Summer 2016: Sun Safety, Backyard Fun, and Zika Virus Concerns

With summer quickly approaching (the rainy forecast must mean it is, right?), I thought it was time to write about some of our summer essentials for Liam.

All moms are concerned about too much sun and mosquito bites, especially with the Zika Virus hype in the media lately. Hopefully this post will make you a little more comfortable traveling with your baby this summer… or enjoying a picnic or barbecue with friends!

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If there’s one thing we all know it’s that our little ones have the softest, most sensitive skins ever. It’s super important to moisturize and protect them from the sun! On top of that, “children under 10 are at a high risk for… eye damage from UV rays. And until about age 10, the lens of a child’s eye is clear, allowing greater solar penetration and thus greater UVR-induced ocular changes,” explains Adelaide A. Hebert, MD, professor and vice chair of dermatology, University of Houston (

If your baby is under 6 months, I suggest staying in the shade (with minimal sunscreen!) When we traveled to Saint Martin during winter break, Liam was 5 and a half months old. We went in the pool with a sunsuit/rash guard and large rimmed hat, and when we went to the beach, we sat under a canopy with him. For our trip this June, however, we do plan on catching some rays!

Here is a list of our favorite sunscreens and sunny day accessories for the summer months to come:

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I’m currently torn between the Alba Botanica Sunscreen Kids Spray and Babyganics Mineral-Based Sunscreen Spray. With a fidgety baby, I look forward to being able to spray him down quickly and efficiently. Liam doesn’t like to be held down very long, even after his bath when I lotion him up. This seems like the perfect solution!

The Alba Botanica Suncreen is water resistant for 80 minutes, is biodegradable, non-greasy, and free of parabens, phthalates, and synthetic scents.

The Babyganics Sunscreen is water resistant for 80 minutes and SPF 50+, contains no PABA, parabens, or phthalates. It is also non-allergenic and tear free.

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Rash guards / sunsuits are so convenient for sunny days… It gave me so much peace of mind knowing my little guy was protected from head to toe from the sun’s rays (especially in the sunny Caribbean!) Imagine how awful a baby sunburn would be? 😦 Sunsuits are a must for your baby’s summer wardrobe!

Old Navy has great ones at good prices like this one.


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Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 2.22.32 PMBaby aviators are adorable, I know, but think practical!

The best kinds of baby sunglasses are those with the straps (as pictured.) That way, you’ll be sure your baby won’t knock them off at the first given chance!

There are tons of fun (even polarized!) sunglasses on Amazon like these, by Baby BanZ.

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Think large when it comes to baby hats! You want to make sure they cover as much of your baby’s face, neck, and shoulders (if uncovered) as possible!

We love these, by iPlay, because of their wide rims and neck coverage.


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This is a perfect buy for every outdoor activity. My mom purchased one for us in Saint Martin and we not only used it at the beach, but also on the porch and around the pool. When picking a model, aim for breathable material and the pop up kind: no one likes packing up camping tents! I suggest buying one similar to this one.


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  • Use removable mesh window shields to keep direct sunlight from coming in through the windows of your car or invest in UV window film, which can screen almost 100 percent of ultraviolet radiation without reducing visibility.
  • Take walks early in the morning before 10 AM or after 4 PM and use a stroller with a sun-protective cover.
  • Sunscreen must be applied 30 minutes before going outside and reapplied every two hours or after swimming or excessive sweating.


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Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 2.32.05 PM.pngFloats are great because babies love to kick their little legs under water!

You want to make sure you invest in a sturdy one with a canopy (again, to protect your little one from the sun!) but that also has comfortable leg holes. This one (pictured) is all mesh and doesn’t irritate babies sensitive little thighs. There are tons of inflatable options (much easier to travel with) but do keep comfort in mind!

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Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 2.35.32 PMWe’re investing in one of these for our backyard. How fun?

Liam is such an independent player, so we’re so excited about filling it with plastic balls and his favorite toys… or even an inch or two of water for him to splash around in! If you’re thinking about getting one too, think of buying one with a canopy for extra protection. I love how this one is open and breathable… Perfect for hot afternoons! Looks like Mom and Dad will get some backyard chillaxin’ time too 🙂

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We got the idea for this activity during Gymboree class (post coming soon!) Liam had such a fun time that we knew we had to replicate the activity at home. All you need is one of these awesome parachutes and bubbles (I’ve written about the Gymboree bubbles before – they’re incredibly resilient!) You can either sit your baby on top of the parachute and blow bubbles, or sit your baby down under the parachute and wave the parachute over his or her head. Giggles guaranteed! Planning a party? This 20 foot parachute is a guaranteed success!

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Screen Shot 2016-04-14 at 9.16.08 AMI’ve written about this swing before but it’s worth mentioning again: this one’s a must for the beautiful summer days ahead!

Babies (or actually, all kids) love to swing. It’s in their DNA! I love how secure this one is… and that I had the same one as a kid 🙂 It just doesn’t get old.

You can get one on Amazon for a great price!


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This is such a fun summer purchase for babies! Whether it’s for your baby’s play room, the yard, or the beach, this tent folds and unfolds easily and comes with a little pouch for storage. We’re definitely taking this one with us on our trip to St. Martin! It’s made of breathable mesh and perfect for hot, summer weather! Jacone sells a variety of foldable tents/ball pits on Amazon for a great price.


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We didn’t get one of these yet (we’re waiting for the one year mark… *hint hint* first birthday gifts, friends!) but I love the idea of taking walks with this thing! I would’ve loved it as a kid. Liam loves stroller walks, but this buggy would make him feel even more in control.

You can buy one on Amazon for a reasonable price.



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As if there wasn’t enough for mamas to worry about… why don’t we add mosquitos and ticks to the equation? Summer months can be pretty brutal when it comes to bug bites so it’s always better to be prepared. We are traveling to the Caribbean this summer and with all the Zika craziness, we definitely want to be prepared.

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Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 2.52.47 PM.pngThese mosquito net covers are so great for the summer months. We invested in the stroller and pack and play cover for Saint Martin so we don’t feel like we have to be locked inside the house at all times.

5pm is mosquito time in the tropics, so it’s great to know we can still enjoy the sunsets with Liam, as long as he’s covered!


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Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 2.55.40 PMI love the Babyganics product line and feel very comfortable using their products with Liam. This mosquito repellent is made with 100% natural essential oils-Citronella, Peppermint, Rosemary, Lemongrass and Geranium (no DEET, parabens, sulfates, phthalates, artificial fragrances or dyes.)

I will definitely be purchasing one for our trip to Saint Martin and recommend all other Babyganics products (especially the foaming shampoo/body wash which we love! We’ve tried a variety of products and always seem to come back to this one!) 

I’ve also heard great things about Badger products!

My feelings about DEET products for babies? I don’t like it. Yes, I know that if it only contains 10-30% concentration, it’s considered to be “safe” for infants above 2 months of age. However, with many natural options out there (that don’t require you to take any special precautions), it’s just not worth spraying your baby with toxic chemicals. On top of that, babies like to put their hands and feet in their mouth (and rub their eyes constantly!) which makes me feel very, very nervous.

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  • Avoid getting repellents (even the natural ones!) in your baby’s eyes or mouth. While not chemical-based, the essential oils used in the products can sting.
  • If you’re going to sit outside with your baby in the early evening, make sure he/she is fully dressed in long sleeves, pants, and socks.
  • If your baby does get a bug bite, use ice and lavender essential oils to prevent swelling and scratching.
  • Never spray repellent directly onto the face. Spray it onto your hands, then apply it to the rest of the face.
  • Use spray repellents outside to avoid having your baby ingest the product.
  • Be sure to reapply often (every 2-3 hours).
  • Mosquitoes breed and multiply in places like fountains, gutters, and buckets. Do not leave sources of water lying around your backyard or porch.
  • Avoid scented lotions – insects are attracted to the sweet smell!


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The Zika Virus is transmitted to humans primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. The Zika Virus can be passed on from a pregnant woman to her fetus, causing a serious birth defect of the brain called microcephaly (and other severe brain defects.) Other problems have been detected among fetuses infected with Zika virus before birth, such as defects of the eye, hearing deficits, and impaired growth.

Women who are pregnant should not travel to areas with Zika, but if you do travel to one of these areas  If you must travel to one of these areas or if you live in an area with Zika, strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites and to prevent sexual transmission. Once a person has been infected with Zika virus, he or she is likely to be protected from a future infection.

Although Zika virus is a cause of microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects and has been linked with these other problems in infants, researchers are still gathering more information on the virus. (

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Though infants can be infected with the virus, it seems to manifest similarly to the way it would in adults with brief, mild flu-like symptoms. It is possible for the virus to cause a fever, rash, or conjunctivitis (pink eye).  Most individuals infected with the virus are asymptomatic and suffer no long-term consequences, The New York Times reported. Temporary paralysis is a rare complication.

Babies/kids should be covered (long sleeves, pants, socks) when playing outdoors. Crib/stroller netting and repellent use are also effective ways to prevent mosquito bites.

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Johanna Riehm teaches in the department of Communication and Media at Manhattanville College and in the department of English at Mercy College. She teaches courses in the history of communication, public speaking, and social media, as well as creative and technical writing workshops. Johanna’s work has been featured in Graffiti Literary Magazine, The Write Place at the Write Time, The Bangalore Review, Cactus Heart Press, and the LaMothe Review. She is working on her first longer work, a creative nonfiction novel called We Carved Our Names in Tamarind Trees.

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