7 Amazing Benefits of Sunlight For Newborn Babies

7 Amazing Benefits of Sunlight for Newborn Babies

It’s normal if you want to keep your little ball of wonder protected at all times; we get you. A newborn baby’s sensitive skin needs to be protected from environmental factors, including heat and moisture. But what if we tell you that, in moderation, natural sunlight is beneficial for your little munchkin? Keeping your baby away from direct sunlight is a good idea, but exposing your little one to mild sunlight – especially in the morning – is beneficial in many ways. UV rays come with great health benefits when properly made use of. So, let’s learn a little bit more in detail about how sunlight can benefit your baby and what precautions you must take while implementing sunbathing on your baby.

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Health Benefits of Sunlight for a Newborn

From preventing rickets in babies to promoting good sleep, there are tons of benefits of sunlight for babies. Let’s check them out one by one, shall we?

1. Produces Vitamin D

Vitamin D is one of the best by-products of sunlight exposure, and it helps bones absorb calcium, thereby strengthening them and preventing rickets in children, which is a global health problem. An adequate supply of vitamin D to the infant’s body also helps prevent low birth weight in children, birth asphyxia, and deafness due to premature birth, and possibly inhibits the growth of some cancers as well. The immune system works efficiently, and the body is protected from diseases.

A 15-30 min exposure to sunlight in the morning twice or thrice a week is enough for the essential vitamin D requirement. Also, it is important to keep babies under 12 months old away from direct sunlight when UV levels reach 3 or above, i.e., between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. as the UV Index is high during this duration.

2. Better Serotonin Levels

Sunlight is known to augment the production of serotonin when babies receive it in the necessary quantity. Serotonin, which is often called the ‘happy hormone’, boosts the feeling of happiness and security. Serotonin regulates sleep and digestion in babies.

A baby laying in the rocking chair on the grass in the sunlight

3. Enhanced Insulin Levels

Receiving sunlight from an early age can help prevent conditions like diabetes to a certain extent. Though it is not the only facilitator of good insulin levels, it is definitely an added advantage as the vitamin D in the body helps manage insulin levels. A healthy diet and exercise during the child’s growing years can be extremely beneficial in keeping diabetes in check.

4. Manages Jaundice or Yellowing of the Skin

Sunlight helps break down bilirubin – a yellowish compound that occurs in the natural catabolic pathway – so that a baby’s liver can process it more easily. The unchecked growth of bilirubin can cause the yellowing of a newborn baby’s skin. Exposing your baby to morning sunlight for 15 to 20 minutes, partially undressed, can help prevent mild jaundice.

5. Higher Energy Levels

When a baby is exposed to sunlight, it helps regulate the production of melatonin in their body. Melatonin levels in the baby can impact their sleep patterns, which are of utmost importance in the newborn’s early years. Sunlight causes a dip in melatonin levels and increases serotonin, thus increasing energy levels.

6. Better Melatonin Synthesis

An adequate supply of visible sunlight to the eyes helps the human body produce melatonin which is a key pacesetter for many of the human body’s circadian rhythms, thus reducing the risk of seasonal affective disorder, inflammation, cancer, and auto-immunity. Sunlight-induced melatonin also suppresses UVR-induced skin damage, keeping your skin healthy.

7. Better Sleep

Humans are naturally programmed to be outdoors while the sun is shining and sleep at night. When they are exposed to sunlight or bright artificial light in the morning, their nocturnal melatonin production occurs sooner, and they enter into sleep more easily at night. Moreover, the melatonin rhythm phase advancement due to sunlight has been found effective in fighting insomnia.

Tips to Gain Maximum Benefits From Sunlight for Your Baby

A baby in the stroller in the country side

A 2017 study conducted by the University College of Medical Sciences, New Delhi showed that exposing babies regularly to sunlight has the ability to give them sufficient vitamin D levels to keep them healthy. The study found that exposing a baby as young as 6 weeks to around 30 minutes a week can give him adequate vitamin D levels to aid in his optimal growth and development. Research also suggests that exposing even 40% of the baby’s body to sunlight can do the trick. However, interestingly, the study showed that the ideal time for a sunbath for the baby is between 10 am and 3 pm! However, if you live in a place that is generally warm or is tropical, consider the more popularly accepted timings of 7 am to 10 am to expose your little one to sunlight.

Now that you know newborns and sunlight share a therapeutic relationship, here are a few tips to maximize its benefits:

1. Pick the Right Time

Make sure your baby is exposed to sunlight for 10 to 15 minutes between 7 and 10 am to draw maximum benefits. An hour after sunrise and an hour prior to sunset is considered the best time to expose your baby to sunlight. Since the baby’s skin is sensitive, exposure to sunlight should not exceed 30 minutes. Prolonged exposure to UV rays can damage your baby’s skin membrane, causing redness, burning, and irritation.

2. Partially Undress

It is important that the baby’s entire body, including the chest and back, receives equal attention. However, it is also important to not completely undress your baby since they have sensitive skin. So, ensure that your child isn’t fully clothed and not fully undressed. Shield your little one’s eyes to avoid any chances of eye damage.

3. Choose the Right Location

It is not necessary that your baby’s sunbathing is carried out in a completely open space. Open a window that can stream sunlight in, or place the baby in a room with natural sunlight. If it is windy, it is best to keep the baby indoors to avoid dust or other foreign bodies from affecting their eyes.

4. Premature Babies Need Attention

In case your baby is premature, do not expose him to sunlight during the initial few weeks. The baby may not be able to adjust to the warm temperature, and this could prove unsafe for him. Preterm babies need a stable body temperature and thus should be kept away from direct sunlight in the initial period. Babies within a healthy weight range can be placed near a clear window.

5. Sensitive Skin Needs Care

If your baby has sensitive skin, check with your doctor if it is ok to expose him to direct sunlight. Otherwise, you may damage the baby’s skin as it could dry the skin, leading to rashes, peeling or general irritation.

A mother and her newborn child laying in the sun

6. Watch Body Temperature

Any abnormal increase in the baby’s body temperature due to prolonged exposure to sunlight should be a cause for concern. The baby’s body and brain function can be affected by high temperatures, so the duration and temperature have to be monitored carefully.

7. Use Time Wisely

While your baby is enjoying his time in the soft sunlight, you can use this opportunity to connect with the baby. You can massage the baby lightly with baby oil to give him additional protection against skin problems. Caressing the baby creates a feeling of security and warmth, and promotes good health. Make sure you speak to the baby the entire time and build a foundation for future communication between you and him. This well-utilised time has many physical and emotional benefits for both, the baby and the mother.

Precautions You Need to Take While Holding a Baby in Sunlight

In one study it was found that sun exposure in the afternoon of 30 minutes per week for 16-18 weeks (starting from 6 weeks) over 40% exposed body surface can achieve sufficient vitamin D (20 ng/mL) in infants, at 6 months of age. However, several recent reports call against the exposure to direct sunlight in infants, that they should be protected from the direct sun as much as possible for at least 6 months from birth, and vitamin D requirements should be met through diet and fortified foods rather than deliberate sun exposure. Hence, it is important to consult your doctor for detailed guidance.

While the benefits of sunlight for babies are many, there are certain precautions parents must dutifully take while exposing them to sunlight. Here are some to note:

  1. Keep infants under 6 months of age from direct sunlight exposure.
  2. Avoid direct sunlight exposure to your baby when the UV levels reach 3 or above, i.e., from 10 am to 4 pm as the UV Index is high at this time.
  3. If you are exposing your baby to light sunlight, undress the baby, but not completely.
  4. Use dermatologically-approved baby-safe sunscreen for babies above 6 months.
  5. Ensure not to expose your little one’s eyes the direct sunlight as it can damage the eyesight of the baby.
  6. Do not keep your baby under the sun for a prolonged time. A 15-20 minute exposure is sufficient.
  7. Sunbathing can dehydrate your baby. Therefore, breastfeed them after the session.
  8. When outside between 10 am and 4 pm, use a stroller with a sun protective cover.
  9. If the sun feels too stingy during the safe time duration, avoid taking the baby out. Parents should maintain the proper timing when exposing the baby to the sun.
  10. Hold your baby in a specific position so that their body absorbs the tender sun rays well and does not enter the eyes.
  11. If your baby feels extremely dehydrated, has eye problems, or seems uneasy after sun exposure, consult your paediatrician immediately.

Now that you understand the powerful physical and emotional benefits of sunlight exposure for your little one, it is time to take action! You will have to consider your baby’s skin condition and general health before you do so. Make sure you join your baby for this glorious exercise whenever possible. Sunlight is available in abundance for most of us, and we should utilise it to the maximum for health-related benefits. However, if you feel confused or it seems like a dilemmatic decision, it is best to consult your paediatrician before exposing your baby to the sunlight.

References/Resources:

1. Bedaso. A, Gebrie. M, Deribe. B, Ayalew. M, Duko. B; Knowledge and practice on adequate sunlight exposure of infants among mothers attending EPI unit of Aleta Wondo Health Center, SNNPR, Ethiopia; BMC Research Notes; PubMed Central; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6440125.; March 2019

2. Mead. M. N.; Benefits of Sunlight: A Bright Spot for Human Health; Environ Health Perspect.; Environ Health Perspect.; PubMed Central; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2290997/; May 2008

3. Cranney. A, Horsley. T, O’Donnell. S, et al.; Effectiveness and safety of vitamin D in relation to bone health; Evid Rep Technol Assess (Full Rep); PubMed Central; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4781354/; August 2007

4. Teotia. S.P. S, Teotia. M; Nutritional bone disease in Indian population; Indian J Med Res; PubMed; https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18497435/; March 2008

5. Mahendra. T. K, Vivek. T; Roll of vitamin D prevention of deafness. Indian Journal of Otology; https://journals.lww.com/ijoo/Fulltext/2012/18020/Role_of_vitamin_D_in_prevention_of_deafness.1.aspx; April-June 2012

6. Holick. M. H; Vitamin D Deficiency; The New England Journal of Medicine; https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/nejmra070553; 2007

7. Creo. A. L, Thacher. T. D, Pettifor. J. M, et al.; Nutritional rickets around the world: an update; Paediatr Int Child Health.; https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27922335/; May 2017

8. Jindal. A. K, Gupta. A, Vinay. K, Bishnoi. A; Sun Exposure in Children: Balancing the Benefits and Harms; Indian Dermatol Online J.; PubMed Central; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7001416/; January 2020

9. Jindal. A. K, Gupta. A, Vinay. K, Bishnoi. A; Sun Exposure in Children: Balancing the Benefits and Harms; Indian Dermatol Online J.; PubMed Central; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7001416/; January 2020

10. Meena. P, Dabas. A, et al.; Sunlight Exposure and Vitamin D Status in Breastfed Infants; Indian Pediatrics; https://www.indianpediatrics.net/feb2017/feb-105-111.htm; December 2016

11. Sun Safety for Children and Babies; UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals; https://www.ucsfbenioffchildrens.org/education/sun-safety-for-children-and-babies

12. Fact sheet – Sun protection and babies (0-12 months); Cancer Council Australia; https://wiki.cancer.org.au/policy/Position_statement_-_Sun_protection_and_infants_(0-12_months)

13. UV Index Scale; United States Environmental Protection Agency; https://19january2017snapshot.epa.gov/sunsafety/uv-index-scale-1_.html

14. Sun and heat protection for babies and kids; Pregnancy, Birth and Baby; https://www.pregnancybirthbaby.org.au/sun-protection-for-babies-and-kids

Also Read: 

Sunburn in Infants 
Homemade Sunscreens for Babies
Ways to Keep Your Baby Cool in Summer

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