedsharing after having an alcoholic drink. It takes approximately 1 hour for 1 unit of alcohol to leave your bloodstream, so you need to be totally alcohol free before getting into bed with your baby. Have someone sober with you to make sure you don't fall asleep anywhere else accidentally with your baby, such as a sofa or chair, as this increases your baby's risk of suffocation or SIDS.
And lastly, don't forget to put your own sunscreen on! Parents are often so hyper-focused on ensuring their children are sun safe that they don't remember to care for themselves!
Enjoy the sunshine, and be safe!
Love, Babyem x