The sun is shining, waves are splashing, and the sand is calling your name. The beachside getaway is a summer necessity. But
can you take baby to the beach safely? Because even the 1-and-under set needs a little vacay sometimes.
If you’ve recently added a new member to your family, it’s easy to worry about whether the sun and surf is a safe environment for your little one. You’ll want to consider your baby’s age in relation to water safety, as well as the amount of time you’ll spend in the sun. Things like having easy access to a place where you can escape the sun’s glaring rays if your baby gets overheated and whether or not you’re up for cleaning sand-filled diapers also comes into play. Especially if you’ll have other kids in tow or you’ll be without another adult around, it’s a good idea to think critically about how a beach trip might go down with your baby.
With a little preparation and forethought though, it’s totally possible to safely enjoy a little beach getaway with your baby. After all, a deep love of summer beach trips can start early. Here are some tips for taking your baby to the beach if you’re ready to enjoy some fun in the sun (or shade).
1 Use Shade
Throwing shade is a good thing when you're vacationing with a baby. “Bring an umbrella or canopy to the beach to provide shade, try sitting under a tree or under any shade that is available,” board-certified dermatologist Dr. Stacy Chimento tells Romper. “You can also purchase floats that have canopies to keep your baby protected from the sun while they are in the water.”
2 Consider SPF
Even if the sky is overcast, sunscreen may be a smart idea. The best approach is to keep very young babies out of the sun altogether, but depending on your baby’s age, you may be able to consider using sunscreen.
“Your baby should be older than 6 months to start wearing sunscreen. However, if you are not able to keep your baby out of the sun, and they are under 6 months, you can apply a very small amount of water-resistant sunscreen — sunscreen with an SPF of 30 is ideal,” Chimento says. “For babies 6 months or older, sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher is recommended.” If you are using sunscreen, it’s important to remember to reapply every two hours.
3 Cover Up
Keeping your baby covered is an easy way to protect them from the sun. Chimento recommends that you “dress your baby in sunglasses, long brimmed hats, light-colored long-sleeve shirts, and pants,” to keep them protected. (Plus, sun hats are just downright adorable on little babies.)
4 Stay Hydrated
If you're throwing back a bottle of water every hour, your baby needs plenty of fluids, too. Depending on your kid's age, you may need to breastfeed more often, or provide them with water, to avoid dehydration. “If your baby is not properly hydrated, they can develop heat stress, heat exhaustion, heat strokes, or heat cramps,” Chimento says. Try bringing a cooler with ice to keep bottles cool if your baby prefers formula or milk cold.
5 Choose Your Beach Times Wisely
The noontime sun may be too much for your munchkin. “Sun is the strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., so you should try and spend time outdoors before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m.,” Chimento says. Plus, early morning or late evening beach trips are sure to make for stunning and gorgeous photographs.
6 Add A Little Breeze When You Can
The beach breeze may be more than just a luxury for your little one. Helping the air circulate around your baby is crucial, and a little portable fan may help your kiddo settle down for a comfortable nap in the beach tent. If you wind up using the fan for your own comfort, that's OK, too.
7 Watch Out For Signs Of Trouble MajaMitrovic/E+/Getty Images
Be on guard against any signs of heat-related illness and dehydration in your baby. “Babies aren’t able to communicate if they are dehydrated, so it’s important to look for signs of dehydration. If your baby’s skin is dry, hot, and red, this may be an indication of dehydration,” Chimento says. If your baby starts showing these signs, it’s time to head back inside.
8 Bring A Lightweight Carrier & A Life Jacket
You can trade in your big and bulky baby carrier for something more breezy and water-safe, but you should also consider having a lifejacket on hand as well.
“There are water-resistant baby carriers or wrap carriers out there, but we always recommend that children are properly fitted into a U.S. Coastguard-approved lifejacket, which is especially important when swimming in lakes and oceans when water conditions can be uncertain and unpredictable,” Jenny McCuiston, founder of Goldfish Swim School (also a mother of four and Olympic swimming trialist) tells Romper. “Pay attention to proper fit — the fit matters, because if your head or ears can slip down beneath the life jacket, the device won’t be able to work as designed to keep your head above water and allow for proper breathing.”
9 Heed Local Water Advisories
As you likely already know, babies have immune systems that are still developing. Because of this, the safety of dipping your kid in the water at the beach will depend on your own child’s health and immune system, as well as the safety of the water you’re entering. Keep an eye out for local water advisories — nothing will derail a fun family vacation faster than flesh-eating bacteria.
“You should always check with your pediatrician regarding the safety of your baby — especially when considering taking them into an ocean, lake or river,” McCuiston says. “Depending on the age of your child, the exposure to certain elements present in these bodies of water may not be recommended based on their young immune systems.”
10 Designate A Water Guardian
Even with lifeguards at the beach, you should still take precautions, including following all listed safety rules and designating an adult to serve as a water guardian.“While your infant will be attended by you now, designating a water guardian should be something you practice and use as they get older. Kids are as curious as they come and are always willing to push the limits without knowing the true hazards,” McCuiston says. “A Water Guardian’s sole responsibility needs to be keeping an eye on the swimmers. Vigilance is key — no chatting, no checking your phone, no distractions. And, be sure to change guardians every 30 minutes so he/she is alert and refreshed.”
11 Consider Pre-Trip Swim Lessons
water safety programs for children aged 1 and under are not recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics because there is not enough scientific study to back up their effectiveness, McCuiston tells Romper that it’s possible for kids as young as 4 months of age to learn.
“Prioritize water safety and swim lessons for your child, and seek out a reputable learn-to-swim facility in your area that is prioritizing COVID safety precautions while teaching this lifesaving skill,” McCuiston recommends.
Even if you determine your baby is too young to learn before this beach trip, swim lessons are still crucial for kids to learn lifesaving skills, as McCuiston says they may reduce drowning risks by 88%.
12 Bring Beach Blankets & A First-Aid Kit
Some babies really hate sand, but you won't know how yours feels about it until you hit the beach. A sturdy beach blanket is a good way to keep your baby away from the sand. Hopefully your baby doesn't find it too bothersome overall.
And hopefully you won't need it, but a baby first aid kit with supplies such as bandages, tweezers, and a cold pack just might be the best thing you bring along. It's better to have it and not need it than the reverse.
13 Don’t Over-Plan
If your pre-baby vacations included itineraries, you may want to keep things casual for a post-baby beach retreat. Being able to adapt to a sudden downpour, or even a diaper catastrophe, is important. Keeping a sense of humor is also key, although this is sometimes easier said than done.
14 Bring A Baby Pool
If you'd rather keep your baby away from the beach water, then having a baby pool with you at the beach may be the next best thing. You can bring gallon jugs of water to fill it up or use fresh water from beachside showers to ensure your little one has access to cool, fresh water in a safe environment to splash the day away.
15 Don't Forget Swim Diapers Experts: Jenny McCuiston , founder of Goldfish Swim School , mother of four, Olympic swimming trialist Dr. Stacy Chimento, Board Certified Dermatologist of Riverchase Dermatology in Miami