Whether you’re taking baby out into the beautiful fall air or hot summer day, come prepared. From the poison control hotline to water wipes, this is why your baby needs sunglasses and 4 more must-have for the outdoors. You won’t want to leave these five essentials behind.
Ah, the great outdoors. We Midwesterners soak in every last second of summer and every blissful, delicious-smelling moment of fall…because we know that crummy winter is only a snowflake away. There are plenty of ways to take in the beauty of nature when the weather begins to cool. It can actually be the perfect time for a long hike, an overnight camping trip, a day of apple picking, or even one last hurrah at the beach.
If you’re trekking outside with a baby, you’ll likely think to pack your carrier and maybe a hat. (If you’re gutsy enough to do the overnight tent camping, I salute you for bringing whatever makes sense!) From baby sunglasses to sunscreen, there are five items you should definitely pop into your diaper bag when you head out into nature.
1. Baby Sunglasses
You probably reach for your sunglasses when the sun is blocking your vision. But like sunscreen for skin, sunglasses are ultimately there to protect your eyeballs from harmful ultraviolet rays. That’s particularly important for children and little babies. According to the American Optometric Association, “The average child takes in approximately three times the annual UV exposure of the average adult, and up to 80 percent of their lifetime exposure occurs before age 20.” Because a child’s lens can’t filter out the UV rays as easily as an adult’s eyes can, damage to the retina is more likely at an early age.
Dr. Joanna Slusky O.D., optometrist & owner of Halsted Eye Boutique in Chicago, recommends that “all children, even infants, wear 100% UVA, UVB, UVC blocking polarized sunglasses anytime they are outdoors in daylight hours.” This is important, she says, because even on cloudy and overcast days, most UV rays can penetrate through clouds.
Now, if you’re like me, you go for the cute star-shaped baby sunglasses that will make for funny photos, even if they aren’t particularly sturdy.
But Slusky stresses that the baby sunglasses “must have impact-resistant lenses, flexible, strong, yet smooth and comfortable frames, and be properly fitted to ensure full coverage around the eyes and protect your baby’s eyes from all angles.” To keep baby from instantly pulling them off and throwing them (or chewing on them), grab an elastic band that can go around the back of the head and attach to the frames.
2. Water Wipes
You may be packing these anyway if your baby has a sensitive bum. But water-based baby wipes can come in real handy in nature. I use Seventh Generation or WaterWipes (the latter are composed of 99.9% water).
Did baby put sand in her mouth? Wipes. Is that moss that she just dug her nails into? Wipes. Seriously, where did she find mud? Wipes.
You could use wipes with a disinfectant in them (and you probably should use some kind of soap to clean baby when you get back to camp), but you can feel comfortable swiping water-based wipes over the eyes, in the ears, around the mouth, and yes, on a sensitive bum.
Mosquitos sure love skin, don’t they? My baby got a couple of nasty bug bites on our recent camping trip, and it was the saddest thing to see her scratch them. You should be able to prevent these bites to a certain degree. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has given the OK to use insect repellents for children as young as 2 months old. If you have a newborn or just want to take extra precaution against pests, put baby in layers of clothing.
On our hike through the Hiawatha National Forest in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, we made sure to put baby in pants with long sleeves. She got a little hot midway, so we were able to just take off the sweater without having to change her clothes in the buggy open air.
4. Emergency Numbers
If you’re going to be out of range of Wifi at the beach or the campground, be sure you know what numbers to call in an emergency. Of course, 911 comes to mind—but be sure you will be able to give them your accurate location.
Other important numbers to keep in your diaper bag or as a note on your phone include your pediatrician’s phone number (and/or after-hours line) and the Poison Control Hotline (800-222-1222). Hopefully baby doesn’t get her hands on a fistful of poison ivy or your fire starter, but best to be prepared just in case.
I know, I know. I, too, have read those articles that suggest sunscreen isn’t that effective after all because it lacks the right amounts of each ingredient. The debate rages on about which sunscreens actually work and which ones are worthless. But when it comes to babies and sunscreen, what’s not up for debate is that those UV rays are, indeed, harmful. And your kid does, indeed, need protection of some sort. Layered clothing and a hat will help, and it’s always a good strategy to seek shade and stay out of the sun at peak hours. But if baby is over six months old, it’s worth slathering on some sunscreen.
Look for one that has as high of an SPF as possible and make sure they contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide—according to Mayo Clinic, these ingredients can keep the skin from becoming irritated.
What other products would you recommend for babies and young children outdoors?