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A newborn baby’s sensitive skin needs to be protected from the harmful effects of the sun, including heat and moisture. 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 for the baby.
Health Benefits of Sunlight for a Newborn
1. More Vitamin D:
This is one of the biggest benefits your baby will get on exposure to sunlight. Our body needs vitamin D; and to create it, the body requires a minimum of 15 minutes of UV rays every day, depending on the baby’s skin tone – darker-skinned babies require more time in the sun, but it should not exceed 30 minutes. Vitamin D aids in absorbing calcium, which in turn strengthens bones and teeth. The immune system works efficiently, and the body is protected from diseases.
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.
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, undressed, every day, can help with mild jaundice. A severe case, however, will need more attention.
5. Higher Energy Levels:
When a newborn baby is exposed to natural sunlight, it helps regulate the production of melatonin. Melatonin levels in the baby can impact his 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.
Tips to Gain Maximum Benefits From Sunlight for your Baby
A 2017 study conducted by 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 for 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! Ours is a tropical country, so sunlight is aplenty – if you live in a fairly cooler climate, the above-mentioned time can be considered. However, if you live in a place that is generally warm, consider the more popularly accepted timings of 7 am to 10 am to expose your little one to sunlight. Just remember this simple rule of thumb: The larger the surface area of the body exposed, the better it is for your baby.
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. Use Minimum Clothing:
It is important that the baby’s entire body, including the chest and back, receives equal attention. So, ensure that your child isn’t fully clothed. Shield your little one’s eyes if possible to avoid any chances of 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 the 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 his eyes. Your baby can bask in the sunlight through a clear glass window just as well.
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.
6. There Are No Age Barriers to Sunbathing:
Did you know the process of bone formation happens until one’s teenage years? Since vitamin D is vital for bone formation, exposure to sunlight is mandatory at all ages. For newborn babies, it helps in managing bilirubin levels if it is done in the first few weeks. Remember that you also need vitamin D as much as your baby does, so don’t hesitate to expose yourself to sunlight when doing so with your baby!
7. Pre-Bath Cleaning Can Be Detailed:
Your baby can receive his daily dose of sunlight before he has his bath. This will help you to clean areas that are overlooked, like the folds of the stomach, thighs, feet, and areas behind the ears.
8. 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.
9. 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.
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.