You take a shower every day, but does your baby need a daily bath? What about toddlers and preschoolers? Knowing how often to bathe your child can feel confusing, especially for new parents.
Here’s an age-by-age guide to bath time.
How Often Do Children Need a Bath?
Parents often wonder: How often do I need to bathe my child? The answer is probably less than you think.
- Newborns. A couple of baths a week are plenty for a baby under 6 months old. Babies don’t get very sweaty or dirty, and too many baths can dry out delicate newborn skin. You can always “spot clean” your baby’s face and diaper area with a soft washcloth and warm water.
- Later Infancy through Early School Age. This age group still doesn’t need to bathe every day as a rule; About three times a week is enough, especially if your child’s skin is sensitive or easily becomes dry. When children start moving, self-feeding and exploring the world, they get dirtier in general and may need more frequent baths. Of course, bathing may also be part of your daily routine— something both you and your child enjoy. That is fine too. Just consider making it a littler shorter and be mindful that it is not causing any skin issues.
- Tweens. As kids hit puberty and begin producing more sweat and body oils, you should encourage them to bathe or shower daily. It may sound funny, but don’t forget a reminder to use soap and shampoo and that fragranced body sprays are not a substitute for washing.
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Tips for Baby Bath Time
Bathing a newborn can feel scary; they’re slippery and can’t hold their heads up. Here are some tips to remember when bathing your baby:
- Wait until the umbilical cord stump falls off (usually in seven to 21 days) to submerge your baby in a bath. Until then, give them sponge baths.
- Set your water heater temperature to less than 120 degrees Fahrenheit, says the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Water that’s too hot can burn your baby.
- When choosing types of baby tubs, look for a sloped, hard plastic model that fits in or over your sink. It’s a comfortable height for you and gives your baby head and back support. When your child is sitting up well (usually around 6 months), you can transition to bathing them in a regular bathtub.
- Have all your supplies — baby shampoo, towel, soft brush, etc. — organized and within arm’s reach.
- Wash your baby’s hair first. Newborns get chilled easily, so consider wrapping your baby in a towel while you wash their hair. Support your baby’s head and make sure the soap doesn’t run into their eyes.
- Use fragrance-free soap and shampoo. Harsh soap can irritate your baby’s skin. If the skin does look dry or irritated, talk with your pediatrician about moisturizers, creams, or lotions that you might be able to use to treat it.
- Never, ever leave your baby in the bath alone. Put your phone somewhere you’re not tempted to look at it. You need to keep your entire attention on your baby.
Tips for Toddler Bath Time
When your child is able to sit independently (usually at around 6 or 7 months), bath time can move to the “big tub.” Make sure to put a secure tub mat at the bottom of the tub to prevent slips. You’ll need to stay with your baby at all times.
When your child is in a regular tub, they will enjoy splashing and playing with a variety of toys in the water. Bath play is not only fun, but it also helps your child learn through their five senses, exploring different sounds, textures, and the magic of water.
Some good bath toys and bathtub sensory activities are:
- Anything that pours. There are many toys designed for this, but you can even use a plastic cup from the kitchen.
- Simple, plastic bath books or floating toys. These will make bath time more fun as the imagination runs free with adventures.
- Bath crayons. These are a great way for emerging artists to create with easy clean-up.
- Clean sponges. Squeezing out a sponge — and then letting it fill up again is fascinating and teaches a child about cause and effect.
While it may be viewed as fun to incorporate bubble bath or a bath bomb into your child’s bath, we do not recommend these bath add-ons. Sitting in sudsy, fragranced water can cause skin irritation and can contribute to the development of urinary tract infections.
When Can My Child Bathe Alone?
There’s no one set age when it’s OK to bathe alone; each child is different. Some are ready to become independent bathers before others. In general, wait until your child is around 8 or 9 to let them bathe without you in the room.
Of course, your toddler or preschooler can first make steps toward washing themselves, like sudsing their hair or pouring rinse water. But you should never leave a young child alone in the tub.
In general, wait until your child is around 8 or 9 and then slowly allow them to complete more and more steps of bathing more independently. Once you feel confident in their skills you can begin to let them bathe with only supervision and then eventually without you in the room.
As always, if you have questions about bathing your child, reach out to your pediatrician for advice.
American Academy of Dermatology Association, How Often Do Children Need to Take a Bath? Link
American Academy of Pediatrics, Bathing Your Baby, Link
NHS, Washing and bathing your baby, Link
The New York Times, How Often Should I Bathe My Baby? Link
Harvard Health Publishing, Does your child need to bathe every day? Link
From nutrition to illnesses, from athletics to school, children will face many challenges growing up. Parents often will make important health care decisions for them. We hope to help guide both of you in that journey. UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh is a national leader in pediatric care, ranking consistently on U.S. News & World Report’s Best Children’s Hospitals Honor Roll. We provide expert treatment for pediatric diseases, along well-child visits, urgent care, and more. With locations across Pennsylvania, Maryland, and West Virginia, you can find world-class care close to home. We also work closely with UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital, a national leader in care for newborns and their mothers. Our goal is to provide the best care for your children, from birth to adulthood and beyond. Visit our website to find a doctor near you.