Babies at the Beach

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Baby eating sand

April 2005

I am currently living by the beach, and frequently take my 13- month-old baby down to the water. She really enjoys playing in the sand - unfortunately, she also likes eating it. I don't mean the occasional lick of her dusty fingers, she actually shoves the sand into her mouth by the fistful. She also goes on all fours and lowers her face into the sand to get a mouthful.

She swallows it in quantities that make her poop all grainy and sandy the day after a beach outing...

I have tried to say no and gently pull her away or distract her attention, but it doesn't seem to help. I feel that overdoing it on the 'no' might make it seem like a game to her, particularly since I cannot enforce the 'no' and still let her play on the beach.

I am a bit concerned as to what the sand will do to her digestive system, and try not to imagine what other substances may be mixed into the sand. I am also wondering if this is just curiosity and will eventually fade by itself (it's been going on for a few weeks now), or whether I need to really do something about it. And if so, what? Sand-lover's mum

my daughter did the same thing- I always thought it was so bizarre & downright gross, but apparently it is pretty widespread. feels good on the gums. tastes salty. gets a rise out of mama. it was getting really bad- she would get horribly diaper rash from pushong out the sand-filled poop. I was worried about what was in the sand. we simply stopped going to the park for a while. after about a month, I would try park trips once a week or so & simply leave after she put sand in her mouth 3 times. I found that if she put sand in her mouth 3 times, it would always become 30 times, so I just decided not to put ourselves in that situation anymore. my daughter is now 2 1/2 & rarely does it. I think it is just a phase they outgrow. good luck, virginia

Some kids just love to put stuff in their mouths, especially salty stuff. Get a really big blanket or towel. When on the sand say what sand is for (not what it isn't for) and focus on the positive is possible (sand is for makings hills with. Sand is for smooshing with our feet. etc. Use shovels and pails for play, but not stuff that looks like food utensils or food plates. When she puts it in her mouth, if it works you could try to say that food is for our mouths and that sand is for our feet and hands. You could try doing tactile things with hands and feet to show her how fun that is. Good luck, daughter was a real pain to have on a camping trip at that age as she kept trying to eat anything of interest on the ground..she liked eating grass, too. She's since outgrown that urge. Mom

I general, I agree with the idea of letting her eat a bit. Some cultures purposely eat dirt because it contains minerals, though it seems unlikely that your daughter suffers poor nutrition in the U.S. Maybe it's just a fun texture to her. Only thing I can suggest is to make sure she is very full before going to the beach, offer her a bottle often and then try to not make a big deal of it. It does pass with time, by the way, but I think you're several months away from that happening. Summer 2006 should be no problem for you, but this year, you're going to have grainy poops! anon

My kids are teenagers now, but they both ate sand as toddlers, when they were TEETHING. I guess sand must feel just right on sore gums. I found this particularly disturbing in city parks we frequented because of the risk of ingesting cat fesces! After a few weeks of this, I would just pick up my kid and take him or her home, at the first mouthful ingested. That was their intro to basic consequences for unacceptable behavior! The good news is that this stage doesn't last very long and the beach will be there for your family for a long, long time. Good luck. Teen issues are more complex, and those teenagers are awfully heavy to carry! mom with lots of tread

My daughter, now 4, was an enourmous sand eater as well. There was no dissuading her. I eventually let it go, and tried to monitor the quality of the sand around her. Also I intentionally limited our trips to the beach and sometimes just never put her down at all. She must have been two + years old before she stopped eating it. Her first complete sentence was ''I like dirt''. She has survived it all and I might add that she has a very hardy immune system. Christina

you may want to rule out any nutritional deficiencies, as this can be a sign. if you're not giving formula make sure you are covering all your bases--not just multivitamins, but things like iodine, zinc, etc.

My daughter also ate a lot of sand (and this was at Totland in Berkeley, surely not the cleanest sand in the world). She too had gritty poops. Our wonderful pediatrician gave me good advice. ''Pretend she isn't yours.'' A lot of other moms at the park got pretty uptight but it seemed to work for me. No obvious health problems and at age 19 she no longer eats sand. (I don't remember the phase lasting very long.) Lucky her (and you) to get to spend time on the beach! Enjoy it! Sally

You shouldn't ''try to say no'' - you do say NO and mean it! As a mom who volunteers in my children's classrooms I see far too many children who have been given the upper-hand by their parents. Children want limits, and they need you to be the parent. So don't hesitate, even though she is the darling of your life. A firm NO might result in tears, but she'll love and respect you and the other adults in her life more as a result of your taking charge of the situation from now. An Older Mom in Berkeley

Babies are quite oral at this age, loving to explore their world sensorially. But you might also check into any potential mineral deficiencies. ''Pica'', Latin for magpie, a bird that eats everything, is the eating of non-food items. The literature points to iron deficiency as one underlying reason, although other minerals could be low. Nori

Aug 2002

My almost 16 month old son has a decided taste for sand. This is very problematic at the beach since we are completely surrounded by sand. I thought at first that he would stop when he realized it didn't taste good, but this was several months ago and with each visit he repeats this behavior. The real problem is not the eating so much as it seems to give him diaper rash problems in a day or so. Does anyone have any suggestions other than the usual vigilance and ''No'' and ''Yuck'' dissuading comments? Thanks. Margaret

My 16 month old is just like yours. The only thing I found that helps is to make sure she's eaten and to put a pacifier in her mouth. She tends to not think about her mouth as much if it's full! Sand does create a really bad rash...I know. Kellie

There's an eating disorder called ''pica'' (eating non-food substances habitually) that is sometimes traced to a mineral deficiency. It may be something to discuss with your pediatrician to identify a nutrition deficiency. Lack of iron often turns up. Nori

I don't think that there is a way to keep a baby from eating sand--except to never let them near sand. Obviously that is not an option. Take heart, eventually, he will stop. I don't know any 2 year olds who still eat it. Maybe some barrier cream on the day after the beach will help the rashes. Bene

Taking baby to Hawaii - sun and water safety

Jan 2003

We will be taking our nine month old to Hawaii next month and will probably want to do some water activites with him. What would you more experienced parents suggest in terms of some kind of flotation device- is there a well made life vest or blow up thing that you would suggest we purchase. Also I am a little concerned about my fair skinned baby in terms of the sun- is there a more potent infant safe sun block other than the 45 spf Baby Block that you have used and seems to work well? Or should I not risk it and get lots of light colored, light weight long sleeved outfits?? Thanks Juliette

I don't think that you can take enough precautions against sunburn -- especially in Hawaii... the sun is so so so strong. For suncreen, I highly recommend Little Forest's and Mustella's Baby Sunscreens which utilize a combination of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to assure a natural defense against ultraviolet exposure by reflecting the sun's rays instead of absorbing them. They are also naturally water resistent... (even kind of hard to wash off!) Our rather translucently white son has survived numerous sun vacations without a single burn.

When applying the sunscreen, don't forget the tops of their ears, the back of their neck and even their scalps! In addition to all of these precautions, while in Hawaii, we try to keep our son in long sleeves and a hat -- even in the water.

In terms of water safety, most experts feel strongly that NO floatation device should be used as they can lull parents into a false sense of security. However, if you do wish to use a floatation device or will be in a situation where one is required (on a boat, for example) then your child should wear a properly fitting coast guard approved life jacket. (You should be able to find one at West Marine... locations in Alameda, Oakland, Richmond and San Francisco.) Aloha, Connellan

We've been to Hawaii several times with our baby. Every baby is different, but at nine months, your baby probably can't spend a very long time in the water so I would recommend not buying anything, and just holding the baby yourself. We bought a lifevest for our baby at 6 months and it was a waste of $25. It holds the baby flat on their back, which does not make baby happy. At 6 months, our baby was not impressed with the beach -- big bathtub... what's the big deal? At 12 months, she liked it better but was a little scared. Didn't want you to let go of her (so we couldn't use a floatie anyway). At 18 months, she likes the beach a lot, can dig in the sand and can splash at the shoreline by herself. On this last trip we showed her (with constant supervision) how to use a child's innertube -- it was very difficult at first. But she still got scared if the waves were too rough. I think at nine months, if you really wanted a floatie, the best thing might be one of those inner tub! es! with a seat in it. But you can buy these all over Hawaii, if you really want one.

Regarding the sun. It IS VERY STRONG in Hawaii! The best thing to do is to keep reapplying sunscreen, especially after swimming and perspiration. SPF 45 works well for us (I like the Banaboat sprayable kind-- fast to apply), but you have to remember to put it on every day, not just when you go to the beach. You get lots of sun exposure just walking around, going to the car, etc. in Hawaii. Use a hat if your child will wear it. Probably the best thing to do is to limit your time at the beach or in the sun (say 1 hour) but go more frequently, if you can find a convenient enough beach to go to. Our baby was always tired after an hour anyway (very GOOD nap days!). Have FUN! Marguerite