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Summerbaby

Taking Care of a Newborn Baby at the Beach

By Amalah

Amalah is currently on maternity leave. In her absence, however, she’s just as tethered to the computer as ever, and will be using this space to ask you — our intrepid Advice Smackdown Commenter Crew — questions. What’s been baffling her, as a parent, you may wonder? Why, she’s so glad you asked!

Dear Internet Wan-Kenobi,

Soooo…you may have heard that I up and had a baby a couple weeks ago. His name is Ike. He is delicious. And while he is my third baby and I SHOULD be pretty used to most of this newborn stuff by now, he is my first baby to be born during the warm, summer months. (My other sons were born in late September and mid-October, respectively.)

So I’ve stocked his wardrobe with onesies, shortie rompers and sun hats, invested in lightweight baby carriers and blankets, and already perfected my eyeroll at strangers who gasp at the sight of Ike’s sockless baby feet despite the 97-degree weather. I know not to put sunscreen on him until six months, but have already enjoyed a couple nice afternoons with him outside in a shady spot.

But I’m still totally preemptively stressing about later this summer, when we are committed to taking a family vacation at the beach. What in the WORLD am I supposed to do with a tiny semi-newborn baby at the beach?

I almost canceled the trip completely, but alas, that’s just not fair to the older kids, who are used to at least two trips a summer (we have family that retired there; we stay for free with them), and who look forward to it like nothing else all year. The beach! The ocean! The indoor pool! The bunking together in tiny condo-sized guest rooms and eating sandy peanut-butter sandwiches every day!

So…yeah. Should I simply resign myself to staying indoors with the baby the entire time, save for maybe the occasional hour or so in between nursing sessions that I could leave him with other family members? Or should I suck it up and strap him on my back and trek him to the beach, sand and sun and saltwater be damned? I’ve read online that a baby younger than two months should be kept out of public pools or the ocean due to immunity concerns…and of course Ike will be ONE WEEK shy of two months around the time of our first trek to the beach next month. (Oh, and my husband is pushing for a second trip in August, too.)

Has anyone taken a beach-centric family trip with a very young baby? What did you DO the whole time? What advice would you offer, or gadgets/gear/whatever would you recommend we drag along, if anything? Because right now I’m guessing it’s gonna be a week of me, the baby, an indoor couch and my Kindle. But I’d love to be more than slightly wrong about that.

Love and baby spit-up,

Amalah

More Summer Parenting Advice:

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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Jeannie
Guest
Jeannie

I live on the coast and had a baby last April; my then four year old still wanted to go to the beach. I just kept the little one in the shade, and she was perfectly happy to lie on a beach blanket and hang out while he played. Yeah, no sunscreen and no water play, IMO. But two month olds would probably be just fine hanging out.  If there’s limited shade, there are all kinds of little baby tents you can find. I preferred to find some trees, because then it’s cooler all around, but a little tent would… Read more »

Jessicawp
Guest
Jessicawp

I am so glad you posted this. My newest baby boy was born in March so he will be less than six months all summer. Not great planning for the older child who wants to be outside all day. I asked the pediatrician about sunscreen and was told that if I HAVE to I can use one with a physical barrier, not chemical one. So far we have been using shade. I also bought the baby a swim suit and swim shirt and hat with SPF 50, because it can’t hurt even if he doesn’t get in water.

Sonia
Guest
Sonia

A tiny beach cabana (on amazon for less than $50), plus a rash guard and sun hat for the baby should let you stay on the beach with Ike while the other boys play.

Maura
Guest

I was just at the beach last week with 9mo twins and a 5mo (among other children of varying ages). The moms brought a baby tent and the twins stayed in there a lot, even to nap. There was also a tent-shade thing so that the babies could be out, but the moms and babies were under serious sun cover. I think this might have been the one. It closes up into a small carrying case (no more than 1.5 ft diagonally) http://www.amazon.com/Schylling-Infant-UV-Play-Shade/dp/B0014I4TYA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=toys-and-games&qid=1308927958&sr=1-1 Hope this helps!

Maura
Guest

Also, the infant wore a long sleeved shirt (that looked like surfing shirt material) and a hat and wee baby sunglasses, so no sunscreen was necessary.

Susan
Guest

Beach Blanket (or old sleeping bag opened up) with a beach umbrella and you’re good to go. I took at least one of my four sons to the beach when they were 5-6 weeks old. Plopped him on the blanket with an umbrella and we were good to go. I didn’t miss any beach time that year because of the baby. 🙂 Have fun!

jodifur
Guest

We went to the beach all the time with Michael when he was a baby b/c my parents have a house there.  I highly recommend beach tents.  I’d let you borrow ours but we sold it when we moved.  He can nap in them while the other kids play.

http://www.amazon.com/Push-instant-Beach-Tent-Sunshelter/dp/B002A966Z2

Also, call me when you are down there.  We might be there at the same time, and you and I can hang at my parents house.  With wine.

Meghan
Guest
Meghan

I brought my born-in-April baby to the beach many times, and I would pop her in a sling, with a wide-brimmed hat on her, and sit under the umbrella the whole time. Didn’t bring her in the water, but we go to beaches with rough waters. 

I am fair-skinned myself so usually I’d be sitting under the umbrella anyway. 

Have fun at the beach!

Therese
Guest
Therese

My son’s first trip was to the beach was when he was 7 weeks old. We just put him in a onesie or diaper only with a sun hat and then layed him in a baby cabana (http://www.toysrus.com/product/index.jsp?productId=11205957&prodFindSrc=prodCrossSell). I couldn’t find the one we have but there are a ton of choices at Babies R Us. I will say that we put the baby cabana under a larger tent that my family was using because it didn’t keep the sun completely out. Anyway, he just laid there and I could get him out when it was time to nurse and… Read more »

Laura
Guest
Laura

Great suggestions – I love the tent idea! FYI – My doctor (under new guidelines of the Canadian Dermatology Association) said that while staying out of the sun completely is best, sunscreen for babies under 6 months is okay. I was also really concerned about my baby (now 3 months) getting too hot, but doc said as long as they are still feeding every 2-3 hours and not overdressed, babies actually handle the heat better than older children and adults. So no need to feel cooped up indoors – have fun!

Sheila
Guest
Sheila

I was listening to Diane Rehm the other day when she had a whole hour about sunscreen. The pediatrician on there said that guidelines have changed recently and now they say it’s fine to use sunscreen even on new babies. So while I like the little tent ideas, you can probably go ahead and lather Ike up as well.

Kira
Guest
Kira

Yes, yes, YES to the baby tents.  A nice alternative to the baby tent, if you have a baby who is… less inclined to be out of Mama’s arms… might be a beach canopy with a thicker-type beach blanket (we use an old quilt). That way, you too can sit under the canopy and nurse Ike when you need to.  Also, I would recommend investing in one or two SPF shirts in Ike’s size, just as an added layer of protection.  But like bathing suits, you don’t need to have more than a couple.  You can just wash them in… Read more »

Roxeanne
Guest
Roxeanne

This website has proven to be an invaluable tool when we travel with our son. http://blog.travelswithbaby.com
She has great tips for all types of vacations, and all ages of children. You don’t have to buy all the books and such, there are great tips on the site.

Ally
Guest
Ally

We live very close to the OBX and are there at least once a week. I have a newborn and ran into the same problem. One thing we do is make sure (when possible) we are near a pier. It provides shade and I can sit close enough to the water to be near the big kids. I can also stay in the shade while I nurse the baby and no one gets too hot. I also bought a beach tent. We have gone through many and the Lands End one is by far the best. Also tons and tons… Read more »

Lisa
Guest

We used an infant cabana (you can find them for around $50 at BabiesRUs and Amazon), a  long sleeve rash guard and swim shorts.  

Linden
Guest

My advice is different from the others who commented so far.  I’d stay home and send your husband to the beach with the two older kids.  As a first-time mom, it seems like taking care of a newborn is pretty challenging, but as a third-time mom, you know that having just a newborn is actually pretty relaxing.  Also, Ezra and Noah might really enjoy having some time to hang with Dad.  I know it’s probably not the most PC thing, but especially if you’re going to be going back in August, it might be the best for all of you…

Jen
Guest

I’ve been trying to sort out this very thing for our born-in-March baby who’ll be under 6 months all summer, and found a great post at iVillage: http://www.ivillage.com/sunscreen-safe-babies/6-n-136823

Apparently sunscreen is okay for wee babies in very moderated doses, and only on small areas of their bodies (hampers their already impaired ability to perspire) when shade/UV clothing isn’t adequate.

Between that and a portable bassinet with a UV canopy, hopefully we’ll be set. Enjoy the beach!

Christy
Guest
Christy

I do not recommend the whole baby tent thing, I took my daughter to the beach when she was 4 months old and she about died from heat exhaustion in there. I think a big canopy with open sides you both can sit under is the best option.

JCF
Guest
JCF

We live in Santa Monica, and our third was born last July. He went to the beach for the first time at a week old. It is frequently cloudy and cold, especially in the mornings and he hung out in the Moby Wrap. Otherwise, we have a half tent thing that pops up and down in about 60 seconds. Muslin swaddling blankets are also great for shade and cool air flow. Have fun!

tasterspoon
Guest
tasterspoon

Regardless of doctor’s permission I’d be concerned the baby would eat the sunscreen and that it would attract sand like a magnet. (But good tip on baby powder to brush sand off with. Or cornstarch if you are anti-talc.) Hm, and that the baby would eat the sand, for that matter. The current issue of Parents magazine reviews a number of sun shades/tents. I bought the IKEA igloo, it was ten dollars. But despite having a mesh airhole at the top it gets pretty warm in there, poss b/c it’s white? I do like the idea of a tent with… Read more »

tasterspoon
Guest
tasterspoon

If I were to go to the beach with one who couldn’t sit up, I might bring her baby bathtub so she had a sand-free place to recline and spritz her with water.

tasterspoon
Guest
tasterspoon

And I’d bring a little seat WITH A BACK for me for nursing purposes. Slouching on a picnic blanket is for chumps.

Christy
Guest

THIS – http://cgi.ebay.com/Fisher-Price-Bounce-Play-Acitivity-Dome-and-Bed-Tent-/220803608242?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item3368ebaeb2. My daughter was a december baby, but my little guy just turned 1 last friday – so I hear you about having no idea what to do with the summer baby thing. We borrowed one of these fisher price pod contraptions from a friend and he LIVED in it everywhere we went. It folded up small and flat; it was a little bit raised so I didn’t need to worry about sand or grass blowing in on him; it had a half sunshade on one side and mesh on the other so that it wouldn’t get too… Read more »

Erin
Guest
Erin

I live on the HOT FL beach and with TWO summer babies I think most of the advice above is right on. Buy a tent/playpen that is UV/SPF protected to put him in, maybe a one piece UV/SPF suit (similar to this http://www.solartex.com/servlet/the-479/Baby-Sun-suit-with/Detail ) and UV/SPF wide brimmed hat. Keep him in the shade, make sure he nurses often to keep him hydrated. Do remember even under the shade he won’t be fully protected because some forget that the sun reflects off the water and sand so easily. You can still be burned under an umbrella! As an extra precaution… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

I saw a mom at the beach this summer with her tiny one, and she just brought a little baby pool along with her.  She and the baby would lounge in the little pool under an umbrella the majority of the day.

JenVegas
Guest
JenVegas

Yes, I’m with Laura above. My doctor said that sunscreen on our under 6 month old was fine when we brought him down to New Orleans earlier this year. That being said, I’d bring a tent too because it will be nice to be able to get out of the sun anyway.

Liz
Guest
Liz

Baby tent and my pedi said sunscreen was ok because alternative was worse than sunscreen. Good luck

Erin
Guest

For what it’s worth, my friend’s pediatrician told her that sunscreen is fine under 6 months as long as you spot-test for irritation first. Apparently that 6-month warning is on there solely because no one wants to submit their newborn to be tested to make sure it’s okay to use on newborns. Which makes total sense.

BMom
Guest
BMom

I just want to echo the spot-test for irritation comment. We had a lovely outdoor reunion party when B was about two months old – all day at a county park kind of thing. I was worried about the sun, and had heard it was okay to use some sunscreen… so put it on without testing. Turns out B has pretty sensitive skin and the sunscreen really bothered her. We all lived, but it wasn’t the most fun day we’ve ever had!

KimC
Guest
KimC

We live on the Alabama gulf coast, and try as we might, there is just no getting around the sunshine here. I asked my pediatrician about the sunscreen bit, and her opinion is that sunscreen is way better than sunburn. And my youngest was playing in the water at a mere 6 weeks, but not for very long. So of course, hats and lightweight long sleeves, and a shady area, but it will probably be okay to put a little sunscreen on a wee one- after the aforementioned spot test. (the spray ons cause terrible rashes until we wash them… Read more »

Laura B.
Guest
Laura B.

Last summer, I had my baby in big hats and loose long-sleeved shirts. It doesn’t get really hot here, but I was concerned about the sun. I decided a small bit of suncreen (back of neck and hands and feet) was better than risking a burn. We also hung out in the shade. The couple of times I did go to the beach, I brought along the fly from our backcountry tent. Lots of ventilation and shade, big enough for us to hang out in. It was a pain when the wind came up though. My friend had summer twins,… Read more »

Shannon
Guest
Shannon

We took our fall baby to Florida when she was 7 weeks old.  She was/is our only one, so I didn’t have logistics of older kids to worry about, but we just went down to the beach for about 1-2 hours at a time and parked ourselves under the umbrella.  I’m very fair-skinned so I would have been under there all day anyway.  We actually brought down her vibrating bouncy chair and set her up in that in the shade, or kept her in the stroller, or I held her in my lap/nursed while I just sat in a beach… Read more »

sarah
Guest
sarah

When I took my 3 month old to the beach with my mom & her lady friends (all mothers) none of them brought up any of these issues! As a first time mom, I was super receptive of their wisdom, and I feel like they would have said something, but their kids are older, so maybe these are newish concerns? Anyway, I used one of those pop-up half tents with him. And we used the lightweight zip up swaddlepod anyway, so I’d zip him into that, and take that time to nap on the beach with him. Get a screw… Read more »

Kirsten
Guest
Kirsten

A large beach tent or cabana that is big enough for the adults to sit under too is a worthwhile investment, and even better if you send the men-folk down in the early AM to stake you spot and set up the tent. Then they can help with carrying more stuff for the kids when you all com down later. We have this one, it was also great for coraling one year old twins, http://www.onestepahead.com/catalog/product.jsp?productId=537311&cmSource=Search this is good also, my parents have one at their beach house http://www.amazon.com/Swiss-10-Foot-Smart-Shade-Canopy/dp/B000N56R72/ref=sr_1_13?ie=UTF8&qid=1309130083&sr=8-13 We also brought a small baby cabana that has its own zipping… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

My parents are teachers and have a house near the beach so we spend a lot of time there during the summer. In fact, we probably spent more time there the summer after my son was born (on May 2nd) than any other summer besides the ones I lived and worked there for the season because my mom would take the baby so I could sleep.  Seriously, just keep him in the shade and he’ll be fine. Make sure you have a real umbrella that actually blocks the UV rays; a lot of the cheap ones are only SPF 10… Read more »

Cheryl
Guest
Cheryl

I took my 7 week old to the beach last 4th of july. Of course it was a million degrees every day and the beach was unbearable for everyone. We had a few nice days and he slept in the beach cabana (it had screen sides, so the breeze came through). When he was awake, I dug a beach chair for him in the sand and covered it with a towel. It was just like his boucy seat. He could see everyone and he seemed to love it.

I spent the unbearable days on the couch with my laptop. Totally boring.

Victoria
Guest
Victoria

My daughter was born in June and spent a good amount of her first summer at the beach – on the beach. We went there when she was three weeks old, two months, two and a half months…and every time she stayed out on the beach with us all day. We bought a large beach umbrella with a high SPF, an umbrella sandscrew and a ring sling again with UV blocking. She just stayed in the sling or on a blanket under the umbrella wrapped in a towel for naps. She also loved laying on my chest under a light… Read more »

Danielle
Guest
Danielle

Hey – My sun is a May 22nd baby and we brought him to Puerto Rico when he was 2.5 months old.- it was HOT but we did make it to the beach every day for a few hours. I agree with the PP’s about: shade/cabana, chair with a back to nurse in, infant rash guards and sun hats, etc. My pedi also said that sunscreen for under 6 months is okay, but I think lots of shade is safer. I also like the idea of a small pool/baby bathtub for cooling off under the umbrella – we brought my… Read more »

Liz
Guest

I took my little one to Florida at 8 weeks and then Hawaii at almost 4 months.  Slightly crazy, but my sister was getting married in Hawaii so what choice did we have?   It actually ended up being really great and a pretty easy time to travel.  I definitely recommend the beach tent thingies.  The one we got blocked the UV rays as well since the kiddo can’t wear sunscreen.  In Florida, I just took her bouncy seat to the pool and set it in the shade while I relaxed in a chair (she was our first so I… Read more »

Valorie
Guest
Valorie

Lots of great, common sense advice here.  I just wanted to add a link to a portable shade option i got last year.  They are GREAT… and useful for more than just the beach.

http://www.costco.com/Browse/ProductSet.aspx?Prodid=11540960&whse=BC&Ne=4000000&eCat=BC|111|22101|293&N=4010170&Mo=16&pos=5&No=7&Nr=P_CatalogName:BC&cat=293&Ns=P_Price|1||P_SignDesc1&lang=en-US&Sp=C&ec=BC-EC11000-Cat22101&topnav=

Have fun with your noshable family!

Lauren
Guest

I’m so excited that you asked a question I, a lowly FTM, can answer!!!! Oh, how you’ve made my day! My first baby was born in March, and when he was a mere 9 weeks old, we took him to the beach! Here’s what we learned: newborns love ocean sounds. Newborns hate cold water. We spent the majority of our time under an umbrella by the ocea nursing, napping, and occasionally looking around. We brought a big quilt to put down under our towels to keep icky sand of the baby, and he wore a rash guard that had a… Read more »

Kandra
Guest
Kandra

I live on Tahoe & my daughter was born in Feb. When she was itty bitty we were outside nearly everyday under the sun. We also loved the uv protected beach tents & big umbrellas. But when we had her in the bjorn for a beach walk or hike we just carried a regular small black umbrella to keep her in the shade. Her sensitive ezcema-riddled skin kept me away from using any sunscreen and the umbrella worked great. Have fun!

Sally
Guest
Sally

Our doctor OK’d a mineral based sunscreen and encouraged us to bathe our three month old every evening we applied it. He also reminded us not to marinate her in the lotion. We had an umbrella but I really wished I’d had a tent. It would have been a great place for the baby to nap and for me to nurse and would have provided great protection from the sun. I’d say invest in a sun shelter that could protect the whole family. It’s a great way to cool off and eat a picnic lunch without trekking back to where… Read more »