The kids in commercials for children's bubble bath look so happy to be splashing around, that you would believe there's no place they'd rather be. But if you're a parent, you know that bath time is not always full of smiles and beards made of bubbles. The amount of physical and emotional energy needed to regularly bathe a child is as grueling as mining for coal. But what if I told you you didn't have to do it every night? Would you believe me if I said that how often you should really bathe your kid is probably less than you think?
Before I learned what kids really needed in the bath department, I had my own theory that things were just peachy as long as they didn't smell. Each night I would perform a sniff test on their hair to see if we needed to go to battle over bath time, or if we could push that task off until tomorrow. Well, there isn't much evidence to support my philosophy that kids only need to bathe once their hair smells like that of a dog, but there are plenty of resources t0 help parents understand exactly how often their kids need to scrub down. So to keep you from sniffing heads each night, we will go with the experts on this one.
When it comes to kids and baths, the experts break it down by age group since different stages of life require a different frequency of bathing. The good news is, during those ages when kids fight baths the most, they need them the least. (Feel free to do a happy dance.)
While in the baby stage, it's nice to have bath time as part of a nightly ritual, but a bath a day is not necessary for itty bitties. Since newborns and babies have limited activity, keeping their diaper area clean is sufficient cleanliness, according to Healthy Children, a website powered by the American Pediatric Association (APA). But if you just love the smell of that sweet baby after a bath, the APA recommends three baths a week during the first year of life.
Once kids move into the school-aged bracket, things don't change all that much in the bathing department. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), you should bathe your child based on their age and activities, meaning you won't need to fight your child to wash, rinse, repeat every 24 hours. It may shock you to learn that the only age group advised to lather up on a daily basis are those ages 12 and up, which is necessary due to the hormonal changes their bodies are experiencing as a result of puberty.
The only hard and fast rule comes down to what your kids have been doing that day. The AAD recommends always bathing your 6 to 11-year-old if they have been in a body of water, are visibly dirty, or have body odor. Otherwise, you only have to toss them in the tub once or twice a week. But if the thought of skipping baths makes you squirm in your seat, rest easy knowing that you are not causing your child harm.
As Dr. Scott A. Norton, Chief of Dermatology at Children’s National Health System pointed out, "there is no scientific or biological answer to how often you should bathe your child." Even though there is no research to support this idea, the belief that children need a daily bath is a relatively recent notion which has become an accepted norm, according to Norton.
The next time you feel like a bad mom for letting your kid skip a bath for the second night in a row, cut yourself some slack and remember these guidelines for how often you should really bathe your kid. After all, as long as they don't smell like a dog, everybody wins.