Summer has arrived and so has your new baby. But how are you planning on spending those long days and sultry nights? Sofie Jacobs offers advise on how to survive Summer with a newborn.
With a newborn or young baby, the summer months can be a whole new experience. Your enthusiasm for road trips and beach days may give way to anxieties about heat, travel, sleep (or lack thereof), not to mention the fact that you can’t even imagine slipping back into a swimsuit.
Don’t fret, the summer is a great time to get out and explore, be social and celebrate this special time with your bubs. Here are a few tips on how to keep your cool when the temps are soaring, and make the most of your postpartum summer.
Too Hot? Too Cold? Or Just Right?
One minute you are in the blazing sun, the next blasting air conditioners, so how do you know if your baby is too hot or too cold? A great way to quickly check your baby’s temperature is by touching the back of their neck. If it’s hot or damp and clammy, try stripping off a layer of clothing. Fussiness, crying and heat rash are additional clues your infant could be feeling the heat. Bring layers so that if you venture into Arctic temps inside you can slip a blanket (traditional cellular blankets are perfect) over your baby and remove it just as easily. Keep an eye on any changes in behaviour or fussiness and routinely check your baby’s temperature as you move around during your outings.
It’s also important to pay particular attention to the temperature of your baby’s sleeping environment. As a general rule, the recommendations are to have the air conditioning thermostat set at about 18 to 20°C. However, for Hong Kong, and any other tropical and subtropical place, setting the thermostat to 22-25 degrees in summer is more realistic so not to have too much of a difference in temperature as compared with outside. If not, use a fan to keep the air in your baby’s room circulating, but don’t point it directly at them. I follow the rule ‘one more layer than you’re comfortable in’. If you’re sleeping in the buff, a light t-shirt or gro bag and nappy should do nicely for your baby.
Heat rash is quite common for babies but can be easily avoided and treated. Keep an eye out for skin that looks red or pink and bumpy. Heat rash tends to crop up where airflow is poor such as where clothing fits snugly, in skin creases or areas that come in contact with the car seat, stroller or baby chair. But heat rash can occur anywhere, even the face. If you notice heat rash developing, don’t panic; simply remove the clothing (including nappy) from the affected area, and sponge down the skin with lukewarm water.
Leave the rash exposed to the air and dress your baby in light, loose-fitting clothing made of natural fibres such as cotton so it’s more breathable. As long as you keep your baby cool, the rash should start to fade in about 12 hours. If you are concerned, or the rash looks severe, seek the advice of your doctor or midwife.
Swimming with Your Baby
When can I take my baby to the pool? It’s summer and you want to enjoy all the benefits, but even pristine pools can sometimes carry bacteria which can cause diarrhoea in very young infants. Generally, most doctors don’t recommend taking a baby into a pool, ocean or lake until they are at least two months old. Infants get cold very easily and can’t regulate their temperature as well as older babies can. Always make sure the water is warm enough for them. If it’s a tad chilly to you, it will be very cold to your baby. If your baby is shivering it’s definitely time to get out.
The Sun and Your Baby
Believe it or not, the sun is not all harmful to your baby. Yes their skin is very sensitive and precautions should be taken, but the sun can be beneficial as well. Vitamin D is essential and the best place to get it is from sunlight. Sunlight can also be great for babies with jaundice or eczema. Now we’re not talking prolonged periods of sun exposure, but a short walk outside peak sun hours is great for both the parents and the baby. The sun has a way of lifting your spirits, enjoy it; but watch the amount of time you spend in it. There certainly are dangers associated with the sun ranging from simply being hot and uncomfortable, to rashes and irritations all the way to sunburn and skin cancer. You should always be sure both you and your baby are adequately protected.
Childhood sun exposure is considered a substantial risk of skin cancer as your baby’s skin has a thinner corneum, lower levels of protective melanin and a higher surface to body-mass-ratio. Therefore the protection against ultra-violet rays in childhood is essential. Choosing effective, safe sunscreens for your baby is key. And believe it or not, actual sunscreen is not your first line of defence. A baby’s skin is very sensitive so, rather than slathering your baby with sunscreen, opt to cover up first. Putting a barrier between your baby and the sun is best, only apply sunscreen to parts that will be exposed. But when choosing a sunscreen for your baby consider the following:
- All formulas should be non-irritating and non-sensitising to the skin and eyes
- Choose a formula that offers photo-stability and is easy to spread
- Choose a spread that is opaque so you can physically see if it is still on your baby’s skin
- Chose an SPF 15 or greater and repeat application every two hours of sun exposure
However, it’s always best to avoid the sun during peak hours or cover up when you can. Here are a few simple tips to safely enjoy the day out:
- Bring an umbrella and wide-brimmed hat for shade
- Wear lightweight, breathable clothing that covers the skin
- Try to stay in the shade and limit outdoor activities to off-peak sun hours
- Limit exposure to the sun and outdoors. Best to have mini-trips than entire days out
Don’t let your concerns about the sun keep you cooped up inside all summer. Stay sun-smart, be prepared, keep your trips short and you and your bubs can enjoy all the fun summer has to offer.
What About Mama?
So your baby is completely outfitted and prepared for the summer but what about you? If you’re a mum of a newborn or very young baby, chances are your summer bikini body has not been on the top of your priority list. Whether you’ve been blessed and are back into your regular clothes or, like a lot of us, maybe aren’t quite there yet; remember, it takes nine months to grow a baby and it will realistically take more than nine months to create a new body.
Either way, your postpartum body and mind aren’t what they used to be. From wardrobe worries to tackling summer outings with a baby in tow, there’s a lot to consider for a new mum. Maybe you think your bikini-clad, beach party days are behind you? But it isn’t so. Postpartum is a time to start developing new ideas, routines and mindsets; life isn’t going to be the same but it can still be awesome, just in a bunch of new ways. Keep an open mind and be gentle on yourself. So if you’re feeling anxious here are some tips to help you enjoy the summer:
- Go shopping. Whether your body is a new size, shape or is just different due to breastfeeding etc, head out and buy yourself some clothes that make you feel good. No need to go and buy a whole new wardrobe, but get a few key pieces that are lightweight, flattering and can take you from pool to beach to beach party. Feeling good is the key to looking good, so treat yourself – you deserve it.
- Get active. Get out there and get some exercise, but make sure you do it in off-peak hours. Postpartum skin can be especially sensitive to hyperpigmentation so avoid direct sun exposure. But getting out and getting active will boost both your mind and your body.
- Drink up. No not icy cocktails with umbrellas, although, if you’re not breastfeeding you can probably sneak in one or two. If you are breastfeeding stay hydrated. Breastfeeding can take a lot out of you, especially if it’s hot out. Drink plenty of water or enjoy hydrating fruits such as watermelon or blueberries.
- Stay connected. Having a newborn or young child can be ostracising and lonely at times. The summer is a great time to get out and get social. People tend to gather more during warm months so there are plenty of opportunities. Instead of shutting yourself up all summer, join a baby group, visit family or catch up for some adult time with your old friends. Surround yourself with people that support you and your lifestyle. Having a shoulder to lean on, a friend who’s willing to listen or one that nudges you to head out for some adventures can do wonders for your soul.
- Visit the places from your pre-baby life. Young babies can sleep almost anywhere especially in the first few months. Take advantage of this and get out there, because it won’t last forever. Newborns are very portable, no need to leave the beach for naptime, just find some shade. And go ahead and spend the evening at a summer festival. Stay relaxed about your baby’s schedule when heading on an outing. Just snuggle baby up when they start to snooze and enjoy the rest of your activity.
- Don’t stress out. Remember babies are fairly sturdy creatures. They can go outside, in the car, in the woods, to the beach. Believe it or not, they can even go to a fancy restaurant! They may get a little bit hot, dirty or wet, but they will endure and because you got out and had a great time everyone will be all the happier for it. Obviously, you will want to keep in mind your baby’s skin sensitivities and protect them against the elements, loud noises and overly crowded areas, but it’s ok to expose them to the world – they will survive and so will you.
- Slow down. After being pregnant and somewhat limited in what you could do, you may be raring to get out and make the most of the summer. This is ok, but remember it’s not going to be the same as it used to be. Still plan activities, but maybe not as many. Limit the time spent on those activities. Perhaps staying at a relative’s cabin for two days is smarter than the entire week you usually enjoy. Instead of going to the beach for the entire day, spend just the morning there. Slow down a bit, shorten your activities and really savour the quiet moments you now get to enjoy with your baby.
It may seem like a lot to consider but remember this time with your baby won’t last forever. So enjoy the endless days of summer with these simple tips. Take it slow, be kind to yourself, be prepared and keep an open mind. It’s a whole new world out there when you have a newborn, and the best part is introducing them to it. Have a great summer.
Sofie Jacobs is the Head Midwife at Urban Hatch www.urban-hatch.com
More advice for newborns here.