The sun is shining, it’s lovely and warm, and you want to enjoy the outdoors with your new baby. But, how do you dress them to ensure they’re safe and comfortable in the sunshine? And if you consider the variable nature of a British summer - when it can go from hot and bright to a summer storm in an instant - knowing how to dress your newborn becomes much trickier.
Newborns are unable to regulate their temperature in the same way that adults do, so it’s essential to dress them appropriately to prevent overheating or cooling. This is especially important for premature babies, as they had less time in the womb to develop vital insulating body fat.
Another thing to remember is that, regardless of race, babies don’t make enough melanin to shield themselves from UV rays. Melanin is the pigment responsible for the colour of your skin, eyes and hair. But it can also protect you from the sun by absorbing harmful UV rays. With babies not producing enough of this, the right clothing is vital to protect your little ones from harm.
Whilst their older siblings are running around in comfy sandals and shorts, you might be a bit stuck on what your newborn should wear. Since babies can’t tell you when they’re too hot or cold, you have to be extra vigilant in the type of clothing you dress them in.
Make sure you choose lighter, softer fabrics for the summer. Cotton or bamboo are ideal because they’re loose, lightweight and comfortable. As a general rule, baby clothes should be loose enough for easy movement - and for the many, many nappy changes - but not so baggy that they could get tangled or accidentally cover their faces. Try to avoid tight, dark fabrics as these absorb more heat and may be uncomfortable for your baby.
You should also consider sunglasses. Aside from being adorable, they help to protect your baby’s eyes from the bright sunshine and there are plenty of choices available that have straps to prevent them from slipping off constantly.
The answer to this is a little more nuanced than you might expect, and you’ll need to rely on your own judgement.
On one hand, with the fluctuating nature of a British summer, it’s worth having a pair of socks on hand to help your baby stay warm on cooler days and evenings. Socks also provide an extra protective layer from the sun.
However, as we explained previously, newborns struggle to regulate their temperature. They also don’t sweat in the same way adults do to help us manage in hot weather. Instead, babies lose heat through their extremities, including their heads, hands and feet. This means that wearing socks in the summer could make them too hot, so you’ll want to avoid having them on for too long.
Whatever the situation, avoid tight or constricting layers on your baby’s feet. Children should go barefoot a lot whilst growing to allow their feet to develop naturally. When they’re a bit older and start crawling, it may be time to consider a pair of pre-walkers. The flexible soles will help to protect their precious toes from the sunshine and outside surfaces without affecting the development of their foot shape.
As well as their feet, babies lose a lot of heat through their heads. So, you don’t want to cover these areas all the time in the summer.
However, when you’re out enjoying the sunshine, you need options to protect your baby’s skin. In these cases, a wide brimmed hat or cap with a flap at the back are ideal to shield their head and neck from the sun.
As we’ve already mentioned, babies have incredibly sensitive skin. For this reason, it’s recommended that you don’t use sun cream on newborns until they’re six months old because they’re more prone to skin reactions and rashes.
This is where long sleeves can come in handy as they provide a barrier between your baby and the sun. However, you should make sure to check your baby’s temperature regularly, and avoid being out in direct sunshine at peak times (between 10am and 4pm).
Long sleeves are also ideal for air-conditioned or cooler interiors, as you can layer on top or beneath them as necessary. If it’s hot in your home, consider sticking to short sleeves to help keep your baby cool. A light cotton romper allows for maximum movement and comfort for example.