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How Often Do Kids Need a Bath?

By Kelcey Kintner

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.

Published February 5, 2013. Last updated January 21, 2018.
Kelcey Kintner
About the Author

Kelcey Kintner

Kelcey Kintner, an award winning journalist and freelance writer, is a fashion critic for US Weekly, created the humor blog 

Kelcey Kintner, an award winning journalist and freelance writer, is a fashion critic for US Weekly, created the humor blog The Mama Bird Diaries and writes for the Huffington Post. You can follow her @mamabirddiaries or on Facebook. She’s still trying to fit 5 kids on a Vespa. 

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