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Modern Parenthood

Babies: To bathe (frequently) or not to bathe (frequently)?

Between dirty diapers, splattered baby food, and runny noses, caring for babies is a messy proposition, but given the near constant wipe downs, how often to babies really need a bath?

By Correspondent / October 11, 2013

A recent blog post on Babble.com sparked a discussion of just how often parents should bathe their babies.

Molly Riley/AP

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"I Don't Bathe My Baby" is a blog post title designed to entice and annoy if ever one was written. It conjures up images of stark neglect, of a sad little infant huddled in a corner somewhere, covered in a filmy residue, with a stray Snickers wrapper adhered to his forearm.

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Contributing blogger

James Norton got his professional start at the Monitor as an online news producer, before moving over to edit international news during the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Since leaving the Monitor in 2004, he has worked as a radio producer, author, and food blogger. 

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And of course the blog post is about no such thing. The writer has two other children, she's busy, and the baby seems totally fine getting weekly baths, and seems to smell fine too. Plus:

According to the Mayo Clinic, there is no need to bathe a baby every day and bathing that frequently can actually lead to dry skin. As long as you are thoroughly wiping the diaper area, as well as neck and face, then baby is good to go. This makes total sense to me. It’s not like he’s touching every filthy thing he can find or running around and sweating a lot, so spot cleaning should be pretty sufficient.

An ABC report on the blog post describes the reader response to the seldom-bathed baby as an "online firestorm" (which was, of course, "unleashed"). Much of that firestorm, as represented by the story's comments, looks like this:

"LOL thank you! Folks are horrified when they hear how seldom my kids are bathed."

"To all the nay sayers...what are you doing with your infants necessitating a full daily bath?"

"What is your baby doing that you feel they need bathing every day? Even adults aren't supposed to bathe EVERY day."

Presented in opposition to fierce criticism such as:

"That cannot be good for a child. Some parents need to stop being so lazy."

"Lol lazy people!"

"My 6 month twins are prettygnarly by the end of the day, so I always give them baths. It also relaxes them. It is just part of our bedtime routine. To each their own."

Less an online firestorm than an online campfire, but potato, potahto.

Bathing a baby is, on some levels, a symbolic act. Babies are one of the few things we care for that can suddenly become dirty and/or covered in some sort of viscous fluid at any time, including when we're actively cleaning them. As compensation for their infinite abiltiy to self-soil, babies are also smooth enough that they wipe down fairly well, and compliant/confused enough to accept a wet cloth with relatively little resistance.

My wife and I fully intend to bathe our son every two or three days. That he only actually hits the interior of a bathtub – i.e. the now too-small tummy tub or the brand-new inflatable bath insert that he is currently cavorting in under my wife's supervision – every four to five days on average is a tribute to that fact that:

a) as new parents we are pretty darn tired and easily distracted and
b) spot cleaning with wipes and cloths really does go a pretty long way

He does not suffer from dry skin.

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