As a new mom, one of the first things I wondered about was how often to bathe my daughter. Aside from the fact that the task of bathing a slippery newborn baby was daunting and a bit terrifying, I also wanted to know if I was making a bad decision if I did not bathe her that often.
Would it be necessary to give her a bath every day? Would I dry out my daughter’s skin if I bathed her too much? Or should I do it every few days? Once a week? Would it be terrible and disgusting if I waited that long?
Like most new moms, this was just one of the many questions I had about the proper way to take care of this precious new little person who had blessedly arrived in my life. So, as I often do when I have a question, I began to do some research.
To Bathe or Not to Bathe: That is the Question
Information I found online was a little conflicting, as a number of parents feel they need to bathe their babies every day as part of a bedtime routine. Other parents may feel pressured into doing the same.
However, medical studies show that babies, especially newborns, do not need a bath every day. Newborns are obviously not yet crawling around and getting into all kinds of dirt and things that can make their skin sticky or stinky.
Bathing a young baby every day can actually make their sensitive skin become dry and break out with rashes. In fact, until a newborn’s umbilical cord falls off, The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends baby should only be given a sponge bath or wiped down with a soft cloth while laying on a soft blanket, towel or changing pad.
After the cord falls off, it has been suggested that baby baths are only necessary up to three times a week.
Why You Might not Want to Bathe Your Baby Too Often
“Baby skin is incredibly sensitive and has not developed a strong barrier to maintain its moisture, meaning it loses hydration much quicker than that of an adult,” says dermatologist Dr. Rachel Nazarian. “Every time you bathe your baby, water washes away the natural hydrating oils making them more prone to dry and irritated skin.”
In recent studies, scientists reported that the number of baths commonly given to babies is too high and can lead to skin conditions like eczema. Reports show that many households are using baby wash and shampoo on their little ones at least five times per week.
Baby soaps and shampoos, especially those with fragrance and which contain sodium lauryl sulfate, are factors in the development of the disease.
“People are bathing their babies too much,” says Dr. Eric Simpson. “If you expose skin to water and let it air dry, that leads to dryness—like the bottom of a river bed that cracks open when it dries.”
Eczema in babies has increased significantly in the last few decades: only 4% of babies in the 1940s had it, but by 2010, a quarter of all babies had eczema.
According to Margaret Cox of the National Eczema Society, bathing your baby too often is the root of the problem.
“People don’t realize bathing in just simple water can dry out the skin and I don’t think many people appreciate how damaging soap can be,” she says.
The Final Verdict
Many experts and seasoned parents believe that it is not necessary to bathe a baby that frequently until a baby is crawling around and acting as the resident dust mop.
When a baby starts getting into things – like dirt, sticky residue on the floor, dog vomit (yes, it’s happened with my child), or when babies start self-feeding and dressing themselves with their dinner, bath time may need to happen on a more regular basis.
So, the simple answer is: make sure your baby is properly cleansed during diaper changes and after feedings during the pre-crawling months. A dip in the tub two or three times a week during this time will be more than enough to keep your baby sparkling.
Baths, when given, should also be on the shorter side in warm water. If you’d like to finish a bath with lotion, be sure to use a moisturizer that is baby-friendly.