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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.

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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leslie
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leslie

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,… Read more »

Kelcey Kintner
Guest
Kelcey

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

Bethany
Guest
Bethany

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.

Sarah
Guest
Sarah

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
Guest
Corinne

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. 

Autumn
Guest
Autumn

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

Jenn (Student Mom)
Guest

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.

MommyTime
Guest

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.… Read more »

Jen @ And Two More Makes FIVE
Guest

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
Guest
Kelcey

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

Nicole
Guest

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,… Read more »

Megan A.
Guest
Megan A.

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
Guest
Kelcey

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

shmike
Guest
shmike

I think that jen @ And Two was taking the pee.
Jen cleaning products not only remove the dirt they also remove oil from your skin, using lotion replaces it. I don’t thing Justin B sented moisturiser is good for a toddler…

neo
Guest

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.

Chris
Guest
Chris

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.

Erin
Guest
Erin

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.

Ashley
Guest

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!

Georgie
Guest
Georgie

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… Read more »

Isabel Kallman
Admin

interesting!

sue
Guest
sue

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

Shane
Guest
Shane

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,… Read more »

Lise
Guest
Lise

We live in The Seychelles, a tropical country. Kids take a bath twice a day.

Tonie Goodin
Guest
Tonie Goodin

I let my child bath every day. Nor born once a day. Then since k5 to present age of 10 1/2 she takes a bath in the morning and a shower at night! She has always loved water so she doesn’t mind. I think you sleep better and not to mention your sheets stay cleaner if you have them take a bath or shower.

Meagan
Guest
Meagan

I am pretty horrified reading this article and most comments. Just because your child will survive without bathing, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it pretty often. Once a week?! Oh my, especially at diaper wearing ages. Standard wipes aren’t antibacterial or anything people. Hygiene is a very important thing to instill in children…in my opinion. I use mild soaps and shampoos, and baby lotion to keep moisture in skin. I have a 19 month old and almost 3 year old, I am a full time student, stay at home mom, and my husband works all day outside, and everyone bathes… Read more »

Ursula745
Guest
Ursula745

Meagan – There NOTHING unhygienic or lazy about these parents that bathe their kids less often. I give mine a bath daily. But, I also am on the fence about that because it washes away a lot of good bacteria to keep her healthy. Some people feel they don’t’ need to. Get off your high horse. You’re no better than anyone else.

Meagan
Guest
Meagan

This post has been on my mind quite a bit since I read it, and I would like to apologize if I came off as judgmental. Not usually my nature, but this really freaked me out!! I wanted to add a few things I left out… I have eczema, and so does my oldest child. I have read many things about daily bathing causing problems with ph levels, good bacteria, and dry skin. To combat these issues and keep our eczema under control (which is almost non-existent since we began to change our bathing practices) we always use mild soaps,… Read more »

Isabel Kallman
Admin

I’m not exactly sure who you are directing your comments to, but “we” (aka Alpha Mom) did ask a doctor. In fact, we quoted a doctor in this article:

“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.”

Meagan
Guest
Meagan

I was referring to the many people who commented saying they only bathe their variously aged children once a week. Not the article… I read the doctor’s quote, as well as many other quotes from other medical sources. None of them say bathe anyone once a week. The part of the article I found disturbing, was inadvertently advocating that it is acceptable to “cut corners” when it comes to bath time. The expert advice in the article is on point and relevant. Still, every few days is 2 to 3 days a week for a newborn, if they have managed… Read more »

Ben
Guest
Ben

Well considering toddlers are, especially in the summer picking at eveything and grabbing and putting things in there mouth, fall in down scatching, scraping, picking pulling rubbing…… Their bodies run hotter because they are always in the move especially boys. Feel the back of a little boys neck. Feel the heat then think about alot of the rationalization here they they only need every few days or twice a week. I love the rationalization of a Lazy person. They are way dirtier than we are as adults (unless you are a slob) and most shower everyday sometimes TWICE. A child… Read more »

Billie
Guest
Billie

Quite the judgments from Meagan and Ben. However, The American Academy of Dermatology states that it is recommended to bath children at least once or twice per week depending on their daily activities. Not to mention, as a parent I know when my children need a bath. I know what they’ve done every single day. I can gauge when it’s needed, and when it’s not. We bathe every 2-3 days unless we have exerted ourselves or have gotten messy. The kids faces and hands are washed several times everyday. I’d rather my kids’ skin be protected by their own natural… Read more »