The Latest Mom-Debate: How Often Should Your Baby Get a Bath?

Why the nightly baby bath can be a rookie mistake...

How often do you bathe your baby? Turns out that simple question is actually kind of controversial, as blogger Claire Goss discovered. In a recent post titled "Do You Actually Need to Bathe Baby?" the mom of three confessed that her 3-month-old rarely gets a sudsy dunking in the baby tub, and in a spot on Good Morning America today, she specified that "it can be a good 10 days" between baths.

Not surprisingly, some people are horrified by this (the words ewww, gross and lazy were bandied about by blog commenters) -- but I'm guessing those were from first-time moms, or even readers who don't have kids.

Here's the thing: The nightly baby bath is a rookie mistake. I made it myself, when my oldest was a baby, until he developed eczema. Then our nightly routine switched to a few nights a week, and baby wash became an every-other-bath element. With my second, bathing became even less frequent. He was at least a week old before he had his first bath, and getting out the baby tub just didn't seem necessary more than a couple times a week.

Lazy? Maybe. Sleep-deprived and pre-occupied with an older kid is another way to put it. Regardless, the American Academy of Pediatrics' Healthy Children website backs up those of us who skip nightly tub time:

"Your infant doesn’t need much bathing if you wash the diaper area thoroughly during diaper changes," the site says. "Three times a week during her first year may be enough. Bathing her more frequently may dry out her skin, particularly if soaps are used or moisture is allowed to evaporate from the skin."

That's not to say that bathing less than once a week is a problem, says Dr. Jennifer Shu, pediatrician and co-author of Heading Home With Your Newborn. "My feeling as a physician is that as long as a baby's health is not in danger, it's fine to bathe as much or as little as you want."

There are lots of things to love about baby bath time... a tiny little body covered with suds, sitting in a sink or plastic tub, makes an adorable photo op. It's a time to bond with your babe and examine every inch of his sweet skin. It's the perfect precursor to a soothing infant massge and can help him ease into sleep.

All of those are good things. But you know what else is a good thing? Not feeling guilty for skipping it sometimes.

Erika Rasmusson Janes is a mom of two and writer. You can follow her at Google + and Twitter.

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