There's a good reason to skip your baby's bath tonight. Learn how frequently you should be bathing your newborn according to experts, as well as tips for preventing eczema outbreaks between baths.

By Maria Carter
Updated January 28, 2020

Bath time might be part of your nightly ritual, but doctors actually don’t recommend daily baths for babies. Excess exposure to water can zap her skin of moisture and worsen conditions like eczema. Then again, not bathing her often enough can also aggravate eczema, plus lead to other infections.

“It’s a delicate balance,” says Scott Grant, M.D., MPH, FAAP, at Detroit Medical Center’s Children's Hospital of Michigan. But the bathing itself is probably not the entire problem: “The use of bath products, including lotions that contain dyes or fragrances, can react with babies’ skin to make eczema worse even if there isn’t a ‘bath,’” says Dr. Grant.

So how often should you bathe a baby? Read on for the guidelines.

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When to Bathe a Newborn for the First Time

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), newborn babies should get their first bath about 24 hours after birth. The delay might decrease the risk of hypothermia and hypoglycemia, contribute to breastfeeding success, and moisturize the skin. Stick with sponge baths until after their umbilical cord stump falls off—usually within a couple weeks of birth. You must also rely on sponge baths until circumcision incisions heal.

How Frequently to Bathe Newborns

The AAP recommends bathing your infant three times a week until their first birthday. “Obviously there are unique messes that babies can find themselves in as they get older and more mobile that may require an extra bath from time to time,” says Dr. Grant. “But in general, this rule is sufficient as long as the diaper area is cleaned appropriately at each diaper change.”

How to Clean Your Baby Between Baths

Just as you’d still apply deodorant when forgoing your own shower, certain baby parts need attention daily whether they’re getting a full-on bath or not.

“Be sure that you’re cleaning the diaper area well, especially following stool or ‘poopy’ diapers, in between skin folds,” Dr. Grant advises. For baby boys, gently retract the foreskin to clean the area underneath. For girls, the area around the vagina has similar folds that should be cleaned well.

Don’t skimp on the lotion, either. “Daily application can help prevent eczema outbreaks, so this might be a useful replacement for bathtime in the bedtime routine,” says Dr. Grant. “This is especially important for babies who have already shown signs of eczema or have siblings or parents with eczema.”

To recap, bathing your baby no more than three times a week is perfectly healthy, given that you wipe the diaper area thoroughly at each changing and apply moisturizer daily.

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Comments (5)

Anonymous
December 21, 2019
Please, please don’t every retract (pull back) your intact babys foreskin to wash. Not ever!!
Anonymous
December 20, 2019
You have incorrect information in this article on intact care, you do not retract (even gently) that can cause pain, infections, etc. The skin is fused, retracting even a little should not be done by anyone expect for the owner of the [filtered] and most boys are not retractable until puberty. Please update your article with the correct information.
Anonymous
December 20, 2019
You have incorrect information in this article on intact care, you do not retract (even gently) that can cause pain, infections, etc. The skin is fused, retracting even a little should not be done by anyone expect for the owner of the [filtered] and most boys are not retractable until puberty. Please update your article with the correct information.
Anonymous
November 14, 2019
DO NOT RETRACT THE FORESKIN! Male foreskin is to be left alone until it matures around puberty and then can be retracted. Infant boys should be left whole (not circumcised) and doctors and care takers need to learn how to properly clean intact genitals! Retracting a baby’s [filtered] can lead to injury and/or infection!
Anonymous
November 13, 2019
Do NOT retract the babies foreskin!!! This is extremely harmful. PLEASE do your research or do not speak on this subject.