Instead of dunking your baby (or toddler) in a vat of expensive sunscreen every time you go into the sun, a much easier option is to cover him up. This type of sun protective clothing (rompers, rash guards, board shorts) wasn't really available when we were tots, but now they're becoming the norm for protecting kids from the sun.
Sun protective clothing uses the UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) scale for sun protection and you want to choose clothing that is UPF 30 or higher.
There's a variety of good brands at various price points. Serious swimmers and beach goers should look into higher quality gear, like Coolibar, NoZone and Snapper Rock, while casual swimmers can get away with budget offerings from Target, Wal-Mart, etc. [iPlay is somewhere in the middle.]
* Take note, these are all supposed to be pretty snug. If they're too big, they'll sag, won't dry as quickly and may make your babe cold while out of the water.
Rompers (one-piece sun suits)
The best coverage is provided by a full-length romper, like the one above. On sunny days, I put this romper on Alice, smear some sunscreen on the back of her hands and face, stick a sun bonnet on her head and she's good to go all day long. I don't worry about her getting burned (and she is as FAIR as they come).
$14 Circo Infant Romper
This UPF 50 romper by Circo does the trick (click here for the boy's version)
This popular romper from iPlay zips in the front and snaps at the bottom for easy diaper changes. *Best buy
This HIGHLY rated, heavy-use romper fits extremely well, has a front zipper closure, a fully-opening diaper zipper and is highly chlorine and salt resistant. Hard core beach goer's swear by this one.
Sun Shirts (aka "rashguards")
It's a maaaajor pain in the arse to apply sunscreen to baby's neck, shoulders and back, especially if they're already dressed (so many straps in the way for baby girls - geh!), so when it comes to choosing swimsuits and swimtops, you want them to cover as much skin as possible (baby BIKINIS, are you kidding me? These make me laugh.) These days, many swimsuits come WITH a rashguard as the top, which is smart and practical.
Rashguards come in long-sleeved and short-sleeved versions. The long-sleeved ones offer better coverage (obviously), but the short-sleeved ones are easier to get on and off when wet (less friction). One Step Ahead also offers a rashguard that snaps at the bottom like a onesie (below).*Did you know? Rashguards are called so because they protect surfers from wax-based chafing from their surfboards.
$12 - $17 iPlay
iPlay has a large selection of both short-sleeved, long-sleeved and swimsuit/rash guard combos in a variety of colors. I have a drawer-full of iPlay rashguards to get us through the summer, especially for our Florida trips.
$21 One Step Ahead
These cute rashguards from OSA have long sleeves (that cover the back of the hand)and adjustable ruching to adjust length, etc. On sale now.
Let's not forget about the most essential item, ye old sun hat -- especially if babe doesn't yet have a full head of hair to protect his scalp. The challenge with hats is keeping them ON your baby's head. Personally, I have the best luck with hats that tie under the chin, but if your baby doesn't have a gold metal in hat-swatting, you'll have luck with any hat.
This favorite sun hat has a wide brim and ties under the chin. Comes in tons of colors. Perfect!
This highly-rated reversible hat is super cute and functional (very cute patterns for boys, too!)
$19 For girls, the Millymook Vintage Reversible Sun HatThis one has a removable chin strap for secure and crushes down for travel
Sunglasses for a baby? Exsqueeze Me?
Eye doctors and dermatologists say yes. The practical answer is "if your child tolerates it". Families that spend a lot of time in the sun or live clos[er] to the equator should definitely look into it. Sunglasses also help keep direct sun out of baby's eyes in the car, especially when you lose the sunshade upon graduating to a convertible car seat [and it seems like NO MATTER WHICH DIRECTION you're driving, the sun is ALWAYS in baby's eyes!]
Experts recommend smaller versions of real, protective adult sunglasses, NOT toy sunglasses, which can actually do more harm than good. Look for glasses that block 99-100 percent of both UVA and UVB rays. Find impact-resistant, scratch-proof lenses that don't pop out of the frames, blah blah blah.
For babies 6+ months, Baby Banz have a strap that goes around the head to ensure they stay in place and seem to be tolerated well by most babes. These are polarized and have a UV 400 rating for 100% UVA/UVB protection.
These cute and highly rated kiddie sunglasses offer a 100% UVA/UVB protection, are impact/shatter resistant, and will be replaced if lost or damaged within the first year - sweet! Fit-wise, they come in various sizes for toddlers, older kids, etc.
That's all she wrote. Happy Summer, y'all!
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Next up: Bug spray, water safety equipment and water toys. I'm sure you can hardly wait!