Q: How do I make sure my baby stays hydrated during these hot summer months?
A: You are right to be concerned about keeping your baby hydrated during this time of year. One of the ways that we cool off our bodies is by sweating. Adults have around 2 million sweat glands distributed throughout their body. Babies and children have fewer sweat glands. This makes them vulnerable to becoming over heated sooner than an adult would. Their ability to regulate their temperature is also not fully developed. A high body temperature is much more serious in a baby or child than it is in an adult.
A good place to begin in keeping your baby comfortable during the summer is making sure you dress her appropriately. Look at what you are wearing and dress your baby similarly. If you are wearing shorts and a T-shirt, your baby should be comfortable in a similar outfit. Darker clothes retain more heat than lighter-colored clothes. A hat on your baby is a must in Florida. It not only protects your baby's head from becoming too hot, but it also helps protect your baby's skin from harmful sun rays.
There are special sunscreens made for babies. Check with your baby's pediatrician about which one is best for your baby. Sunglasses are hard to keep on a baby, but they are very important for protecting your baby's eyes. Many babies have blue eyes during their first year of life. The bluer the eyes the more susceptible they are to damage from the UV rays.
Fluid intake is important. If you are breastfeeding your baby will receive plenty of water in the breastmilk. Human milk adjusts to the baby's needs. The important thing is to feed your baby whenever she clues to you she wants to eat. If your baby is ready for solids, provide your baby with foods that have a lot of water. Watermelon and the other melons are great for snacking during the summer.
If you are going to be outside during the day, stay in the shade. It will still be warm but the direct heat of the sun will be diminished.
Never ever leave a child in a car, not only during the summer but any time of the year. Thirty to 40 children die unnecessarily each year from hyperthermia because they were left in a car.
Signs of dehydration and hyperthermia are:dry mouth, no tears when crying, concentrated urine in the diaper, a baby or child that is difficult to wake up, high fever, or skin that is gray and mottled. If your child has any of these symptoms, call your pediatrician for their advice on what to do for your child.
Be alert for your baby or child's need for fluids, stay cool in the shade or in air conditioning, dress light and enjoy this special time of the year when the living should be easy.
Katie Powers, R.N., is a board-certified lactation consultant and perinatal educator at Manatee Memorial Hospital's Family BirthPlace. Her column appears every other week in Family & Friends. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.