In my pursuit of natural birth and raising natural kids, bathing is something we haven’t routinely enforced as newborn and infant. I wipe my baby’s bottom and I clean up spit up off her chin, but really… I never bathe my baby. And this is not even a second-child syndrome type of thing; I have never been one to give my kids baths when they’re so young. It may seem absurd to what seems to be such a clean-freak culture, but let’s be honest. Babies don’t get dirty. And let’s be really honest. I could get high from the smell of a newborn and I never want to wash that away.
So I am on my second kid and bathing is something that’s not a really high priority. So like the saying “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it”, I believe “if they don’t stink, don’t bathe them”. Plain and simple.
My first born had her first bath at 8 week and it was just a rinse with water only. It was a warm bath for her to enjoy and she had started to stink just a little. With my second, her first bath was at nine weeks, but was the same… just warm water in the sink. My 2.5 year old gets a bath when she gets dirty (so sometimes even twice a day), when she needs a calm down time, when she wants to play, or if none of the above… about once a week. And even so, they are both clean, smell fine, and function normally.
Still not on board with ditching routine baby baths?
Let’s look at some research.
- Research from the Frontiers in Psychology even confirmed that the newborn smell directly played into the pleasure center of the mother’s brain. And it definitely does. I could sit around sniffing my babies heads all day long and it would have kept any level of PPD away forever. (Even at 4 months old, my youngest smells like heaven to me).
- Babies shouldn’t be bathed immediately after birth because the vernix (that white stuff they’re gooped in) can help create and imprint a bond between mom and baby AND it helps them regulate their temperature.
- Bathing a baby every day can dry out their skin. Our bodies are beautifully made in that we create our own oils to help replenish our skin, but if we’re washing that away, we’re taking away that mechanism to some extent. Just think about when you wash your hands too much… same thing.
- I do not want to expose my child to chemicals. Phthalates, Parabens, fragrances, triclosan, and more are in every day soaps, shampoos, lotions, and everything we use. They’re in so many personal hygiene products and can have hormone-like effects on even adult bodies. Even when you choose safer baby soaps, they’re typically still not “best” so I choose to avoid as much as possible. (So back to the previous point… not bathing and not drying out skin means no need for lotions).
- My kids have the strongest immune systems around. My oldest has been sick twice in her two and a half years of life. Seriously. So let’s take a look at triclosan from the previous point. It is in many soaps because it is the anti-bacterial. The problem with this is that is inhibits and kills even the body’s natural, good flora and continuously kills all germs. While this might sound great and awesome, it also weakens the immune system over time since it’s not allowing the body to be exposed to either good or bad bacteria and our bodies therefore, lose the ability to fight germs. (Furthermore, if antibiotics or drugs are needed, there is research indicating that antibacterial soaps, antibiotic overuse, and our obsession with clean is one of the reasons for superbugs and antibiotic resistance, but that’s a different story that goes beyond the bathtub).
We have definitely filled the tub with warm water to let our older child both play and relax on days when she has had a lot of energy or has desired to play in water, but that is more play time for her than a bath because she does get wiped off and no soap is ever involved and it is on a very inconsistent basis.
Moral of the story is that I bathe my kids when they need them and when they start to stink. But as far as daily or regular washing times, I ditched that idea. We only start routine baths and showers when they’re older and actually need them.
So do what works for your family!
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Kara is an author, wife, and mother of 3 children living in Boston, MA. She has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development and is passionate about connecting with and even helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!