While the sunshine-y weather may entice parents to the great outdoors, it’s not always safe for their little ones. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, infants and toddlers should avoid long periods outside when the heat index is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Because babies cannot sweat and cool their bodies like adults, it can be challenging to spot the signs of overheating or exhaustion. Plus, toddlers lack words to communicate when they’re feeling too hot, so you may not always notice the signals of distress. Does this mean you should avoid going outside entirely in the muggy days of summer? Nope. Instead, proceed cautiously and take appropriate measures to keep your most precious cargo — your kiddos! — at a safe temperature.
Here, our top tips and picks for the best cooling products for babies and toddlers.
Though most parents are worried about their babies being too cold so they layer on the clothing, in the summer, it’s important to do, well, the opposite. In hot temperatures, young children should be dressed in a single layer of loose-fitting, light-colored and breathable clothing, according to Dr. Natalie Barnett, the vice president of clinical research at Nanit. This body suit from Loulou Lollipop features sustainable Tencel Lyocell and organic cotton jersey knit fabric, making it lightweight and soft.
Hues matter since Dr. Barnett explains light colors absorb less solar heat/radiation. Many baby brands have paid attention to the importance of fabrics and color varieties, like this top and bottom set from Make Make Organics and this sleeveless romper from Kyte Baby.
Young children and babies can lose moisture quickly, whether from running around or because they have a greater body surface area, causing them to lose water through their skin faster, according to Emanuel Remilus, a pediatric nurse at Northwell Health’s Cohen Children’s Medical Center.
“We want to ensure that children of all ages stay hydrated — from infants to toddlers to older children,” he says. “It’s important for children to take frequent breaks when playing outside in the heat.”
Babies younger than six months can’t drink water yet, so increase their formula or breastmilk consumption on hot days. For babes older than six months, make drinking water fun by giving them their very own kids’ water bottle, like this leakproof and stainless steel option from Klean Kanteen.
Pay attention to the wind if you’re going on a morning or late evening stroll with your child. Is there a breeze? Or does the air feel heavy and still? When you don’t have natural air circulation, create it for your little one with this clip-on stroller fan. Barnett explains that a child’s body heats up five times faster than adults. “So if you are feeling overheated, there is a good chance your infant/toddler is as well,” she adds.
When spending time in higher temperatures outside with your baby, it is most important to start by seeking shade, says Dr. Neela Sethi Young, a pediatrician and the co-founder of Jaanuu. “Direct sun exposure is much more potent and harmful to babies than prolonged time in shaded areas,” she says. She also notes that the time of day for your outing is significant, and it’s advisable to avoid or limit sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., as this is when the sun is the most powerful.
If you’re heading to the beach with your baby or toddler, pack along this baby beach tent that provides UV protection of 50 and allows you to have a shallow pool of water for extra cooling benefits. Plus, it packs up small for easy storage.
Keeping your baby cool during the summer extends indoors, too, since homes can grow increasingly hotter as the day wears on. Regardless of the season, it’s essential to maintain your baby’s nursery between 68 and 74 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Dr. Harvey Karp, a pediatrician, author and founder of Happiest Baby. He explains this is the safest temperature range for sleep, and it ensures that your baby or toddler is comfortable — not too hot and not too cold.
“If you are using an air conditioner to get to the right temperature, please don’t put your baby to sleep next to the unit, or they’ll get too cold,” he shares. “And if you’re struggling to find a cool-enough spot in your home, remember that lower floors — and shaded rooms — will be cooler.”
For peace of mind, choose a baby monitor that displays the temperature, like this one from HelloBaby.
While you may look forward to dressing your baby in cute swimsuits when they’re little, err on the side of caution by choosing a full-coverage option that offers UV protection, Young says. Choosing long sleeves and long pants with a tighter weave for your baby to splish-splash might seem counterintuitive, but this provides more protection from the sun.
Not only does your little one look adorable sporting a cute hat, but you’ll also be adding sun protection. Young says hats with a brim are extremely helpful for face and neck shade. There are plenty of super sweet and fun hats out there but opt for one that also packs in UV protection, too.
Sadly, babies under six months are not ready for sunscreen, as their sensitive skin may react, developing a rash or hives, Young says. This means you can’t lather on sunscreen and head outside with peace of mind. However, for those kiddos over six months, she recommends choosing a fragrance-free, hypoallergenic formula to avoid an allergic reaction and reapply every 30 minutes.
It’s estimated that 38 children under 15 die yearly from heat stroke after being left in a blazing-hot car. It’s every parent’s worst nightmare and fear, and it’s vital to remember your child should never (ever!) be left in a car. Not even if you’re running in for a minute to pick up your dry cleaning. There are no exceptions, Young warns. “The temperature in the car rises extremely rapidly and can very quickly become life-threatening to a baby,” she says.
This detection cushion can be placed underneath your child’s car seat and will alarm if your child is not removed when your car is parked. Because it will feel your baby’s weight, it knows when they’ve been taken out of your vehicle or if they’re still inside. The alarm will ring on your phone and the phone of any other caretakers you connect to the app.
Water can be a wonderful — and fun! — way to keep your child from overheating. If you do not have a nearby pool, lake or body of water, consider investing in a water play table that encourages your kiddo to learn through aqua play activities. When set up outside under shade — below your deck, for example — your little one will giggle in delight, all without you worrying about a mess inside.
If you are worried about your child’s safety in a pool or other bodies of water, consider a splash pad like this one. Since water has a cooling impact that lowers your toddler’s temperature, they can be highly beneficial on the hottest days of summer, says Lilly Schott, a registered nurse and Ovia Health coach.
Sometimes the only way your baby will settle or sleep is if they’re strapped to one of their parents, hearing their heartbeat and swaying with the movement of their body. However, skin-to-skin can raise a baby’s temperature, so it’s essential to use a lightweight and breathable carrier in the summer, Schott says. “If you’re babywearing in hot weather, it’s important to remember that this may increase your baby’s temperature and cause more sweating,” she continues. “It’s also okay to mist your carrier or your baby.”
On the hottest summer days, avoid completely covering your child’s stroller with a muslin blanket, Karp says. While it may be tempting to provide darkness for a quick nap, and it seems like it shields your baby from the sun, it also traps heat. This creates a greenhouse-like effect, increasing the temperature of the stroller and your baby by double-digit degrees. Instead, he recommends a large canopy or mesh sun shield specially designed for strollers that provide shade along with adequate airflow.
This universal option from SnoozeShade is open, so your baby is shaded and covered, but the heat isn’t stuck inside.