3 Signs Your Baby Needs Fewer Baths, Because Sometimes, Less Is More

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Nothing smells better than a freshly bathed baby. They're really cute after the bath, too, all cuddled up in a towel. Baths are also great for bedtime routines and for parent-baby bonding. They are calming and can bring order to your day. The only problem is that doing them too often might not be so great for your baby. So what are the signs your baby needs fewer baths?

Bathing a baby three times a week is the number recommended by the Mayo Clinic. Similarly, Dr. John Mersch, a pediatrician in California, wrote on eMedicine that until your baby is crawling, there's no need to bathe them every day. If you make sure that each diaper change is cleaned up carefully, the baby shouldn't need a daily dunk in the tub. Once they do start crawling and are constantly on the floor and eating solid foods regularly, considering how messy they can get (think mushed carrots all over their faces), and all the dirt and grime picked up from the floor, you might feel like frequent bathing is warranted. And if your child falls ill and is vomiting, or has had an usually evil poopy diaper, you might decide to give them a bath, even if its not their usual bathing day.

Here's news, though, for germaphobes. While you might think that scrubbing the kiddies up, particularly with anti-bacterial soap, is something that prevents illness and washes away anything harmful that could be lingering on their skin, there are two sides to that coin. "Exposure to a little grime may protect kids," says Michael Welch, M.D., chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics's section on allergy and immunology said in Parenting. "Because their immune systems are still maturing, they seem to benefit from being around viruses, bacteria, and dirt."

Sure, in most cases extra bathing can be relatively harmless, but it's good to keep an eye out for these signs that suggest the nightly soak could be doing more harm than good, and to cut back if necessary.

They get rashes

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Sometimes the perfumes and other chemicals used in soaps and lotions can cause babies to develop rashes called dermatitis, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). One way to deal with this is to cut down the amount of baths your baby is taking. You should also be conscious of the products you are using during bath time. Renee Howard, MD, FAAD, associate clinical professor of dermatology at University of California, San Francisco recommended to the AAD to use products that are unscented and even seek out those that are made for sensitive skin. Products that include fragrance might smell nice, but they can strip the oils from your baby's skin and cause dermatitis.

Their skin is dry

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Because soaps can dry out babies' skin, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends patting your baby dry and using a "fragrance-free, hypoallergenic moisturizing lotion immediately after bathing." This can help prevent dry skin or worsening of the skin condition called eczema. If you live somewhere where there's hard water, this could cause the baby's skin to dry out, too, according to Baby Centre. Given these things, bathing your baby less frequently might be worth a try to see if it improves your baby's skin.

They have allergies

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Kids who bathe too often may wind up suffering from allergies, though by the time you notice the results, it can be too late — you can't go back and bathe them less. Many parents assume they are doing a lot of germ-killing and actually preventing their babies from getting sick when bathing their kids, but if it's done too frequently, they could be compromising their immune system and make them more susceptible to allergies, according to Dateline.

Researchers in Scotland saw a rise in the number of children who were developing allergies. When searching for a cause, Professor Aziz Sheikh, chairman of Leading Allergy and Respiratory Research Group at University of Edinburgh found this connection between baths and immunity: “Skin is the largest protective organ we have and early life bathing habits, especially using bubble baths, oils and soaps, will remove this protective layer of skin as a result," according to Dateline News. Taking the oils off the skin can exacerbate eczema and also increase the changes that they child will develop allergies.

If you notice that your baby's skin is acting up, or you're questioning if your infant is spending a little too much time in the tub, definitely bring it up to a doctor for their expertise. Because really, it's surprising how much their skin might clear up by getting fewer baths. In this case, less is more.

Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.