Now that winter is finally breaking (yay!), it’s time to think about hats and sunscreen again. What I’m about to say might be a little unconventional, but we get our kids to wear sun protection even in the middle of winter, and I’m not concerned about vitamin D.
My husband gets a molecheck every year. So when people tell me that children need to be left in the sun to get their vitamin D, I respond by telling them about the basal cell carcinomas he had removed at his last body scan.
So our kids have to wear their hats and sunscreen year-round. This is because it’s really about getting them into the habit of wearing a hat every time they go outside, as we do. It took me about six months to train them to stop pulling off their hats as babies.
Even though hats are part of the school uniforms here, I’m still surprised when I see adults walking around without a hat on sunny days. I discovered a brand called Toshi that makes cute wide-brimmed hats in four sizes that go from newborn to school-age, but even these are surprisingly difficult to find in the shops and online.
Of course vitamin D is important. But most of the cases of vitamin D deficiency I have heard about are in seniors who lose their mobility through injury or illness and can’t spend as much time outdoors. Maybe if you live in a country with short summers you might have to worry about it, but not here in Australia where we have the highest rate of skin cancer in the world. My children play outside every day, and they have a lifetime of incidental sun exposure ahead of them. Most of the UV damage is done in the first 20 years of life.
The current advice is that babies under six months should not be put out in the sun at all. After that they should wear a toddler formula sunscreen. I used to resist putting sunscreen on in cloudy weather, until I realised that I didn’t like the greasiness of regular sunscreen. So I bought a roll-on sunscreen which is much nicer to use and fits in my handbag (see the picture above).
I think the idea of airing young babies out should be treated as another example of the unhelpful ‘helpful advice’ that new parents are told. Besides, I’m just glad I can get my kids to do as I say and put on their hats at this age. When they become teenagers, they won’t listen to a word I say and will go off and do something really stupid like this:
And then I’ll really have something to worry about!