Do I Have to Bathe my Child Every Night?

When you’re a new and exhausted parent any advice for how to get your baby to sleep is taken very seriously. So when all the parenting experts say the same thing, “Give your child a routine: warm bath, pjs, story, snuggles, and then to bed,” you do it. I did. I held onto this routine like a floating barrel in the middle of the ocean. But what happens when that routine changes and doesn’t include a bath every night? Does that make you a terrible parent? Or a neglectful one? Do I have to bathe my child every night to be a good parent?

I was thrilled to find out that the American Academy of Pediatrics says not to bathe your infant any more than three times a week. The American Academy of Dermatology says that for children, once or twice a week is fine unless they are really dirty (that surprises even me!). Once they hit puberty more bathing should be encouraged.

This less-is-more bathing camp is in the news. The Washington Post just published an article on why we should stop bathing our children so often. The author’s argument was that hot water and soap can be drying and hard on little one’s skin, causing eczema. And that our society tends toward being too germaphobic.

I fully agree, though I wasn’t considering these ideas when I started bathing my kids (much) less often. All I knew was that what had been my favorite part of the day was not anymore. My baby had grown up and it was no longer very relaxing for either one of us. When his little sister came along things got exponentially more hectic: I was washing her in the bathroom sink while big bro was in the big bath, wishing I had more arms for everyone’s needs. No fun.

And then like a ray of clean sunshine, my inner parenting voice said, “They are not that dirty, stop stressing yourself out.” and I’ve never looked back. Sure everyone likes to see a fresh and squeaky clean kid, but I think it makes it more special when it’s not ALL the time. And honestly I’ve been shocked at how good my son’s hair looks without being shampooed, or at least good in a cute tousled just woke up sort of way.

So go ahead, skip the bath! Read an extra story, or let them jump on the bed for 10 minutes longer. Or if it’s the choice between bath and a good night’s sleep, without a doubt pick the sleep. You’ll feel better in the morning.