Having a newborn is an overwhelming time in any parent’s life. Even second, third, and fourth-time parents may struggle with a bath time routine at the early stages. As a parent of a newborn, you are constantly juggling your time. Whether you stick to a schedule or not, we are all making sure our new baby is fed enough, played with enough, burped enough, and bathed enough.
Bathtime can be fun, but it can also be a time of extreme stress, especially for babies who do not enjoy the bath. Parents can be filled with worry about their newborn being in the water. Your newborn may feel the same—spending the entire time screaming. Other babies may love the bath but have a skin sensitivity that makes it a big no-no to dunk them in water daily. No matter what the situation, bath time is still a time crunch. Getting the supplies together, ensuring the water temperature is perfect, bathing, drying, putting on lotion, and clothing your baby is a huge process for which you probably won’t always have the energy for. Plus, you may not be showering more than once a week during the newer days yourself. Bathing your newborn is probably not always top of mind!
How Often Should I Bathe My Baby?
No matter the reason, the good news is you do not need to bathe your baby daily. According to the Mayo Clinic, parents only need to bathe their babies three times a week.1 Yes, just three. Bathing your baby more often can lead to dry skin and discomfort.
If three days a week makes you pause, think of it this way: you are constantly cleaning your baby. Every diaper change, every spit-up, and every time you wipe their hands and face after mealtime counts as cleaning your baby. When your children are young, the face, diaper area, and neck are the most important parts to clean. They are very susceptible to infection due to rolls and fat deposits. If you think about the time spent wiping down your baby during the day, those parts are often the ones we pay attention to most.
But you do not need to stick to three days a week. If you swear your baby only falls asleep at night after a warm bath, and their skin isn’t dry, give that bath every night! If you enjoy that calming activity with your 6-month-old, and it helps to fill your day, get them in the tub as much as you please. Similarly, if your child has been in a pool, in excessive dirt or mud, or near anyone with a cold, you may also want to add an extra bath.
How to Properly Bathe Your Baby
When bathing your baby, make sure you are doing it correctly. The American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD) suggests a sponge bath until the umbilical cord stump falls off.2 Lay your baby on a clean towel, use a washcloth with warm water, and wipe your baby from head to toe. Make sure you are extra gentle on their head and face. The AAD also recommends only using soap on the body and avoiding it on the face, head, and scalp.2
Once the umbilical cord stump comes off, you can begin putting your baby into their baby bathtub or sink. Ensure the water is lukewarm and only filled enough that your baby’s legs and back are submerged in water. Once the baby is comfortable, clean them the same way you did before. At this stage, the AAD recommends using mild soap on the head twice a week, specifically if your baby has hair.2 After toweling dry, a moisturizer is always good to ensure your baby’s skin doesn’t dry out. If you notice dry spots even after moisturizer is applied, this is a good sign to bathe your baby less often.
Increase Bath Times as They Grow
As babies become toddlers, bath time will look a bit different. It may become more fun! You’ll finally get to use those bath toys you received as gifts at your baby shower. Or it may become more stressful if your toddler hates the bath. Either way, you can still stick to only bathing your child three times a week or when needed.
Of course, if your child is in school or having playdates outside, you may consider incorporating more baths into your routine. Pay attention to your baby’s skin, and always try to use a mild, fragrance-free soap when they are little to avoid irritation. If your baby develops eczema patches or rashes after bath time, talk to your pediatrician about lotions and soaps that may be best for them. Bath time can be fun to bond with your child, but it is unnecessary to do every day. So cross that off your list of to-do’s today and use that extra time to maybe get a bath in for yourself!