If you are anything like me, you know there are really healing energies offered by the sand and salt water of our gorgeous beaches here in Tampa Bay. We live where many people vacation, and there is a certain type of serenity that comes from the gulf breezes and gentle lapping of the waters. With this serenity for you, our beaches provide a lot of new stimulation and excitement for your baby. It is a wonderful opportunity to share a new adventure with your little one, but there are some things to keep in mind when planning a trip to the beach with your baby or toddler. These are our tips on how to keep your little one safe, and make sure you all have a great day.
1. Have flexibility.
Be okay with your “day at the beach” turning into your “30 minute mini excursion” if needed. Try not to create too much pressure around spending the entire day at the beach. Sometimes babies and toddlers can get over-stimulated by all of the new sights and sounds. This can lead to a fussy or tired baby. It is best not to over do it. Try to enjoy the ride, whether it is an all day event, or simply an opportunity to get out of the house and get some fresh air. Remember, this is about sharing a new experience. Keep it fun and simple, and you won’t be disappointed.
2. Find shade and remember the sunscreen.
Sunscreen is important for your entire family while at the beach, whether the sun is out or not. For all the members of your family over 6 months old, apply sunscreen about 15 minutes before hitting the beach, and reapply often, especially after swimming or sweating. The EWG Annual Guide to Sunscreen is very useful for tips and sunscreen safety. For babies under 6 months, skip the sunscreen and keep her protected with a sun hat, an SPF full body rash guard, and a canopy or umbrella. While cooling down in the water, (supervised of course), my son always loved to play in the water with his shaded float for added protection.
3. Bring snacks and plenty of water.
Having plenty of water to drink is extremely important. We dehydrate and overheat at the beach very easily as adults, but your baby has an even greater risk. Early signs of dehydration include; dry, hot, and red skin. If you are breastfeeding, be sure to do so often. Breastfed babies and formula fed babies under the age of 6 months do not need supplemental water as long as they are offered the breast or bottle frequently.
When I was breastfeeding my son at the beach I brought a nursing cover so I would feel comfortable and still be able to nurse frequently. Having a cooler with ice to keep pumped breastmilk, or formula fresh is a great idea. My son and I still enjoy picnicking on the beach, so we pack sandwiches and easy handheld snacks to enjoy. Remember, don’t feed the seagulls, they can become very aggressive towards food. Keep an eye on your little ones while they eat to keep them safe from these beach food thieves!
4. Grab a large beach blanket.
Your baby is going to want to move around a bit, so providing a safe soft area is ideal. We loved the Beach blanket/beach pool combo, which is reversible and allows for playtime and cool down time on those hot summer days.
5. Bring water and safety gear.
My son has never been a fan of sand between his toes. I know, crazy, right? This sensation is not always easily adapted to by our babies. For my son, water shoes really helped him be more comfortable and happy. They don’t necessarily keep all of the sand out, but they do keep the shards of shells and other potentially sharp objects found from irritating baby’s soft feet.
If you plan to venture to the water’s edge, a baby life jacket can help give you peace of mind. I always preferred the vests that included a pad for my son’s head in case he were to get fatigued. This could help support his head and keep it out of the salty waters. Don’t forget reusable swim diapers! They significantly help prevent the spread of waste-causing bacteria, and they don’t swell like regular diapers, making it easier for your little one to enjoy the fun.
6. Go to the beach during off-peak hours.
Taking your baby to the beach during off-peak hours can be a huge benefit. The sun’s rays are at their most harmful and powerful between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm. This also tends to be the most popular time for people to venture out. To dodge the crowds and those super powerful rays, avoid peak hours. Instead, go earlier in the morning when the sun has not yet reached its hottest point, or in the afternoon as the crowds start to dissipate. These are the perfect times to take your little one to the beach and start creating some memories.
7. Dress in bright colors.
Let’s face it, regardless of the time of day, beaches are crowded, and at times there is little to no visibility from your spot in the sand to the water. While your baby may not yet be mobile, it is still a great idea to wear bright colors that are noticeable on the beach so you are both easy to spot. This is especially helpful when you have toddlers who are able to run around.
8. Bring a helper.
It’s always fun to enjoy the beach with others. Invite a friend, family member or even your postpartum doula with you to the beach so you have some helping hands when needed. Your doula will be happy to hold your baby while you reapply your sunscreen or take a relaxing dip in the water.
9. Don’t forget the sand toys.
If you have a toddler or older child you’ll definitely want to bring a couple toys and tools for them to play with in the sand. It’s amazing how much fun a child can have digging in the sand with just a shovel and a bucket. They don’t need too much though, let them use their imagination too.
10. Take pictures!
Remember to live in the moment and let the beach provide the therapy it is so well known for… but it’s also fun to capture those special and magical moments to keep forever.
11. Cool down the car.
We all know our car is like a hot oven when we leave the beach, or really anywhere on a hot summer day. Our sweet babies are even more sensitive to this heat, especially after a day of playing in the sun. Starting your car and getting the air conditioning pumping before placing your baby in their carseat is a great idea. If you are like me, and your car doesn’t have air vents for backseat riding passengers, there are options like Noggle to force air to the back seat and keep your baby cool. This is great for more than the beach, and works with any vehicle.
Now that you and your baby are ready to enjoy a day of fun, the hardest part may be deciding which beautiful Tampa Bay beach you want to visit. I hope whichever beach you end up at, you and your baby have a wonderful adventure!
By: Alisha Vought