Baby Tips

How Often Should You Bathe a Toddler?

You hear so many different things about bathing and grooming your toddler. Your doctor says to bathe him every few days, the parenting magazines say to wash every day, your friends have their own opinions, and your mother, of course, has hers. So, how often should you bathe your toddler?

Baby’s first bath is a sweet and fun experience for you and your baby — and your baby ends up smelling wonderful. But from that first bath until teenage years, how often should your child bathe? My Baby Nursery is your one-stop baby product store.

While baths might be fun at first, squeezing a nightly bath into your bedtime routine might be hard to do. How frequently you clean your child depends a lot on their age and level of activity. 

The following guidelines can help you know how frequently to bathe your kids. You may need to adjust for your particular circumstances. Only you will learn how often your kids need to wash away dirt and grime.

Don’t bathe the baby daily.

It might be unavoidable. After all, babies get messy. Spit up, and diaper blowouts make a quick bath a necessity sometimes. But when you can help it, it’s best to avoid daily baths for babies under one year old. Instead, aim for one full bath a week.

Children do not need their hair washed every day!

Daily baths can dry out your infant’s skin. As your child grows, their skin will be able to handle more frequent bathing. Instead of washing your baby or toddler first thing with soap, start the bath without soap, allowing your baby or toddler to play for a few minutes before washing them up. Less time sitting in soap means minor skin irritation. Use plenty of lotion when bath time is done.

Well, as you know, a two- or three-year-old can get very dirty within a brief period.

This is a time for experimenting with self-feeding, lots of outside play, and exploring, whether digging in the dirt or the garbage can. Some days, you probably look at your cute, adorable little mess and think, “There’s no question. He’s got to have a bath.”

Children are supposed to come into contact with germs. This is the only way their bodies learn how to fight off bacteria and viruses, which can cause illness, so a few germs left behind after a day’s play isn’t all that horrible.

Another issue that crops up is more so an issue of hair-washing rather than an issue of bathing. If your child is in school or attends daycare, head lice are always a possibility, and, believe it or not, head lice prefer immaculately clean hair, like the hair of a child that is washed every single night. So, if you decide to go the daily bath route, you do not need to wash your child’s hair every day.

Essential bath time for toddlers

Baby Tips

Bathing your toddler 2-3 times a week is usually enough to keep them clean.

But you do need to wash toddlers’ faces and genitals every day. And if your toddler gets dirty from playing or enjoys bath time, a bath every day is fine. A bath at the end of the day can also be part of a relaxing and calming bedtime routine.

Try not to use soap because soap can dry out your toddler’s skin. If needed, use a gentle non-soap cleanser. Use the cleaner at the end of the bath so your toddler doesn’t sit in it for too long. If your toddler has dry skin, it’s better to give them shorter, lukewarm baths.

Another issue that crops up is more so an issue of hair-washing rather than an issue of bathing. If your child is in school or attends daycare, head lice are always a possibility, and, believe it or not, head lice prefer immaculately clean hair, like the hair of a child that is washed every single night. So, if you decide to go the daily bath route, you do not need to wash your child’s hair every day.

Bathing kids age 6-11

You know babies need less frequent bathing, but your older kids get dirty! Daily baths for older kids are fine. Their skin can handle regular washing. However, they may not need to spend much time in the tub. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends bathing children age 6-11 once or twice a week or when:

  • They get dirty from playing outside
  • They finish swimming in a pool, lake, or ocean
  • They get sweaty or are dealing with body odour
  • Your doctor or dermatologist gives you recommendations for specific skin conditions

Bathing after puberty

While younger kids might get dirtier, your pre-teens or teenagers are dealing with other issues. Puberty makes it necessary for your child to bathe daily. Your pre-teen and teenagers should:

  • Shower or clean every day
  • Wash their face twice a day (helps to avoid acne)
  • Shower or clean after sweating heavily, playing sports, or swimming

It may not be challenging to get your teenagers to bathe daily, especially if you explain its benefits. If it is difficult, keep encouraging. It’ll help keep their skin healthy and body odours to a minimum.

Encouraging hand washing

While it’s not always necessary for your child to take a daily bath, frequent handwashing is critical. Teach your child to wash their hands before meals, after using the restroom, after blowing their nose, or playing with pets. Healthy handwashing should include the following steps.

  • Use warm water to wet your hands.
  • Apply soap and rub your hands together to lather. Remember to get in between your fingers.
  • Keep lathering and rubbing your hands for about 20 seconds.
  • Rinse with warm running water.
  • Dry your hands on a clean towel.

Even when your child isn’t bathing daily, they can still maintain healthy handwashing habits. It may take some time for your child to remember to wash their hands, so keep reminding!

Bathing safety tips

It’s easy to forget that even older children can get hurt — or drown — during a bath. Follow these safety tips to protect your child.

  • Always be present while bathing children younger than seven years old. Encourage older children to keep the door open while washing alone.
  • Turn down your water heater. Avoid burns by keeping your water heater no higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Use fragrance-free soaps and lotions to avoid drying out your child’s skin.
  • Keep baths brief. Your child doesn’t need an hour-long bath. Instead, shoot for about 10 minutes.
  • It doesn’t matter if your child is two months or 12 years, regular bathing is an integral part of their hygiene habits. Knowing how often your child needs to bathe will help keep their skin healthy and happy.
  • Never leave the bathroom. Make sure you’re within arm’s reach at all times.
  • Get everything ready in advance – towel, washcloth, cotton wool, clean nappy and clean clothes. This means you can stay with your child for bath time.
  • Fill the bath to the height of your toddler’s belly button when they’re sitting down.
  • Make sure the hot water tap is turned off hard. When the bath is ready, briefly run cold water through the faucet so water in the tap won’t burn anyone.
  • Check the water temperature is between 37°C and 38°C before you put your child in. It should feel comfortably warm but not hot.
  • Let the water out as soon as bath time is over. Remove bath plugs from the bath when they’re not in use.
  • Keep the bathroom door closed when you’re not using the bathroom. 
  • If your child is showering with you, place a non-slip mat on the shower floor so your child won’t slip.

We have the best range of change tables right here at My Baby Nursery.

Afraid of the bath

Some toddlers are afraid of the bath. If this happens, take your child’s fears seriously because they’re genuine to your child. You’ll need to be patient with your child as they learn to enjoy bath time.

To help your child overcome a fear of the bath, you can try:

  • taking a bath together
  • allowing your child to choose toys for the bath
  • letting your child sit or play in the bath without water, then gradually add the water
  • letting your child wear their bathers
  • Getting your child to leave the bathroom before you take the plug out – some toddlers are afraid of getting sucked down the plughole.
  • showering with your child
  • You are letting your child sit in the baby bath in the big tub (if your child still fits).

Bath time guidelines

Bathing recommendations depend on your child’s age. Here are some of the general guidelines:

  • Babies, toddlers and little kids should spend some quality time in the tub two to three times per week. Their delicate skin doesn’t need daily cleansing, but it’s OK to get out the bath toys more often if your child gets dirty or has a messy diaper situation. Speaking of tub toys, make sure they’re nontoxic and don’t have the potential to harbour mould, fungus and bacteria.
  • Older kids ages 6-11 should hit the bath two or three times per week, at a minimum. More showers are in order when they get muddy, sweaty or stinky.
  • Tweens and teens should shower daily. (Their newly stinky pits will probably clue you in when it’s time to step up their hygiene game.) They should also wash their face twice a day. 
  • There’s wiggle room, of course. If your cranky toddler is too tired, skipping bath night won’t be the end of the world. And if your baby has an impeccably timed post-bath diaper blowout, by all means — draw another one. 

Also, don’t think everyone’s off the hook after spending a day in the water. It’s important to bathe or shower after swimming in a pool, lake or ocean. So, getting wet doesn’t equal getting clean. 

Skin-saving tips

Conventional wisdom suggests that bathing too often can be drying and irritating for sensitive skin. But the traditional knowledge could use some updating.

Harsh antimicrobial soaps can indeed make your skin dry and itchy. We recommend avoiding those products unless your doctor has recommended them for a skin condition. Gentle soaps, though, are safe for frequent bathing.   

Choose mild soaps that don’t lather up too much and don’t have added fragrances. And don’t assume all baby soaps are mild. If you’re unsure how gentle your pick is, ask your doctor for recommendations. 

Moisturizing is also crucial, especially if your kiddos have dry skin or you live in a dry climate. The best time to moisturize is right after a bath or shower to lock in all the moisture.  

How baths can help soothe eczema

Many kids have eczema, which causes the skin to become dry, red and oh-so-itchy. You might think too frequent bathing could irritate the condition. But in reality, research suggests people with eczema should bathe more often.

The reason: Moisturizers work better on damp skin, and our goal in treating eczema is to restore the skin’s moisture barrier.

Of course, if your kiddo’s skin suddenly flares up with dry, flaky, red patches, it may not be eczema. It could be a rash or an allergic reaction, so talk to your pediatrician or a dermatologist.

Is it possible to bathe or shower too often?

Bathing too often isn’t as much of a concern as washing too little. That’s especially true for adolescents, whose bodies are changing and producing more oils — and more odours.

It can be hard to convince a stubborn teen to make time for a shower. For leverage, parents can point out that not showering often can lead to dandruff and may increase acne. (After all, no kid is happy about pimples.) 

And parents of younger kids should accept that regular baths are part of the package. Kids should be outside playing and getting dirty. When they do, it makes sense to hit the tub.

Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Bathe Your Kid Daily

Baby Tips

Take a look through the centuries, and you’ll see that we, as a society, have developed a strong sense of germophobia.

That’s why we often go to extremes to eliminate any bacteria that could pose a risk to our health, whether it’s by using antibiotics on the reg or hopping into the shower multiple times a day.

Recent studies have shown that the human body (including our skin) needs bacteria to thrive and survive, and kids’ bodies are no different.

So, here are the reasons why you shouldn’t bathe your kid every day.

Reducing Their Immunity

During a 2012 study, a team of scientists examined the role that bacteria play in our immunity.

As part of the study, they exposed two groups of mice (free of germs and one with several vibrant bacterial communities on their skin) to an array of microbes, including Staph. They then checked how their body reacted to the parasites.

The germ-free mice showcased a decreased immune response to the parasites while normal mice fought off the microbes as their bodies were used to tackling such “threats”.

What does this mean for your kid? Well, getting rid of skin germs by bathing them daily weakens their immunity and makes them susceptible to infections down the line.

Prompting Skin Conditions

Bathing your kid every day can irritate their skin as hot water and soap dissolve sebum oil, a.k.a. the lipid mixture produced by the sebaceous glands.

A child with irritation on the skin

When on the skin, this naturally occurring “oil” makes sure the uppermost layer of skin (skin barrier) stays hydrated and, thus, flexible.

Locking in the moisture makes their skin resistant to dryness, irritation, and many other related skin conditions such as eczema and xerosis (dry skin).

But that’s not all!

After every bath, most parents usually pat their kids dry with a towel. Unfortunately, this unconscious mistake could irritate your kid’s skin even further and trigger several other issues, from rashes to patchiness.

Increasing the Risk of Allergies

Even though there’s still not enough research to back this theory up, scientists from the University of Michigan believe that the regular use of antibacterial products such as soap could increase allergies in kids.

The reason? As their immune system shifts away from fighting infections and viruses, it starts focusing on the inside, opening the way for allergies and auto-immune diseases.

Weakening Their Growing Hair

Shampoo may be one of the easiest ways to remove excess sebum oil from your scalp, but it’s bad news for kids whose hair is still growing.

Many brands (even some targeted to babies and toddlers) use many harsh chemicals and detergents (see: Sodium Laurel Sulfate, Triclosan, Parabens, and Phthalates) in their formulas that are known for stumping hair growth.

If your kid is exposed to the product daily, there’s a high chance their hair and scalp will dry out and become prone to friction.

Cleaning What’s Already Clean

Another reason why you shouldn’t bathe your kid every day is that they’re not as dirty as you may think.

After all, young children barely move, so the chances of them gathering all sorts of bacteria on their skin in just one day are pretty much negligible.

That being said, they can quickly go two or three days without hitting the tub.

Saving Water and a Money

This may not be an actual health benefit, but limiting your kid’s bathing frequency to 2 or 3 times a week could save you a pretty penny.

How come? Well, for one, you’ll get to spend less on bathing products like shampoo and body lotion.

Also, note that baths are the third largest water guzzler in an average home.

Cutting back a couple of baths during the week could make a decent dent in your water bill. And let’s not forget the environmental benefits.

You could save gallons upon gallons of water if you’re bathing your kid as often as dermatologists recommend.

What Is The Ideal Temperature For A Kid-Friendly Bath?

Even though there are no studies to determine the exact temperature of a kid-friendly bath, most dermatologists and pediatricians agree that the ideal bath temperature should roughly match body temperature.

Kid in Freezing Cold Water

Infants can be pretty susceptible to damage caused by bath temperature, so make sure the weather is in a range of 96F (36C) and 100F (38C).

As kids grow older, the temperature range widens and could be anywhere from 90F (32C) and 120F (48C), more than that, and there’s a chance of irritation and or even scolding.

That being said, there is no reasonable justification for temperatures higher than 104F (40C).

How Long Should Each Bath Last?

People shouldn’t spend more than 10 minutes in the shower or bathtub – and yes, that includes our kiddos.

More extended baths tend to strip the moisture off their skin, making it dry and itchy. So, even if your mini-me wants to spend more time in the tub, make sure you take them out just in time.

During the Winter

The constant swift from cold to warm and vice versa could leave your kid’s skin dry in the winter. To avoid doing further damage to their fragile skin, you could keep their baths brief (10 minutes max), replace soap with gentle cleansers, and close the door to increase the humidity inside the room.

During the Summer

The weather is much hotter and more humid in the summer, so it’s not as likely for your little one to suffer from dry skin. That means you could stick to experts’ original recommendations (2-3 times a week).

Also, if they happen to spend a lot of time outside, don’t be afraid to up the weekly count to 4 or 5, especially if there’s dirt or mud involved. Due to the season’s humidity, taking a bath every other day won’t affect their skin negatively.

The Takeaway

It’s hard to imagine a life without this whole “nightly bath” routine. After all, it’s a ritual that helps kids fall right asleep without throwing a tantrum. But, after seeing that science is mostly against daily scrub-downs (at least until they hit puberty), it’s a habit worth breaking.

There is always the issue of time and effort on the part of the parent, especially a parent who has two or more children.

Bathing every night is not always feasible, nor is it always desirable.

Also, sometimes, if you’re like many parents, you don’t feel like it. However, you shouldn’t feel bad or guilty. Your child will be delicate with a bath every other night. Children need adult supervision in the bath until at least age 4, so if you don’t have time to be with them that night, it can wait for the next opportunity.

Eczema and other skin conditions are other reasons not to bathe every day. 

Many of these conditions, along with just plain, sensitive skin, are only worsened with regular bathing, especially if your child likes long, hot baths.

It is best to bathe children with such conditions every two to three days, as bathing every day only dries out the skin and worsens the problems. If you do want to bathe them every day, do a short, lukewarm bath with just a little soap or cleanser at the end before rinsing off and getting out of the tub.

Then pat them dry and apply a moisturizing cream or other treatment recommended by their doctor to their still-damp skin. 

On the other hand, many parents feel that a bath every day is necessary – that a dirty child needs to be washed appropriately, which is OK too. You might want to check out My Baby Nursery’s biggest range of the best baby clothing.

If you choose to bathe your child every day, and there are no medical reasons you shouldn’t, a bath before bedtime is a great way to relax a child and is an excellent start to a beautiful bedtime ritual.

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