Q. Now that the weather is cooling down, do babies need to be bathed every day? How often is considered optimal?
A. "We tend to bathe babies too much, in my opinion," says Dr. Ronald Marino, associate chairman of pediatrics at Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola. Bathing a baby daily is our cultural preference but not a necessity, he says.
"Humans are very adaptable and can exist in a variety of conditions," he says, from the Amazon jungle to Alaskan igloos. Babies in those places survive without being bathed every single day.
Young babies here are spending the day in clean blankets and clothing; older babies up to 1 year are also spending much of their time in the fall and winter indoors. "How dirty do they get?" Marino says. "They're not out playing, they're not out rolling around in the mud. You never really smell a stinky baby. Babies just don't sweat like grown-ups sweat."
Babies' bottoms do get dirty, and they may get food on their faces and the folds of their necks, but those areas can be cleaned with washcloths, Marino says. The whole body doesn't need to be submerged.
How often to bathe? "Three times a week would be adequate for most kids," Marino says. Although it may seem counterintuitive because you are covering the baby with water, sometimes overbathing can actually lead to dry skin, Marino says. If your baby has eczema or other skin issues, talk to your pediatrician about an optimal schedule, Marino advises.