How Often Should You Bathe Your Newborn?

Learn how frequently you should bathe your newborn according to experts, as well as tips for preventing eczema outbreaks between baths.

Bath time with your baby might be part of your nightly ritual, but doctors actually don't recommend daily baths for babies. Excess exposure to water can zap their skin of moisture and worsen conditions like eczema. Then again, not bathing your baby 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 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 newborn? Read on for the guidelines.

When To Bathe a Newborn for the First Time

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), newborn babies should not get their first bath until 24 hours after birth; if a full day is not possible, they recommend waiting at least 6 hours after your baby is born. Delaying your baby's bath can have several different benefits, such as:

  • helping your baby keep their body temperature stable and preventing hypothermia
  • helping stabilize your baby's blood sugar
  • Improving breastfeeding success if you will be nursing
  • encourage bonding with you and any other caregivers
  • help moisturize your baby's skin
  • preserve beneficial bacteria on your baby's skin

Most hospitals are very familiar with the AAP's stance on delaying the newborn bath and in fact many hospitals actually have a policy for a delayed bath, but you can definitely ask staff ahead of time if you have any concerns about delaying your newborn's bath.

When your baby comes home and is ready for baths, you'll want to 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

There is no hard and fast rule about how often you should bathe your infant. The AAP notes that three baths a week should be plenty for a newborn, but if you want to bathe your baby even less frequently, that's fine too! In general, you can bathe your baby when they are dirty or if you notice that distinctive "cheese" starting to set in in their skin folds.

"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."

Newborn Asian Baby Bath Blue Pale
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Cleaning 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 instance, to properly clean a penis, gently retract the foreskin to clean the area underneath. And 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."

The Bottom Line

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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