No matter how welcome glorious summer days can be for us grown-ups, the heat's no fun if you're struggling to keep babies or small children comfortable and cool. Here are our tips to stop your little ones from wilting and sweltering away:
Out and about on hot days and holidays...
Seek shade whenever possible – it sounds obvious, but walk on the shady side of the street where there is one and ideally park your car out of direct sunlight if you can - even with aircon, it'll mean it cools down quicker when you get back in.
Pram parasols are all but useless in our experience unless you plan on staying in one spot (i.e. not actually pushing the pushchair anywhere! Kind of defeats the purpose really...) As you move around you're forever having to adjust the parasol's position. Instead either drape a large muslin cloth over the pushchair canopy and down or invest in one of those dark mesh all-over sunshades such as Outlook's or Snoozeshade. However, be especially careful to check that the inside of the pram or pushchair isn't getting too hot - this can happen quickly.
If your baby's pushchair or car seat fabric gets hot and sticky, consider covering it with a muslin cloth or invest in a breathable pushchair/ car seat liner or sheepskin with slots for the harness straps (the latter looks warm for wintry days but should actually be pretty cool in summer).
Official advice is to keep babies under six months out of direct sunlight which means they shouldn't need sunscreen. Once they're crawling or toddling though, they'll no doubt venture into the sun more - use a gentle baby-friendly sun cream that'll be suited to sensitive skin. Green People's Organic Children Sun Lotion is pricier than most but unusually for an organic sun cream, it doesn't leave a chalky residue.
Dressing small children in UV protective clothing when they'll be out in the sun is often much easier than slathering on suncream every couple of hours all over wriggly, uncooperative toddlers as it cuts down on exposed areas. Get them a hat with a wide brim or flap down the back to cover their neck. Conversely with younger babies who are lying in a pram in the shade anyway, skip the hat as that way they should be able to lose more heat through their heads.
Carry a water spray, such as Evian's to super-cool your kids or make your own with a small spray bottle from the chemist. Keep it in the fridge for a few hours before you leave the house and give everyone a refreshing spritz from time to time. Fabulous for over-heated heavily pregnant mums-to-be too!
For older ones (and adults too), we love the trick of putting small bottles of water in the freezer overnight before a day out - it thaws later on, leaving lovely icy cold water!
Keep curtains or blinds shut in the daytime when the sun is glaring onto windows – it prevents heat build up and is why homes in hot countries traditionally have only small windows or shield theirs with shutters.
Sometimes opening windows in the middle of the day doesn't actually help – only do so if it's cooler outside than in, or if there's a breeze. Open them only in the mornings and evenings instead.
If you do open windows, put a fan near the window to draw cool air inside - this is said to be more effective than having it blowing in the middle of the room. Try popping a bowl of ice in front of the fan too.
Open several windows to get air circulating around the house, and ideally open some both upstairs and down if you have a two floor home.
If you don't have a garden for a paddling pool, run a cool (not cold) bath for your baby or young children (they're unlikely to complain about extra bath-time fun!)
Create a 'cold water bottle', using a hot water bottle which you place in the fridge or freezer for a while. This will probably feel irritatingly cold against a baby's skin and cause tears but you could put it on her sheets before she goes to bed.
Dress babies for bed in only a nappy or if you feel they need another layer, a sleeveless vest should suffice.
Lay a cool, damp muslin or flannel on a baby's tummy or forehead to help cool her down.
Use 100% cotton sheets, rather than poly-cotton, on babies' and older children's mattresses. If it's very warm in the room they're sleeping in, either a thin summerweight (0.5tog) baby sleep bag or just a well-secured single cotton sheet will do.
Remove any cot bumpers as this will allow better air circulation.
Breastfed babies shouldn't need extra water - it will fill their tummy when they really require milk for its nutritional value.
If you bottlefeed, you can give a small amount of water from time to time between feeds but keep an eye on this so it doesn't interfere with their milk consumption.
Both breast and bottlefed babies might need more frequent feeds when temperatures rocket.
When you should worry...
Our bodies are designed to cope with heat (and especially more than a British heatwave can throw at us!) but being sufficiently hydrated is key, especially for babies.
Warning signs of dehydration in infants to look out for are:
- a sunken fontanelle (the soft spot on a newborn's head)
- fewer wet nappies than usual
- few or no tears when they cry
- darker yellow urine
- being sleepier than usual (although a little more lethargy is normal in high temperatures).
If you're concerned, call your GP to seek further advice.
For more information on dehydration, see the NHS website.
More on Parentdish: Dehydration in babies and small children
Do you have any clever tips for keeping your children cool?