How to buy the best baby sun shade
By Olivia Howes
Our advice on what to look for when choosing a baby sun shade, so you can buy the best for your baby's pushchair.
A good baby sun shade will prevent your child getting the sun in their eyes, provide welcome shade and protect from harmful UV rays.
But you also need to have easy access to your baby or toddler when required, and you'll want something that packs down compactly so you can store it in the buggy or changing bag when not in use.
What do I need to know about baby sun shades?
You can buy sun shades for your pushchair or buggy, as well as car-seat covers for infant car seats.
Some baby sun shades have a dual purpose – as well as blocking out the sun, they create a darkened environment to help your child nap free of distractions.
Some just provide an extended buggy hood, while others completely cover the front of the pushchair.
They are normally fairly universal and will fit most brands of pushchair or infant car seat. Some manufacturers such as iCandy and Bugaboo make versions for their own products, so you’ll need to check that they’ll fit other pushchairs.
They usually attach using simple methods such as hooks or Velcro straps.
See what parents thought in our baby sun shade first look reviews.
Baby sunshade safety
A sunshade’s primary purpose is to protect your child from the sun and its harmful rays. Therefore, make sure you pick a shade that offers a good level of UPF protection. This should normally be 50+ for the main shade although, if there’s a mesh lower section, this often offers lower protection (to allow it to be more see-through).
UPF ratings are applied to clothing that gives protection from the sun, and measure both UVA and UVB protection.
It’s very important that the fabric the sunshade is made from allows air to flow through. Covering a pushchair with a towel or thick cloth could be dangerous, especially for very young babies, as an enclosed pram may become very hot. The same applies to covers or shades made of non-breathable fabrics.
Keep checking on your baby to make sure they are comfortable and the temperature inside the pushchair is not too hot, and don’t face the pushchair into the sun.
Head to our Best Buy pushchairs reviews to choose the best pushchair for your baby.
If you choose to use a baby sunshade on your infant car seat, please do bear in mind that babies shouldn’t be in their car seat unnecessarily and shouldn’t nap in them for long, ie when not travelling in the car. And make sure you can still keep an eye on your baby.
Do sun covers cause pushchairs to overheat?
You may have seen stories in the press about the possible dangers of covering your pushchair to shade your baby from the sun. There have been scary headlines such as : 'Why covering your baby's pram with a blanket could put their life at risk'.
These stories go on to say how putting a blanket or towel, or even a muslin cloth, over your pram might seem like an easy way to shield your baby from the sun on a hot summer’s day, but then carry a warning that covering a pushchair could cause your baby to overheat – increasing the chance of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
No sun shade: vulnerable to harmful UV rays
So what are you to do? Without a shade or cover, your child is left vulnerable to harmful UV rays and sunburn. The NHS advises keeping babies under six months completely out of direct sun and young children’s delicate skin must be protected from the sun when UV levels are high.
Our pushchairs sun shade testing
We decided to test for ourselves whether the temperature inside a pushchair raises when the pushchair is covered up and if the temperature raises to the point where there’s cause for concern about covering your pushchair. We also wanted to discover whether certain materials pose more of a risk of overheating. Here's how we did it and what we found:
Our pushchairs overheating test: what we did
We carried out our testing on an incredibly hot day when the temperature at the start of our test was 33C and increased up to 34.8C. We compared the temperature under five different types of the most commonly used pushchair covers – a muslin, towel, fleece blanket, a Koo-di sun/sleep cover and a SnoozeShade – and a pushchair with the hood up, across the space of an hour.
We recorded the temperature at the start and then every 10 minutes behind each cover within the pushchair's seat area. In conducting our tests, we used identical pushchairs for each cover, and set the seat up to be parent-facing, with the hood catching the sun.
What we found
As you can see from our graphic below, all the cover types that we tested showed an increase in temperature within the seat area from the moment we added them.
As the time went on, the interior of pushchair with the hood fully up recorded the least increase in temperature, but we'd expect this as it wasn't fully covered. This was followed by the pushchair covered with the Snoozeshade. The interior of the pushchair covered with the towel got the hottest – nearly six degrees more than the pushchair with the sunshade fully up.
Safe baby sun protection
Ultimately what our test shows is that if you are going to cover your child's pushchair up in the sun, you need to be aware that whatever cover you use, it is going to make the temperature inside the pushchair increase straightaway. And that if you leave your child in a covered pushchair in the sun over time, the heat inside the pushchair will continue to go up.
But of course, we know that mums swear by pushchair covers for blocking out the light and helping babies to sleep in their pushchairs during the day, and that specially designed products, such as the Snoozeshade we used in our test, have also been designed to protect babies from UVA and UVB rays. Indeed, using a sunshade responsibly can be safer than not using one at all.
Here are our experts' tips for keeping your baby safe when covered up in the sun:
Check on your child regularly
Cara Sayer, founder of SnoozeShade, says: 'Sun protection on hot days is vital as we know that five instances of sunburn can increase your skin cancer risk by 80%. The critical thing on a hot day is that if parents have to be out then they check regularly on their child’s wellbeing, encourage regular drinking of water, get into the shade if possible and ideally use a sunshade that has been designed to block UVA and UVB safely.'
So the most important thing to remember is that regardless of what you’re covering your pushchair with, you should never leave your child in a covered pushchair without constant checking and supervision.
Take care which direction your buggy is facing
A spokesperson for Koo-di echoed these sentiments: 'Our Koo-di Sun & Sleep Shades have been designed to provide an effective block for UVA & UVB rays, to keep your child well protected on a sunny day. We would however never advise leaving your child in their buggy facing the sun, because any sun shade in that position will create an increase in temperature under the sunshade. We recommend positioning the buggy in a shady spot to create maximum protection from the heat of the sun.'
Don't leave them in the sun too long
Experts advise against keeping babies out in the sun for too long anyway, as babies can't sweat, so they can often suffer heat stroke much more quickly than an older child or an adult. And babies can get dehydrated more quickly.
According to Jenny Ward, director of services at the Lullaby Trust, “it is important to make sure that your baby is a comfortable temperature – not too hot or too cold. The chance of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is higher in babies who get too hot. The optimum temperature for the room or area where your baby sleeps is 16-20°C.”
She warns that,'every baby is different, so while it’s important to be informed about overheating you need to check your baby regularly to see if he or she is too hot. Feel the baby’s tummy or the back of their neck (your baby’s hands and feet will usually be cooler, which is normal). If your baby’s skin is hot or sweaty then this means they are too hot.'
Keep them hydrated
She adds, 'it is also important to ensure that your baby has sufficient fluids if bottle-fed, by offering cooled, boiled water to babies under six months or just water from the tap for babies over six months. Fully breastfed babies don’t need any extra water until they start eating solid food.'