Vitamin D and healthy development
While it’s true that your baby needs to have a small amount of exposure to the sun each day to meet his vitamin D requirements for healthy development, this can be as little as 10-15 minutes per day and can be reflected sunlight.
Because of high exposure to UV radiation, New Zealand has one of the highest rate of skin cancer – a cancer which can spread rapidly around the body – in the world. Most skin cancer, in particular melanoma is preventable, so it’s vital that extra care is taken to protect your baby’s skin which burns much more easily than adult skin.
Regardless of skin type or colour, you still need to be aware of skin damage from UV radiation.
Myth-busting Vitamin D:
- In New Zealand, we have high levels of UV radiation as a result of our long, sunny days, and so most children can get more than their daily requirement of Vitamin D from reflected sunlight.
- Direct sunlight does not offer the best cure for nappy rash; while fresh air certainly helps, it does not have to be in sunlight.
- Your baby’s organs will not be harmed by the absorption of sunscreen. If you use only small amounts of sunscreen on uncovered areas such as the face and hands - and rely on clothing to cover most of the body - the tiny amount of sunscreen which may be absorbed shouldn’t be enough to harm your baby.
Tips for keeping your child safe in the sun:
- When you go out in the sun remember to Slip, Slop, Slap and Wrap
- If you are covering the pram to protect your child from the sun, ensure that she has proper ventilation.
- Tightly woven fabrics will protect your child from the sun the best – if you can see sunlight through a fabric when you hold it up, then the sun will be able to get through to your child’s skin.
- Cotton is cooler than man-made fibres so choose cotton clothing when you are dressing her for hot weather.
- Choose a wide-brimmed hat to protect your child’s head and eyes from the sun.
- UV radiation is strongest between September and April, between 10 am and 3 pm. So try to restrict your trips to the beach or the park to late afternoon or early morning.
- Young children can still burn in the shade due to reflected sun – so you should still use sunscreen and clothing to protect your child even if she stays in the shade.
- You can protect your child from the sun best by using sunscreen with appropriate clothing and shade.
- Choose a sunscreen that is labelled as being suitable for babies and reapply it every two hours.
- Look for a sunscreen with reflective particles like zinc or titanium dioxide as these provide better protection for the skin.
- Always check the use-by date on your sunscreen before you use it – the active ingredients stop working effectively after a couple of years.
You don’t have to sit in the sun to be exposed to UV radiation. You can get burned on a cloudy or cool day, or if there’s sun reflecting on to you from buildings, water, sand or snow.
Last revised: Thursday, 18 August 2016
This article contains general information only and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified health professional.
- 1. Teeth in babies and toddlers
- 2. Nappy Bag checklist
- 3. Baby smiles
- 4. Baby hearing, smell, taste and touch
- 5. Crying checklist
- 6. Learning to play in the first year
- 7. Tummy Time and Floor Play for Babies
- 8. Travelling with kids
- 9. Babies and books
- 10. Reading with my baby
- 11. Top tips for settling your baby to sleep
- 12. Comfort Settling 3 to 6 months
- 13. Sleep and settle at 9 to 12 months
- 14. Sleep needs for my baby
- 15. Signs of tiredness
- 16. Wrapping your baby
- 17. Sleeping safely with your baby
- 18. Safe nursery furniture bedding