Parenting an infant isn't easy. The sleep deprivation and constant demands can be overwhelming, so the truly enjoyable parts of early parenting should be held onto for dear life. For many, bath time falls into that category. No matter how tired you are, it's hard to stay grumpy when you're scrubbing tiny fat rolls and watching your baby discover bubbles. But in addition to the good clean fun (see what I did there?), some parents swear that a nightly bath winds their babies down for bedtime. But as the weather changes, should babies have less baths in the winter? Will daily bathing create uncomfortably dry skin, or is it an important part of good hygiene no matter the climate?
According to Albert Lai, a representative of Babytime!, a natural skin care company for babies and young children, most babies only need to be bathed two or three times a week in any season, and quite possibly less in the winter. In an interview with Romper, Lai says that despite parents' best intentions, "Giving a baby too many baths can lead to skin sensitivity, eczema, and dry skin." Not exactly the squeaky clean picture of health you were going for, is it?
Lai explains that even in mild weather, babies need only be bathed a few times a week because they are getting constant spot cleanings, as parents almost always wipe their face and hands after meals and clean their bottoms with every diaper change. But in the colder months, "Parents especially want to be careful not to strip the natural oils and moisture from their child’s skin, which bathing too often and using bath time products that contain harmful chemicals can do."
Cold and dry weather strips the moisture from anyone’s skin and, according to Lai, your baby’s skin is about 30 percent thinner than yours, making the potential effects more severe. In addition to cutting back on baths during the winter, you might also want to consider some other ways to combat the dryness in the air. Putting a humidifier in the room your baby sleeps in is a proven way to counterbalance the effects of heat in your home and to help prevent your infant’s skin from losing moisture.
Lai tells Romper, "Many experts recommend that parents use a moisturizer on a newborn’s skin every day, and if your child has dry skin, it is recommended that you apply it at least twice a day." It's important to keep in mind, however, that "using products more than suggested can have adverse effects like skin irritation, dryness, chafing and rashes."
In an interview on winter infant care with Parents magazine, Dr. Bernard Cohen, professor of pediatric dermatology at Johns Hopkins Children's Center confirmed Lai's suggestions. "I recommend giving baby a bath only about every three days to avoid over-drying and irritation," explained Dr. Cohen. Cohen suggested parents use their elbows to gauge the temperature of the tub, which should be comfortably warm but not hot. He also recommended parents limit their babies' time in the tub to 10 minutes or less to prevent drying out their skin, which was news to me.
As a mom who has survived three winters with three very different babies, I can attest to the fact that they need fewer baths than we are inclined to think. When I was a first-time mom, I bathed my son ritualistically every night, but I also had to keep him slathered in lotion at all times or he would be uncomfortably dry. As my time in parenthood marched on, I became more lax on the number of baths per week, and I honestly think my babies have only been healthier for it. And as it turns out, the experts agree.
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