Spoiler alert: It doesn't have to be daily.
This story was originally published on November 19, 2018
The American Academy of Pediatrics says that newborns, especially, do not need a bath every day. While parents should make sure the diaper region of a baby is clean, until a baby learns how to crawl around and truly get messy, a daily bath is unnecessary.
So, why do we feel like kids should bathe every day?
There is no scientific or biological answer to how often you should bathe your child. During pre-modern times, parents hardly ever bathed their children. The modern era made it a societal norm to bathe your child daily.
Many babies and toddlers, especially those who aren't walking yet, don't need to be washed with soap every day. If a child has dry, sensitive skin, parents should wash their child with a mild soap once a week.
On other nights, the child may simply soak or rinse off in a lukewarm, plain water bath if they are staying fairly clean. Additionally, parents can soak their children in a water bath without soap most nights or as needed as part of a routine.
Cause of skin sensitivity
Many problems with sensitive, irritated skin are made worse by bathing habits that unintentionally dry out the skin too much. Soaking in a hot bath for long periods of time and scrubbing will lead to dry skin. Additionally, many existing skin conditions will worsen if you over-scrub your child or use drying, perfumed soaps.
Some skin conditions, like childhood eczema (atopic dermatitis), are not caused by dirt or lack of hygiene. Therefore, parents do not need to scrub the inflamed areas. Scrubbing will cause dry, sensitive skin to become even more dry.
Tips for bath time
Some best practices for bath time for kids who have dry, itchy, sensitive skin or eczema include.
- The proper temperature for a bath is lukewarm
- Baths should be brief (5-10 minutes long)
- To avoid drying out your child's skin, use mild, fragrance-free soaps (or non-soap cleansers)
- Use small amounts of soap and wash the child with your hands, rather than scrubbing with a soapy washcloth.
- Do not let your child sit and play in the tub or basin if the water is all soapy.
- Use the soap at the end of the bath, not the beginning.
- When finishing the bath, rinse your child with warm fresh water to remove the soap from their body. Let the child "dance" or "wiggle" for a few seconds to shake off some of the water, and then apply moisturizing ointments, creams, or lotions while their skin is still wet.
- Simple store-brand petroleum jelly is a wonderful moisturizer, especially if applied right when the child leaves the tub while the skin is still wet.
- Avoid creams with fragrances, coloring agents, preservatives, and other chemicals. Simple, white, or colorless products are often better for children's skin.
- Do not use alcohol-based products.
Originally posted on Children's National Health System's Rise and Shine.
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