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Keep babies cool and safe this summer

Thursday 8 January, 2015

Keep babies cool and safe this summer

As summer heats up parents should pay special attention to their baby’s needs to prevent overheating and dehydration says a midwife and lactation expert.

The recent spell of sunny weather has been welcomed as the sign that summer is now fully underway. Whilst this is good news for most it can bring added issues for infants, says Bay of Plenty District Health Board senior lactation consultant Karen Palmer.

“At this time of year there are many babies who will suffer from heat exhaustion,” says Karen. “It’s easy to forget that babies, especially newborns, have poor temperature control and are more greatly affected by changes in temperature than adults are.

“There’s a number of ways we can help keep them comfortable,” she says. “These include being mindful of temperature changes over the 24-hour period and adjusting clothing and blankets frequently.

“Breastfed babies may want to breastfeed more frequently but for shorter periods of time, then catch up with longer feedings later at night or early morning. They may fuss and squirm at the breast if they’re too hot. Feeding lying down in a cool room may help both mother and baby be more comfortable.”

It’s very important the baby’s cues for what he/she needs are followed says Karen.

“Breastmilk is a living fluid, its composition changes with the weather, and this can change feeding patterns,” she adds. “Extra fluids in the form of water are unnecessary for the young breastfed baby, although older babies may enjoy cool fluids and refreshing fruits (like watermelon) to quench their thirst.”

Mothers need to ensure they are consuming adequate fluids as well. Water is preferred, as sweetened drinks can be dehydrating.

“Formula-fed infants may also need more frequent feeding of smaller amounts to quench their thirst, especially if an outdoor trip is undertaken. Be extra careful with formula preparation on hot days and nights as formula milk can ‘spoil’ easily in hot weather and cause tummy upsets.”

Karen says each feed should be freshly made and unused amounts thrown out within an hour of preparation.

“As always, bottle-fed infants should be held for feedings and not given a bottle to drink alone.”

Top Tips

Keeping baby cool

• Be careful not to overwrap or overdress a baby, stick to light cotton clothes.
• Cover them with only a sheet when asleep during the day and another layer before you go to bed at night.
• Keep the room cool (but not too cold).
• Give them extra feeds and drinks.

Car safety if you need to travel

• Always take babies and young children with you if you need to leave the car – heat exhaustion can happen in just a few minutes.
• Ensure you park your car in a shady spot, or underground if shopping.
• Stop often on longer car trips for feeding and checking comfort levels.
• Cover car seat and buggy buckles in the sun – they can burn!

Help protect your baby/toddlers from sunburn

• Keep them out of the hot sun (11am – 4pm).
• Use sun hats that keep the sun off their face, neck and ears. Wearing a sun hat yourself will set a good example.
• Encourage them to play in the shade.
• Apply SPF 30+ broad spectrum meeting safety standard AS/NZS 2604 sparingly (thinly) to exposed skin. Check the expiry date. Your pharmacist can give further advice about sunscreens. Reapply as per the container’s instructions.
• Check for sun reflecting off water, sand and the inside of sun umbrellas.
• Use a pram sunshade or umbrella.
• Keep the pram or stroller in the shade as much as possible.
• Children’s skin is sensitive and needs protection on cloudy days as well.

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