If you've seen the Which? story
Have you seen this image circulating on social media?
Perhaps you even shared it yourself? I know you will have done so with the best of intentions, thinking that you are helping other parents. However, there’s so much more to the story and this graph alone does not represent the full facts.
Websites know that they can get lots of traffic if they scare parents. And as most of us are scared all the time about the health of our babies, that’s pretty easy to do. However, many of these clickbait stories are either light on facts or lacking in scientific data.
This graph, and others like it, have been shared on websites and social media platforms over the past couple of years to scare parents into believing that their baby will overheat in their pushchair if they cover it with anything. It ignores the very the real danger that their child might get sunburn, the result of which can initially be heat stroke and, later in life more worryingly, skin cancer. It takes just one instance of bad sunburn in childhood to increase the risk of melanoma by 50%.
As someone who has spent the last 11 years working to keep babies safe from the sun, it is very worrying to think that parents might not shade their baby effectively from the sun when there are good quality, scientifically tested safe sun covers available.
The Lullaby Trust
A charity that advises parents on how to avoid Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or cot death, the work of the Lullaby Trust is incredibly important.
Sometimes, parents tell me that they are using advice from The Lullaby Trust as a reason not to shade their baby from the sun.
Let’s analyse what they actually say:
“Babies’ prams and buggies should not be covered with blankets, cloths or any cover that prevents the air circulating.”
Now, please note they don’t say do not cover your pram. They advise not to use a blanket or a cloth that prevents the air from circulating. You can, however, use something that allows air to circulate. Do you see the distinction? A lightweight muslin or a mesh sunshade allows air to circulate while keeping you baby safely protected from the sun.
They also say:
“Using a cover also creates a barrier between parent and baby, which is risky as parents won’t be able to see if their baby is having difficulties or monitor their temperature easily.”
This means you need to find a sunshade that has zips and openings that make checking on your baby quickly and easily.
Can the Lullaby Trust endorse products?
No, as a charity, the Lullaby Trust is not able to recommend any products. Sadly, while this means they can advise against unsafe products and actions that might harm your baby, they are also unable to tell you about safe, well-tested products.
This can be particularly confusing on social media, as they can’t answer when you ask a question like: “Is SnoozeShade safe?” Their answers may scare some parents into thinking they are saying a product is not safe, when actually, they are simply not allowed to endorse any product
The NHS recommendations
By contrast, advice from the NHS is very clear.
“Babies less than 6 months old should be kept out of direct sunlight. Their skin contains too little melanin, which is the pigment that gives skin, hair and eyes their colour, and provides some protection from the sun.”
“Older babies should also be kept out of the sun as much as possible, particularly in the summer and between 11am and 3pm, when the sun is at its strongest. If you go out when it's hot, attach a parasol or sunshade to your baby's pushchair to keep them out of direct sunlight.”
This shows the clear link between the sun’s rays and the danger of sunburn.
The Which? test
In 2017, consumer association Which? put out a press release that claimed to have recorded the temperature inside pushchairs that had been covered with various products. At the start of their article, they state their methodology:
“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 up the seat to be parent-facing, with the hood catching the sun. We did the test on a very hot day – the ambient temperature at the start was 33°C and increased to 34.8°C during the time we were recording.”
Now, this is confusing, because Which? emailed me on 24th May 2017, so we can assume that that the tests were done in May or earlier. But the highest temperature reached in May 2017 in the UK (as reported by the Met Office) was 29.4°C.
The highest temperature reached in the UK in the whole of July was only 34.5°C.
Even if they had tested the previous summer, the highest temperature reached was 34.4°C in August 2016. Still not as high as the 34.8°C Which? reports.
If the ambient temperature reading can’t be trusted, how can the results? Was their equipment faulty?
When I saw the draft of the article, I was horrified, as its main premise was that covering a pram made it hotter. When I pointed out the lack of scientific validity to the testing, they amended their article to read:
“Is it safe to cover a pushchair?
“When used properly, and with constant supervision, yes. In fact, it could be unsafe not to shade your pushchair if you’re out and about in the hot sun.”
For many years, I resisted creating tests like this because they would not have been backed by scientific testing methods.
‘Scientific standards’ mean that a test is repeatable, so you should make tests many times and then compared the results to offer an average. As an example, I can’t just claim SnoozeShade has UV protection. I have to go to a reputable testing laboratory and it is tested according to agreed international scientific standards.
I have my fabric tested for air-permeability, which shows (according to acknowledged worldwide industry standards) how much air flows through it. My fabric is classed as ‘highly air-permeable,’ which means air passes easily through it.
As we all know, hot air moves upwards. This is called convection and science dictates that cooler air replaces the space left by the hot air.
Recreating the Which? test
Digital thermometers have improved significantly since 2017, so I bought myself a few and decided to do a Which? like test.
They were the opposite of Which’s. I covered a pram with the SnoozeShade, then checked the temperature inside and outside the pram (the inner thermometer was suspended to be where your baby’s head would be, not touching the pram which might give an inaccurate reading). In my tests it was consistently one to three degrees cooler inside.
I also tested a pram covered with a blanket – and as you’d expect, this did get hotter inside, as woollen blankets are dense and not air permeable.
Though these spot tests are not rigorous, I have now repeated these tests a few times - each time the result is the same. The telling result was when I tested SnoozeShade for Car Seats on an infant car seat and left it in blazing sun on a still, windless day. It still stayed cooler under the SnoozeShade by a few degrees. You can watch that video here on my Instagram IGTV channel. I also created a video of one of my pram tests as well, click here to see it on IGTV.
I feel confident that my claims have been justified. SnoozeShade can’t cool air like an air-conditioning unit but its air-permeability means the temperature inside the pram will not be higher than the outside temperature AND most importantly, the sun will not burn your baby’s delicate skin.
I thought you might like to see some of the comments from parents below who have had real life experience of using SnoozeShade products in hot weather.
I do hope this reassures parents when faced by social media stories telling them that they are ‘bad’ parents if they shade their child safely from the sun when it’s hot. You’re doing a great job!