My GRANDbaby: Summer In Full Bloom
BY CHERYL HARBOUR
What a great time to be alive! Babies experiencing spring and summer for the first time are lucky, indeed, because the world is blossoming all around them. Grandparents can take advantage of the season to introduce their grandbabies to fresh air, birdsongs, and flowers – all of which are the beginnings of a lifelong affinity for nature.
With some common sense and the latest information about dealing safely with the sun and other summer facts of life, being outdoors together can be a terrific bonding activity for you and your GRANDbaby.
Most adults who grew up before sunscreens were developed and made commonly available are paying for it now with various kinds of sun damage, from minor dark spots to major problems such as skin cancer. But it doesn’t have to be that way for your grandbaby.
Babies are particularly susceptible to sunburn because their skin is so thin and has very little melanin, the pigment that gives color to skin. Babies with darker skin have more melanin, but should still be protected. It’s now known that a single case of serious sunburn during infancy or childhood can double the chances of getting melanoma (the most serious kind of skin cancer) later in life.
Sunburns can even be a medical emergency for a very young child, causing dehydration, high fever, blisters, infections, chills, and heatstroke. Experts at the Skin Cancer Foundation recommend keeping the baby in shade as much as possible for the first six months of life. That means avoiding the sunniest places on the sunniest days during the sunniest hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.). When you are out for a stroll, use the carriage hood or sun umbrella or wide-brimmed hat to keep that tender baby skin in the shade. Sunglasses are also a good idea.
Car windows do not provide sun protection, so keep the baby shaded there, too. Some cars have UV protection tints on their window, but if not, you can use removable window shields
There isn’t complete agreement about when to use sunscreen on an infant. The chemicals in sunscreens aren’t absorbed through the skin, but infants can lick their hands or arms if sunscreen has been applied there. The Skin Cancer Foundation advises waiting until the baby is 6 months old; the American Academy of Pediatrics approves using sunscreen on infants exposed skin if other means of protection are not available.
Sun Protective Clothing
Clothing with built-in sun protection was originally developed for surfers and called “rash guards.” Your GRANDBABY won’t be surfing for a while, but many companies offer protective clothing for even non-surfers. These clothes are rated for sun protection using the terms SPF (Sun Protection Factor) or UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor). A factor of 50% is standard. Some companies offering sun protective clothing for babies include: Coolibar, UVSkinz, Nozone Clothing Co. and Solarte.
Check out this article on baby hats.
More sun safety tips for grandbabies . . . and grands!
Oftentimes abbreviations become so commonplace that we forget what they stand for and how to interpret them. SPF, for example, stands for Sun Protection Factor. Sunscreens marked SPF 15 or SPF 50 or even SPF 75 differs in the amount of time skin is supposedly protected from the sun. For example, SPF 15 gives skin 15 hours more protection than if no sunscreen was applied.
SPF ratings apply to UVB rays. These rays cause reddening, sunburn, and damage to the skin’s outer layer (the epidermis) where typically the least serious cases of skin cancer occur. Continuous exposure to these rays causes damage to accumulate, whereas a blistering sunburn is most likely to cause the most serious skin cancer: melanoma.
The other kind of rays – UVA rays – reach further into the dermal layer of the skin and can impact collagen and elastic tissue (very bad for wrinkles!). The skin “tans” or darkens because it’s trying to protect itself from further damage.
Broad-spectrum sunscreens are best because they provide protection against both kinds of rays, but higher SPFs are not much more effective than a SPF 30 or SPF 50. Nothing provides 100% protection.
Sun Protection is for Grandparents, too.
Yes, well into our nineties (and beyond if you’re lucky), all grands should take steps to protect their skin while in the sun. Luckily, there are companies making sun protective clothing that is stylish, fun, and functional. A few that we particularly liked are some splashy “Hawaiian” swim shorts for granddads and a fetching “athleisure” jacket for grandmoms.
As your GRANDbaby gets older, you can help them understand how important it is to protect their skin in the sun. Here’s a video aimed at young children to help them develop healthy sun protection habits.
More Summer Safety Tips
Keeping your grandbabies safe presents many challenges. Here are a few summer-related safety tips all grands should know:
Heat: Babies are especially vulnerable to heat stroke, so limit activities on very hot days.
Bugs: The American Academy of Pediatrics advises against using insect repellent on infants less than two months of age. For babies older than two months, choose a product with 30% or less of the ingredient “Deet.” It’s better not to use a combination sunscreen and bug repellent because sunscreen needs to be reapplied often and bug repellent shouldn’t be applied more than once a day. Wash the repellent off when you get back inside.
Pools, Puddles, and Buckets:
Splashing around in a baby pool is fun and can be refreshing but stay attentive at all times. Even a few inches of water can be dangerous to an infant.
Be aware of setting even a very young infant where they could roll toward an open window or an unsecured screen.
A beautiful grandbaby…right from the beginning
For months, you’ve been anticipating this moment – the first look at your brand new grandbaby – and finally the moment comes. Of course, your GRANDbaby is beautiful beyond belief, no matter what he or she looks like. Even so, you may have a few concerns about bumps, bruises, odd-shaped heads, and so on. Here’s what you need to know:
Not every baby is born with a perfectly shaped head. The trip through the birth canal may result in a less-than-round shape. The bones of a newborn’s skull are soft and the shape of the head will continue to change in coming weeks.
Some babies arrive with bruises or blotches. Usually that comes from bumping into the mom’s pelvic bone or may result from forceps being used.
Newborns often have puffy eyes, in some cases, so puffy the newborn can’t open them until the puffiness recedes, which can take a few days.
Skin conditions can range from red rashes to tiny white specks to yellowish, seedy-looking bumps. These typically go away in a matter of days or weeks.
The color of a newborn’s eyes and hair may change. Eyes can take six months or longer to show their true color. Newborn hair may fall out and come in a new hue.
In time your GRANDbaby will reveal his or her unique look, and we’re confident it will be beautiful and healthy.
If you are wondering about something related to your new GRANDbaby or GRANDbaby-to-be, we’ll find the answer. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org with your question. Here’s what one grand-to-be was wondering:
Are souvenir ultrasounds safe?
Q. One of my friends showed me a photo of her grandchild-to-be, taken at what she called an ultrasound boutique. I thought ultrasounds were a medical test. Is this something new and should I suggest it to my pregnant daughter?
A. There are some so-called “ultrasound boutiques” offering 3-D or 4-D ultrasound images as a keepsake, but it’s not something everyone should rush to do. Although ultrasounds taken for medical reasons (by a professional technician) are safe, the FDA discourages elective ultrasounds at non-medical commercial locations because the ultrasound process does warm body tissue and longterm effects are not known.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cheryl Harbour is the special editor of our “My GRANDbaby” section and author of Good to Be Grand: making the Most of your Grandchild’s First Year, a combination of up-to-date information and grandparently inspiration.