How Often Do Kids Need a Bath?



Each night, there is usually one thing between a parent and nice comfy spot on the couch to watch 60 Minutes, okay, The Bachelor.

And it’s the bath.

When you have kids, there are certain things you are expected to do for them. They need food (a lot more often than you would think). They need sleep (10 to 12 hours! Which seems like it would leave you with buckets of free time but it won’t). And they need to be kept clean.  Or, clean enough at least.

Now there is nothing sweeter than a fresh smelling toddler, with damp hair, in their clean, cozy pajamas.  But getting there can be a battle.

The same kid who protests about getting into the bath will then complain about getting out of the bath. You will never get through the toddler years without a child pooping in the tub which no amount of bathroom cleaning scrub will ever erase from your mind. One child will complain about soap in his eyes and another that you’re scrubbing her scalp too hard. Or the water’s too cold and now it’s too hot and now it’s too cold again and oh my gosh, I just want to watch The Bachelor.

Now many a parent will cut corners when it comes to getting their children clean. “I think Johnny had a bath yesterday or maybe it was two days ago. Or maybe it was the night of the full moon. When was that exactly?!” Summertime is a perfect excuse because isn’t a pool just a big bathtub anyway? And well, winter is so drying. You definitely have to cut back on all that soap and water then.

As one mom puts it, “When I had only one kid, a bath was a fun activity to do. Three kids later, it’s more like washing the dishes. Get ‘em in, get ‘em out.  There is an assembly line in our hall with towels and clothing, and it’s anything but fun. Just get the baths done so that your kid doesn’t become the smelly kid at school.”

So, how often do kids really need a bath or shower?

A newborn does not need to be bathed every day.  Unless your newborn plays mud football which most don’t.  Pediatrician Dr. Loretta Cody says, “Newborns can be bathed every few days. They aren’t out in the elements. Once they are old enough to be outside getting dirty at the playground or parks, then I recommend more frequent baths.” Baths can be an important part of the bedtime routine for young children, a signal that it’s time to GO TO BED so your parents can relax, AKA drink wine.

But for kids who suffer from dry skin, use lukewarm water and keep the baths short. “For these patients, the bath should be less than 10 minutes, allowing only a mild soap or cleanser be used. The key to maintaining skin hydration after bathing is the application of a moisturizer within 3 minutes after finishing the bath,” says dermatologist Dr. Alyson Levine.

Of course, my 2 1/2 year-old son Chase is not really on board with that plan since he likes to spend about 30 minutes in the tub and then cries hysterically when I try to put lotion on him like it’s some kind of evil potion that is going to remove his super powers. Plus, I love when he’s in the bath because he’s not destroying the house.  But in the winter, I do use the gentle cleanser to keep his skin from getting too dry.

As for the pool in the summer, experts say the chlorine can really dry out your kids’ skin. So make sure to rinse with fresh water immediately after swimming.

If you have a real bath-hater in your family or just don’t have the time to do a bath routine nightly, a shower or bath every few days is fine. But hand washing is still a must to prevent the spread of infections.

I’ll be honest. I don’t bathe my kids every day. With four kids, I don’t have the energy.  Neither do a lot of parents. But as far as I’m concerned, I do feed them every day so I think I’m doing just fine in the parent department.

About the author

Kelcey Kintner
Kelcey Kintner writes the humor blog, The Mama Bird Diaries and co-founded the cheeky advice site, The Mouthy Housewives. This Columbia Journalism School graduate also drives a gold minivan because you can't fit five kids on a Vespa. An award winning journalist, she still secretly longs to be an Olympic ice skater. You can follow her on Twitter @mamabirddiaries.

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21 Responses to “How Often Do Kids Need a Bath?”

  1. leslie Feb 06 at 12:00 pm Reply Reply

    It actually amazes me that people feel they have to bathe their kids every day. I think it’s overkill, especially in the winter when they aren’t outside much and skin is so dry. We do baths every other day (up from every third day when DD was an infant…she’s 2 now). Honestly, she could probably still go three days, but she likes the bath, and it’s a great time killer in the evenings, so we do it every other. Obviously, we adjust as needed if we get extra dirty playing outside or have a potty accident or something. But, yeah, I’m with you. No need for daily baths.

    • Kelcey Kintner
      Kelcey Feb 13 at 8:57 pm Reply Reply

      I agree – a bath is a great time killer in the evening. Especially for toddlers!!

  2. Bethany Feb 06 at 1:17 pm Reply Reply

    Every day?! In the winter, my 3 year old daughter gets a bath twice a week (and I virtually never use any kind of soap on her skin). In the summer, when she’s getting muddy/sweaty/sandy on a near-daily basis, I aim for every other day. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t smell.

  3. Sarah Feb 06 at 5:32 pm Reply Reply

    Twice, ish, well at least once a week. Unless visible grub…. Well visible grub a wet wipe won’t solve.

    They basically sweat rainbows until they hit puberty so I say don’t mess with the skin ecology. Or my sanity.

    But that may be an I’ve-got-three-kids-thing.

    • Corinne Feb 15 at 1:34 pm Reply Reply

      I only have one kid (21 months) and yeah, right there with you on the twice ish, well at least once a week unless there is an extraordinary dirty circumstance.  In the summer, he gets bathed at least every other day, and a good wipe down if he doesn’t get a bath because of sunscreen and playing outside, etc.  But yeah, we are pretty lax about baths in the winter. 

  4. Autumn Feb 07 at 12:02 am Reply Reply

    We do nightly baths with our 17 month old because it is the bedtime routine.  Try to skip it and we will be lucky to catch the late news it throws her off that much.  It’s under 10 minutes, she loves it, and it’s her signal to wind down. And she loves having lotion put on

  5. Jenn (Student Mom) Feb 07 at 3:40 am Reply Reply

    My girl is 4 and the dirtier she is when she gets home, the more fun she’s had! However… on rainy days when the kids arent’ allowed outside, if she’s a little grubby we do a facecloth bath. As long as she’s not getting into bed with dirty hands and feet I’m happy – hormones only make you stink later on in life. Quality time is way more important now.

  6. MommyTime Feb 07 at 9:18 am Reply Reply

    Daily baths?!?! Never. Twice a week in winter is a good average. They only play outside in multiple layers of clothes here, so, honestly, the snowpants get a whole lot dirtier than the kids do. My are too young to be smelly, though I do insist that my son shower after basketball practice (which he thinks is unnecessary). In summer, it depends on how often we are at the pool. We always shower after swimming (belong to a gym with nice locker rooms), and if we’re swimming 4-5 days a week, which we sometimes are, there are no other baths. I once went half a summer and suddenly realized the kids had not had a bath/shower at home for about two months because of the pool! But when they’re at home and playing in the dirt, into the shower they go at night!

  7. Lotion? Wow. You are a superfantastic parent. Like completely amazing. I have never, ever, lotioned a child. I read that and felt as though I were a complete failure as a mother for never even considering lotion in our cleansing routine. Does it count that my three year-old daughter got into her older sister’s sacred Justin Bieber lotion and spread it all over her desk? I’m sure some moisturizing happened then… Cute post – love the facts with the humor!

    • Kelcey Kintner
      Kelcey Feb 13 at 8:59 pm Reply Reply

      Rubbing Justin Bieber lotion on the desk totally counts. Obviously.

  8. Nicole Feb 07 at 3:19 pm Reply Reply

    I remember being told several times…doctors, moms, etc. not to worry, you don’t have to bathe your kid every day. I never actually did that :) I used to make them rinse after swimming, much to their horror, no more, but I might have them rinse on day 2 of swimming in the ocean, to get the sand off :) Now my goal is to get my 10year old to shower more often and use deodorant more regularly, a smelly toddler is a breath of fresh air compared to a smelly pre-teen, believe you me. And the dirtier the hair, the less chance for lice.

  9. Megan A. Feb 08 at 11:56 am Reply Reply

    My 15-month-old son gets a bath 2-3 times a week. Too often and he gets dry skin! In fact, we’re still on the same 19 oz. bottle of California Baby Shampoo/Body Wash that I started using when he was born!

    • Kelcey Kintner
      Kelcey Feb 13 at 8:56 pm Reply Reply

      Good point about the lice Nicole! They love clean hair.

  10. neo Feb 08 at 7:13 pm Reply Reply

    I bathe my 1 year old daughter every day. But it’s just part of her night time routine. There are some days that we skip it but once we do the bath she knows it’s almost bedtime. I have eczema and thankfully she has beautiful soft skin. Hopefully it won’t be something where symptoms will show up on her later.

  11. Chris Feb 11 at 5:10 pm Reply Reply

    I must admit I’m a little shocked that this is even a question. Not passing judgement I just have always bathed my daughter in the evening and a wash up in the morning. Baby lotion was/is a must, she’s 5 now. A co-worker posed the question which started dialogue about it. It shocked me to find out I am perhaps the only person that thought it necessary. I will say that my daughter attends a daycare and I just don’t like the possible germs and bacteria that are picked up. In addition it just teaches good hygiene for future years.

  12. Erin Feb 21 at 11:14 am Reply Reply

    I agree with Chris, bathing is something we do with our 2 year old every night. There have been a few times here and there where we were at a friends house and didn’t make it home in time, but bath time with lotion after is our routine. We only have one child, so that may change if/when we have another. It is a lot of work and takes both of us but especially on day care days (twice a a week), bath time is a must.

  13. Ashley Feb 26 at 2:48 pm Reply Reply

    We’re twice a weekers for the 2 and 5 yr old, who both have dry skin.  Jeez, whenever I feel guilty about it, I think about the old tradition of the “Saturday Bath” and pat myself on the back that I’m doing TWICE that!

  14. Georgie May 11 at 11:04 pm Reply Reply

    My son is now 11 and still only bathes 3-4 days a week, like myself. I grew up with heavy water use restrictions and the military deployments only made it worse. It’s actually been proven healthier for children and adults not to be too spic-n-span. Too much washing washes away the good bacteria your body produces to protect itself from other germs. Essentially good germs vs bad germs. I’m 38 now and we rarely get sick. I last got the flu in 1999, my kid got the flu in 2007. People in other countries bathe less than Americans and they get sick even less often. Most foreigners bathe a max of a couple times a week, but in the countries I have been to, some people bathe once every week or two. You can be healthy without being too clean. It’s even better that hair and skin doesn’t get soaped every time too. Just get the funk off ya.

  15. sue Feb 26 at 8:43 pm Reply Reply

    We do every other day and sometimes more bc I don’t feel like they clean themselves properly at school.

  16. Shane Mar 13 at 4:05 am Reply Reply

    We very much agree that young kids don’t need daily bathing, and may even be healthier for it. My 3 kids (all girls under 10) get baths once a week. That is the firm standard unless some major “dirty event” occurs. There are some times when they get a bit belligerent about even the once a week schedule, and in such occasions that time period may be extended out just a bit. In the summer, there tends to be alot of pool time, so, as another poster said, that tends to be their “bath time.” So basically in the summer, the once a week routine may be extended out much longer because of the swimming. Therefore, In the summer our bathtub may see very little, if any, “kid action.” Other times of the year, under normal routines, once a week is definitely the standard.

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