Can my baby go to the pool?
You’ll never hear me tell you what to do with your child. They are your child. However, I will share with you a few things that you may not know. This is to help you make a more informed choice as a parent.
When it comes to babies and pools there are two things to remember:
Your baby's skin is super duper sensitive--everything is so brand new to their skin. From the temperatures to the wind to the light to soft and deep touch--everything is new to your baby. Now the question is, do you want one of the first chemicals your baby’s skin comes in contact with to be chlorine? This actually leads to the second thing.
Chlorine is a harsh chemical intended to kill things and can actually work against our immune systems. Not only that, but Chlorine is actually a mixture of other chemicals. It’s made up of Trihalomethanes and Chloramine. In a pool, there are two free radical agents that go break off and bind to things, like sweat and sunscreen, and float on the top of the water. These free agents also bind to the dirt and leaves in the poo., too. Chlorine can also be a gaseous form, too, causing chlorine to actually float above the surface of the water and in turn, we inhale it or it sticks to our skin and hair. This is the reason indoor pools (or pools that aren’t well cleaned) smell. When you walk in and “it smells like chlorine,” is really just floating chlorine and skin and sweat. Gross, right?
I always say in the first 4 months, be weary. It’s your baby and I trust you to make rules for that baby! After 6m is generally considered okay to have your baby in the pool (shaded areas or short bouts in the sun). However, for all infants under 1 year old, it’s important to wash chlorine off immediately. Remember our skin has a quick absorption rate and when the fun is over, we need to remove the chlorine quickly.
Exception to the Rule: Salt water pools are the exception to this rule. Since they don’t use much chlorine (they actually do have some chlorine), it can sit on our skin a little bit longer. The faster you can get your child rinsed off, probably the better. Fund fact while I have you: salt water pools have about 10x less salt than the ocean, so quite different (opposed to the general belief about salt water pools).
What about direct sunlight?
Babies less than 6 months should not be in direct sunlight. This can be super confusing for babies who need sun exposure for jaundice. Having your baby in direct-ish sunlight can be helpful in this case. By “direct-ish” I mean strategically placing them in the sun to expose various parts of their body (never their face or eyes) and never more than 10-20 minutes in the sun. You can check out the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation on sun and babies here. It is also recommended to be mindful of the hours during the day when the sun is the strongest, usually 10am-4pm.
If you child does get a sunburn, fresh aloe vera and cold compresses are the remedy. If you are breastfeeding or nursing, the best way to keep your child hydrated through a sunburn is to continue to breastfeed or nurse.
What’s the Lowdown on Sunscreen?
Sunscreen is toxic, but also super needed when we are out in the sun..so what gives? Well, there are some safe and less toxic options for you and your baby! * It’s important to be mindful of what you are putting on your skin while you're pregnant and nursing, too. *
Sunscreen isn’t recommended for babies under 6 months old. Mainly because of all the icky chemicals. This is also true in pregnancy and for nursing parents. Chemicals like Oxybenzone (the main active ingredient in sunscreen) in sunscreen does get into the bloodstream, cross the placental barrier, and crosses into breastmilk. Another chemical, Octinoxate, is a known hormone disruptor and most contain fragrances which we all know are terrible for us. These are certainly chemicals we don’t want to apply to such delicate and fragile skin like our newborns.
Here are my top picks for babies over 6 months:
- - Bare Republic is always my number one pick. It is what I use personally and have loved every product I have used. I have used the spray sunscreen, the lotion, and the face sticks. Never ceases to exceed my expectations! They have a specific baby formula that I love, too!
- - Coola This is what I use on my face. I am hard to trust when it comes to my face. When I was a child, I had a very bad experience with zinc based sunscreen that actually burned (and scarred!) my face! Since then, I’ve been so peculiar about my face. To the point of wearing a hat and not letting sun hit my face if there’s not a safe sunscreen option available. Coola is a brand that I have used for the last two summers and don’t see myself changing anytime soon. It’s fragrance free and all organic. The only con is that they don’t have a baby-specific line and I am hesitant to use non-baby specific lines on our tiniest humans’ skin.
- - Alba I love this brand, too! I have used their spray sunscreen on many vacations and they have a baby-specific sunscreen! I love it so much because it is usually a brand that most places carry so you can rest assured you’ll have at least one non-toxic option! *Double check that you are using the fragrance free version-- not all Alba products are free of fragrances! A
- - Babo Here’s one of the best baby sunscreens on the market! The whole product line is created for kids! If you choose a sunscreen for yourself that is not baby-specific, here’s one for your tot! Babo is a brand loved by millions of parents! One of the things I love about this brand (even though I’m a big fan of spray sunscreens) is that they don’t have any aerosol sprays. They recognize how many chemicals are required to make sunscreen in an aerosol form and wanted better for our babies!
You always have the option of making your own natural sunscreen, too, like this one from Wellness Mama.
What about Bug Spray?
Great question! Bug spray is the same thing--filled with horrible chemicals that we know disrupt hormones and soak into our skin and bloodstream. Absolutely no deet on children under 2 months of age per the CDC (this still seems wildly young. I’m 29 years old and avoid deet at all cost).
I recommend this Primally Pure bug spray. While their website says it is not for children under 1 year old, I suggest researching your other options before choosing a traditional bug spray for your little one. I have used this bug spray for over 2 years now! It’s worked in Thailand, the Bahamas, the swamps of Louisiana, down on the river in Alabama, and in the cow pastures of my parents' home in Mississippi.
The Last Word
Here’s the thing: the sun isn’t bad, it’s actually really good. Sunscreen isn’t the enemy, it’s actually a great protective tool. Like everything in life, there is a balance.
Finding the balance of sun exposure and how to pick the best products for your baby is up to you. I said it in the beginning and I’ll circle back to it now, you know your baby best. I trust you to make the rules for your baby that are a balance of health, safety, and fun.
Happy sunning, yal!