Sunny weather on its way always spells one thing for us – Beach Days!
However, as a new parent, you are probably wondering, is it appropriate to bring my baby to the beach?
It can be hard enough getting yourself sorted for a big day out in the sun, let alone when you have to think of all the things your baby will need too! The heat, the sand, the water – where do you start?!
It can certainly be one of the more challenging outings for parents, but with a little forward planning, a good packing list and some flexibility – like all things baby travel – you will have a blast!
Some of our fondest memories have been made at the beach with our babies and tots, even on cold blustery days, we love a beach trip. Let’s step you through here everything you need to consider:
This post is part of our baby travel advice and beach vacation series of blog posts and travel gear reviews
What to consider before taking baby to the beach
What age is appropriate: – We have taken our babies to the beach pretty much from newborn, short stints at a time with their heads protected in a sun hat, and in a carrier. There’s no set age limit but it’s commonly accepted not to take them into the water until at least 2 months old and their immune systems have had time to build up.
Time of Day: Babies’ skin is far more susceptible to the effects of UV rays than adults. It is best to avoid direct sunlight, rather than using baby sunscreen, until your baby is at least 6 months old.
If you are heading outside with your bubs under 6 months, try to avoid the peak sunlight hours 10 am to 4 pm. The best time of day to visit a beach with a baby is first thing in the morning (though check water temperatures) or late afternoon when the sun is setting and the UV rays are less harmful.
Length of time: Our suggestion is literally baby steps – don’t plan a full 8 hour day in the sun for baby’s first outing to the beach. Base it on weather conditions; if it’s very hot, aim for only a short morning or evening session to begin with, then build up their tolerance for being outside in the direct sunlight (don’t think that winter rays won’t burn as well!).
Hitting the surf with babies – Actually getting in the water with a baby, take cautious steps. Some babies like the comfort of being in a carrier and close to mum or dad for their first effort; some kids will freak no matter the size of the waves.
Try and find a calm beach or inlet for their first dip in the ocean, and dip in just their toes at first, until they feel confident enough to get wet all over. You may prefer to introduce them to water and being submerged in a swimming pool first which is more predictable than the surf.
Essential baby beach gear to invest in
Before heading to the beach with your baby for the first time, you’ll want to consider packing these essential baby items to make your day go smoothly:
Your baby’s first line of defence against UV rays is a full arm and leg sunsuit or rashguard. It’s essential that you have UV resistant material covering your baby under 6 months old as sunscreen is not recommended.
It is not advisable to take babies and toddlers into cold water as they simply cannot regulate their temperature the same way older kids and adults can; however if you’re worried about the water being a little nippy on their skin why not look into a baby/toddler wetsuit?
As we mention in our sun protection article, young babies should not have sunscreen applied at all. As they grow you can start using sensitive skin sunscreen. We recommend also looking for a reef-safe brand for use at the beach to protect marine life. Even if a sunscreen is ‘waterproof’, reapply after being in the water.
Baby Sun Hat
Babies’ heads are far more fragile than ours so a sunhat for the beach is essential. Sunhat brings lots of benefits more than we thought. In fact, we take two; one for when they are splashing in the water and a second for when they are dried up and playing in their beach tent. Far more than just a cute cotton pull-on, for a day at the beach with a baby, you need to consider UPF 50+ material, a wide brim for face and neck protection and a strap to ensure the hat will stay on your baby’s head.
Of all the sun protection gear, this is the one that’s most hit and miss. If your baby will wear them it’s a great way to keep their eyes protected from sun and sand; but not all babies will keep them on! They differ from normal kids’ sunglasses as they have a soft band to keep them attached to babies’ heads and are a closer fit. We had success using Baby Banz with baby no.3 but it really is potluck!
Baby Beach Tent
We used to laugh when we saw these pre-kids but we can assure you if you’re planning on spending any length of time outside, an anti-UV tent for your baby is your best line of protection against UV rays after their sunsuit.
Forget creating makeshift tents with Muslin clothes over strollers, honestly, for peace of mind, make the investment in a proper tent for sun protection on an exposed beach.
Reusable Swim Nappy
Your baby absolutely needs a different type of diaper when heading to the beach – if you’ve ever seen a normal disposable nappy get wet you’ll know what I mean!
Whilst there is a huge range of easy-to-use disposable swim diapers for babies and toddlers out there (we found Huggies Little Swimmers the best), we do recommend regular beachgoers and baby swimmers to invest in the far more enviro-friendly option of a reusable swim diaper.
Baby Beach Shoes
Once your baby is transitioning to toddling, a pair of baby beach shoes can be a great investment. Unlike a complete water sandals for toddlers, these are very soft, flexible-soled sock-style shoes that just provide that extra barrier between sharp shells and rocks for delicate feet taking their first steps.
A Baby Float Vest
Once you start hitting the water and your baby is gaining their confidence it’s essential to think about a flotation device – we all know it only takes seconds for a child to drown. It is difficult to find a life vest that fits a very small baby but look for something that actually attaches to your child, not a rubber ring.
Note there is a difference too between a life vest and a floatation device aimed at helping your child learn to swim. Most baby vests are only appropriate for 12 months+ but take a look at some of these aids, designed to help you transition from life-saving device to flotation and learn to swim.
A Waterproof Baby Carrier
Especially if you have a sibling to consider as well, a waterproof carrier or sling can be an ideal solution to ensure your baby can still play safely at the beach with the family. A carrier keeps them close to you which can be great for their comfort and confidence near the water too.
A Beach Bag
In addition to your normal family diaper bag, you may want to consider for the beach a nice family-sized beach bag. We would normally move our baby essentials such as diapers and feeds into a waterproof bag that sits inside the family beach bag. Always bring plenty of extra waterproof cloth bags to separate your wets and dries.
Baby Beach Hoody
Far from being gimmicky, a cute little baby beach towel hoody is the perfect cuddly investment taking your baby to the beach. Keeping them warm and dry after a dip, one baby beach essential you can have some fun with!
An Insulated Milk Bottle Carrier
Once again sand can be your enemy! Keep your bottles well protected with an insulated breastmilk carrier that will not only keep the right temperature in the heat but keep the sand away too.
Water Bottle or Sippy Cup
Depending on your baby’s age and stage of weaning, you should look to supplement their normal milk feed with additional water to prevent dehydration out in the sun. Either their usual milk bottle with water only or a basic baby sippy can be introduced from 6 months, in addition to their usual milk and solid feeds.
Bonus tip: Try pre-freezing some pouch meals, by the time they defrost they’ll still be lovely and cool for a refreshing treat.
An Inflatable Paddle Pool
Stick with us here! Yes if space will allow packing an inflatable kids paddle pool can be a great idea. This gives your baby a sand-free area to still safely enjoy a supervised splash. You can fill it just with a few toys or add a couple of inches of water – do keep an eye on the temperature and never, ever leave a baby unsupervised.
Baby Play Toys For the Beach
Digging, squashing, sifting – this is what sand play for little ones is all about. Once your baby is upright or crawling, make sure to throw in some fun extras for them to enjoy on the beach – though don’t go overboard, you’ve got plenty of years of dragging toys to the beach to come! Some fun basic ideas here for babies to enjoy:
If taking sand toys it’s always advisable to store these in a separate mesh bag from the rest of your beach gear.
Baby Beach Chair
A cute little extra to consider taking with you on a baby day at the beach is a portable baby beach chair. These come from little seats on the ground through to seats that look more like high chairs. We like the chairs that sit low to the ground and include a harness for baby as well as a removable tray for a sand-free (as much as possible!) place for your bub to snack and play.
Anything with a retractable sunshade is a bonus too, it may save you from packing a pop up baby tent.
A Beach Wagon
These sturdy wheeled wagons can be a much better bet for your trip to the beach than a traditional travel stroller; they’re simply not made for off-roading on soft surfaces. If you can access a beach wagon, it’s a wonderful way to get everything that we’ve mentioned here to the beach – baby included! (You won’t believe how much baby paraphernalia adds up!)
Alternatively, if you will be bringing a stroller to the beach, remember 3-wheels are always better than 4! Whilst most strollers can handle, hard, compact sand, you really need a specialised beach stroller if you’ll regularly be hitting soft sand. Look for strollers marketed as “all-terrain” – they come in both singles and doubles.
More to pack for a day at the beach
Got more family members to consider? As your family grows and you have tots plus a baby to tend for at the beach, head on over to our complete family guide to a day at the beach for all your beach packing considerations.
Other items to include in your baby beach bag not mentioned above:
- Several changes of clothes – wets can get soiled and need changing during the day, as well as a complete dry change for heading home.
- Extra towels – we always keep a few spares in the car too – it’s highly likely anything that’s been on the beach ends up sandy and wet; if baby needs extra drying and wrapping up on the way home it’s best to have at least something will be sand-free!
- A diaper changing kit – we like to keep a separate sand-free area for diaper changes, don’t forget diaper rash ointment (wearing wet bathers and abrasion from sand can extenuate this issue) as well as wet wipes in a small diaper kit.
- Garbage bags – think dirty diapers, wet wipes, never leave anything behind.
- First aid kit – accidents happen everywhere, it’s always wise to have stashed in your beach bag a small medical kit with the basics.
- Talcum powder – try a little bit of talc on your baby’s skin before hitting the beach, it works a treat keeping the sand off! Alternatively, even good old kitchen cornstarch can work.
Warning! Sand in baby’s eyes! This is the most common medical emergency babies can run into at the beach. It may not be a bad idea to include some emergency saline drops in your little first aid kit as a preventative measure.
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Winter beach vacation with a baby!
Remember, beaches aren’t just for summer! In fact, many of our favourite beach days have been in the depths of Australian winter – when our kids are on northern hemisphere summer break we head to the cooler climates Downunder to spend time with grandparents.
As soon we get a mild winters day (in fact, even when it rains!) we head to the incredible beaches on the beautiful south coast of Western Australia. We get crowd-free beaches and far less concerns about the harsh UV rays. Winters are a perfect time for beach exploration, playing in the sand, discovering rock pools and yes, our fearless warriors still want to swim in the frosty Southern Ocean!
In addition to the many beach essentials we mention above, a winter trip to the beach is more about battling against the cold than the sun (but you better believe especially in Australia those UV rays are still present). Don’t forget to consider:
- Taking baby in a carrier while you climb and explore around the beach to keep you hands free.
- Always keep some warm blankets on hand.
- If (when) baby gets completely soaked a fresh set of clothing to immediately change into.
- A bottle warmer, normally while one of us is changing bubs the other is getting the car and things warmed up. A plugin bottle warmer works a treat straight after a winter’s day at the beach.
And what we love most about a winter trip to the beach is how well our baby (and toddlers, and big kids!) sleep on the way home with a blast of fresh air!
Considering camping overnight? Our top tips for beach camping with kids.
More baby travel tips
We hope this guide has helped you confidently prepare for a big day at the beach with your baby. Do pop into our baby travel home page before you go. We have more detailed guides to:
Plus a huge list of baby travel product reviews from our tried and tested product series. We hope we’ve given you the confidence that you CAN keep seeing the world, even after kids come along.
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