Story by: Sara Sidery on March 9, 2022
Infants and newborns have sensitive skin, and daily baths with soap can be irritating. Overbathing can lead to dryness, itchiness or a rash that can develop into a skin infection.
“Parents often wonder how often they should bathe their baby,” said Kelly L. Willbur, APRN, nurse practitioner with Norton Children’s Medical Group – Poplar Level. “Because babies have such delicate skin, recommended bath times may be less frequent than some parents think.”
Providers suggest bathing a baby with soap only three times per week. Soap should be used conservatively, as it can strip a baby’s natural oils and protective skin cell barrier. Parents should ensure the diaper areas, however, always remain thoroughly cleaned.
Babies with eczema, a skin condition that causes redness and inflammation, should be bathed just twice per week to avoid additional irritation.
There is an important distinction when it comes to bathing a baby: bathing with soaps and cleansers versus soaking in water. Sometimes, baths may help a baby calm down before bed, in which case, a 10 to 15 minute soak in warm water may be appropriate. Both baths and soaks always should be followed with a hypoallergenic moisturizing lotion or cream.
If a child gets messy, sometimes spot cleaning with wipes or a washcloth may be sufficient. A child who gets dirty from playing outside, has worn sunscreen or bug spray, or has been swimming or sweating should receive a traditional bath with soap afterward.
Providers with Norton Children’s Medical Group can guide parents regarding what’s best for their child, from newborns to adolescents.
Call (502) 629-KIDS (5437), option 3.
When it comes to bath products, less is more, and some baby bathing products should be used more often than others.
Mild, fragrance-free soaps without additives are best, and hair should be washed with a mild shampoo no more than two to three times per week. Soaps and shampoos should be rinsed promptly from the skin. Not all organic products are superior to others, as some essential oils also may cause skin irritation.
Applying moisturizer daily, regardless of whether baby had a bath or not, may decrease the chance of developing eczema. Your pediatrician can provide more specific recommendations for the best bathing products for your baby.
Always check the water temperature. A baby’s bathwater should not feel hot or cold, but similar to body temperature.
Never leave a baby unattended. Little ones can slide from their bathing seat or experience other accidents. If you need to leave the room, make sure another adult can take over.
Use an infant tub. Babies who can’t sit up on their own always should be bathed in an infant tub instead of a full-sized bathtub. A removable sling or seat can offer extra support.