Parenting

Do children need a daily bath? 8 reasons to stop washing so much

23 March, 2015

Ramona has a blue scalp at the moment. I mean, entirely blue. Bright, glowing ocean blue. It happened last week, when a friend and I looked out the window to see both of our children with rainbow heads – every hair shaft stiff with thick, vibrant paint they’d discovered in a drawer. It looked cool, really punky. I felt like I got an almost-complete polaroid of what she might be like as a teen.

Anyway, baking soda and honey managed to get almost all the paint out of her hair, just not her scalp.

It doesn’t really look cool anymore (there’s a reason coloured scalps have never taken off, turns out) – it just sort of looks feral. It’s like reptile skin, weirdly host to beautiful, blonde hair.

I guess, if we washed everyday, the blue scalp might have dissapeared by now. But the thing is, we really don’t wash every day… I’m developing a pretty strong stance against daily baths, actually.

There are so many reasons children don’t need to bathe daily. If a quick dunk in the bath is a chore in your family read on and let liberation soak you through…

8 reasons to stop giving your children a bath

Ramona must have a thing for blue hair (this is a wig, hehe, not the paint!)

1- Baths aren’t a necessary “should”.  

Family life is hindered, rather than helped, by having a list of Things You Must Do. Brushing hair, having a bath, eating five vegetables- chuck your list out the window and find yourself BLOOMING with liberation!! We have enough things we REALLY have to do as parents- so let’s let go of the things that have ended up on an arbitrary “should” list. As my friend and parenting guru, Sue, says “Parents need to stop shoulding on themselves!” Hold tightly to the truly important things, and watch everything else just falls naturally into a hierarchy.

2- Cleanliness is overrated.

A fascinating Washington Post article mentions the role a bit of dirtiness can play in our healthiness:  “overly clean living can be bad for our immune systems, which need certain microbes and gut bacteria to function properly and to keep us healthy from the more dangerous pathogens.” Having a good healthy, uninterrupted layer of skin-plus-extras can actually promote health. So many families report skin conditions such as eczema dissapearing once they switch to a weekly rather than daily bath. 

3- Baths, if not forced, can be therapeutic.

The result of making sure baths are only ever autonomously chosen is that children take great pleasure in them. For our four year old, the bath is the place she retreats to when she needs to find calm or have some space. She can spend an hour in their just floating and singing- once she even fell asleep. (We are lucky to live in a tiny winy shack that Tim built next to our yurt so the bath is only ever a couple of metres away… Somehow it still has a cocoon like feel.)

4- Pheronomes.

Furry gnomes (as Tim and I call them) are actually a really important part of our instinct and our understanding of people. There has been a bit of work done on the role of pheremones in sexuality, but they have a role in all part of our lives. There is growing evidence that suggests these chemicals we release impact mother-infant recognition and bonding. So definitely don’t wash your newborn!

5- Forcing our kids to do anything interrupts the development of their intrinsic motivation.

I see one of my roles as a parent to protect some of the precious things my child was born with in order to cultivate her happiness now and ever more! I see so many unhappy people who live their lives according to other people’s rules and wishes. How harmonious the world would be if we were all able to trust our internal desires, and to be self determined. I won’t (I should say, we TRY NOT TO) make our daughters do anything because I am preserving their internal motivation. They shall be the conductors of their own symphony! 

6- Baths can be an actual activity, y’know.

BATHS CAN BE SO MUCH FUN! They count as an official activity in our house. We put food colouring in, and glow sticks, and paints. (Consider these if for some reason you really must help your child to bathe more.)

7- Regular bathing is a modern, newfangled thing.

You know, back in the day they’d bathe ONCE A YEAR, in May. Then they used to get married in June because they were still clean. I’m not really a traditionalist, but for this point I am. Daily bathing is basically like SnapChat… in the history of the world, it’ll be barely a blink of an eye. (Although…. a year…. pheweeeee…. that is SOME TIME. Don’t go that extreme, eh, friends. Just meet in the middle with “Whenever your children fancy one”…)

8- Lastly, and most importantly, they are not “yours” to put in the bath!

Give your child an amazing gift: the awareness that his body is HIS alone. Show her, by never making her do something with her body, that no one can do something to her without her consent. Sometimes we let “the hygiene myth” get in the way,  we allow it  to interrupt this crucial, protecting message. Let your child yelling “I am the boss of my body!!!” fill you with hope and happiness.

8 reasons to stop giving your children daily baths

____

So, having a child with a glowing, colourful scalp, who looks so clearly like they need a good dunk in the bath, has, over this last week, in a funny sort of a way, made me become more sure, confident, that daily baths are one less SHOULD families need in their lives. And if people think Ramona is some kind of lizard child walking amongst us, so be it. We all need a little more magic in our lives, eh?!

PS- Any other reasons you can add? I’d love to hear if you’ve ditched any other parenting shoulds! 

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40 Comments

  • Reply Lissa 23 March, 2015 at 8:34 pm

    Love this!
    My 5yo loves baths – not for washing but for playing. He can easily spend an hour just playing with toys and ‘experiments’ (measuring shampoo into containers, mixing them up and producing bubbles). He used to when small, have a nightly bath, but that was kiboshed when it became very apparent that the baths were giving him more energy and wakening him up not rather than providing that calming pathway for sleep! He now bathes every 3-4 days (which has done wonders for his eczema) and get his hair washed every couple of weeks. I have found over the years that baths are great for playing, for helping get over a bad mood and a solution to boredom in a wee one 🙂
    Great post, thanks xx
    Lissa recently posted…Happy Mother’s DayMy Profile

  • Reply Janine Fowler 23 March, 2015 at 8:38 pm

    Totally agree! I have to fight my husband on this, as he would prefer to force hair washing and brushing. Totally gross but my toddler basically gets a bath (other than for fun) when I can smell his diaper area without leaning in when changing him! And then the 4 year old gets a bath whenever the toddler does because he insists on hopping in.
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  • Reply Vicki 23 March, 2015 at 8:44 pm

    This is quite timely. It has been hot and muggy here in our part of the world and I was trying to convince my girl that a bath before bed would cool her down. She was not having part of it, though what she did have part in was showering with me this morning which was her choice.I do not mind either way if she joins me when I choose to shower. If she asks I say yes as does her dad. I am on board with your first two points for sure. When my son was younger we lived in a tent as nomads and he crawled in the dirt all day. We had no bath so he had one rarely and I always felt he was way healthier because his immune system was developed hanging out in ( and eating) the dirt. I am also in agreement with the list of shoulds. Tea “should” be at 6, girls “should” have long hair and wear clips even if they do not want to. Drives me a little nutso all of this implied should stuff. We live in a house without a bath tub. We love, love, love baths and miss them terribly. If we had a tub we would all bathe every day because of the therapeutic part you mention. Small girl bathes in a tub but is growing out of that. I do like small girl to have a bath fairly often as she still wears a night nappy and gets a bit stinky down there, though often a wash with a cloth does the trick. One last thing, you talk about the fun aspect of baths. Small girl likes squirter bottles and kitchen implements in her bath. We are minimalists so have few of these however whatever I can find is fun to her, a tea strainer and a few spoons work. Cheers.

  • Reply Ruth 23 March, 2015 at 8:49 pm

    lovely post 🙂 the blue hair is so super duper cool!

    We do (almost) daily baths but only because they’re a joy rather than a chore. One or the other of us still gets in with T for the first ten mins or so, and it’s an awesome bonding time when he usually tells us loads of things that have happened throughout the day. Then we get out and he gets as long as he likes to do playing, relaxing, science experiments that usually involve flooding the bathroom floor… The actual washing bit though, we are kind of lax about. I figure all the swooshing of water does the job without much need for soap or shampoo 🙂
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  • Reply Hanna Lutkin 23 March, 2015 at 8:57 pm

    Due to eczema as a small babies we never bathed every night but we have now fallen into it as they absolutely love their bath. Splashing, experimenting, playing drive thru macdonalds (even though we never go!). The only bit they don’t like is hair washing so that we only do once a week or less.

    I agree that the obsessions with cleanliness is a relative new one and not necessarily a good thing. I would rather not bath every night but they insist. They love it most of all though when we all get in together!

  • Reply zehra 23 March, 2015 at 9:02 pm

    when ayla was born, my friend who is a paedetrician said there was no need to was her so we didn’t.. for weeks! even now, we wash her only when really needed ( too many layers of spaghetti sauce behind ear) or she plays in my bath but I don’t wash her hair unless needed. but yes, we aren’t as obsessive about bathing like a lot of parents. its a fun activity in our house too.
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  • Reply Amibambini 23 March, 2015 at 9:12 pm

    We live on a boat with water tanks that require a 1/2 day palaver of moving & filling.. So we are quite frugal with our supply. Our toddler gets a weekly bath! I shower every 3 days or so. If you told me this would be our hygiene standard 4 years ago, pre boat, pre baby, I’d of laughed and thought ‘ew no way’. But it’s actually fine! I think it’s clothes that start to stink before people do.

  • Reply Vicky 23 March, 2015 at 9:14 pm

    Thank you so much for this revelation our little boy hates baths and it was becoming a bit of a traumatic experience so I think bathing when needed is now the way to go for him

    • Lucy
      Reply Lucy 25 March, 2015 at 11:16 am

      Yes- take off all the pressure and see what happens 🙂

  • Reply Becky Brown 23 March, 2015 at 9:29 pm

    This is the second time that I’ve read recently about not washing your kids daily. I’m all for it because quite frankly it has become a bit of a chore to get them to shower daily. They certainly don’t need one everyday it has just become a bit of a habit. Considering our youngest has developed pretty bad eczema we know it’s not good for him as he’s dry enough as it is. I never really gave not showering them a thought as it’s just something we’ve/I’ve done forever, but I totally see sense in it!
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  • Reply Anna 23 March, 2015 at 10:23 pm

    I have been lusting after blue hair for a few months now, so Ramona is well ahead of my curve! I’m the same as Lissy – we used to bath D every night but it started to get a bit stimulating before bed time. Now it’s changed again and she is literally too tired to cope with it and just wants to get into bed. I’ve never been a fan of soap or shampoo for her either – her skin doesn’t agree with it. I find it a bit bizarre to think of shampooing her hair generally – it’s just lovely with water alone. I do swipe her vitals every day though – but I’m aware that’s my hang up not hers! As kids we used to bath once a week with daily face and bum washes! We were fine and bath time was something to look forward to rather than a daily chore!
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  • Reply Rachel 23 March, 2015 at 10:46 pm

    Love this! We used to bath our son every night as part of his bedtime routine, but a combination of our laziness and his reluctance means it’s more like every couple of days and he’s fine. We also almost never wash his hair, this was mostly because he HATES it, but again nothing terrible has happened and no dreads yet 😉
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  • Reply Kathryn 23 March, 2015 at 10:50 pm

    Whilst I love this post (and your others!), I felt I should add that thoughts on eczema have changed. When my first soon (now 11) was diagnosed with it, it was that idea that less bathing was better, and that idea was the same when my second and third sons came along. However, when my now 7 month old daughter got diagnosed in Jan, the advice was very different. Bath EVERY day with a bath emollient as apparently that helps open the pores and allows any moisturisers or medicated creams to soak in better instead of lying on the top layer of skin. We were so disappointed as our children all hated baths as babies as it obviously hurt their skin and it was not a pleasant experience. But, we are doing or best for our girl as her wee life is so painful. (Just an add on, all my babies were/are exclusively breast fed and have gone against the trend of being supper human-they all have food allergies, eczema and asthma! And we tried natural remedies, changes in diet etc too but condition too severe and needed proper medical support. Just unlucky, really. Argh!). Having said all that, less bathing worked for the boys (& they still only bath once a week) & more bathing is working for our daughter. Everyone should just follow the right path for them.
    Thanks!

    • Lucy
      Reply Lucy 25 March, 2015 at 11:16 am

      Perfect 🙂

  • Reply Eleanor 23 March, 2015 at 11:02 pm

    Agreed washing is overrated! Bath time however is fun at our house my daughter 2 1/2 has always had an affinity with water she could play in it for ages- however tooth brushing is a different matter, she has weeks where she just doesn’t want to do it at all- does anyone think tooth cleaning is as unnecessary as body washing! Please say yes!

  • Reply ellie buchanan 24 March, 2015 at 6:41 am

    I agree with most of these and even the “don’t force” your child reason sounds good. But what about “forcing” veggies?

    • Lucy
      Reply Lucy 25 March, 2015 at 11:15 am

      I’d never force any food- really wouldn’t want to set up food as having a good or bad / guilt/ pleasure issues. Veggies are just delicious and if not forced will be discovered as so!

  • Reply lily slingo 24 March, 2015 at 8:06 am

    I never realised how much it all makes sense. My whole life is have always had a great relationship with the bath. It was always a weekly fun ritual with flannel washes in between, my Boho mother never believed in over washing children and happily let us get filthy. The bath would be full of junk and toys which I would make games, potions and pretend to swim and challenge myself to holding my breath!! My childhood bath was an old fashioned, metal giant thing that when I met my now-husband we would get in together quite well and have fun in other ways! I still now have a weekly bath and odd shower in between depending on how I feel, and being 4 months pregnant loving a long soak with music and candles. My hubby doesn’t understand it, but then he has an oily job in engineering so has to have showers daily. He’s well groomed and the family have labelled me as a ‘minger’ or ‘hippy’ lol. Whatever!

    Some ‘should’ things that mum does say like girls should really have long hair annoys me but I think that’s just because of her own childhood experiences.

    I’m expecting my first bambino in September and will continue to keep my principles of a more natural, instinctive life and have always thought of putting baby products (that are advertised everywhere when you’re preggers) on a newborn’s delicate, fresh skin has always made me squirm. Hopefully my natural instincts towards cleanliness and dirty healthy childhood (being a playworker and play advocate also plays a strong part too in this subject) will continue when becoming a mum and my child will also be unbothered by bath times, rather thoroughly enjoy them and see them as play opportunities!!

    Love the blog so thank you xx

  • Reply Alina 24 March, 2015 at 9:37 am

    A thought-provoking post. For me the crux of the post is allowing the child to be the boss of his or her own body. I try as often as possible to say yes to my three year old and “it’s okay, you don’t have to” whenever I can. How do you deal with things that really do seem necessary – a big one for us is brushing teeth. They do genuinely need to be brushed to keep them healthy for now and the future. I try and explain as well as I can why the things that are necessary are necessary, but if a child still refuses after discussion? It’s a difficult one.

  • Reply Eline @ Pasta & Patchwork 24 March, 2015 at 11:00 am

    Hear hear to all that! My son has a bath every 2-3 days because he enjoys them, and sometimes a shower with one of us too. What he doesn’t get is a hair wash as he HATES water on his head. The last time we shampooed his hair he had sick in it and absolutely stank, but I still felt bad about it. So normally I just don’t think it’s worth the upset, especially because it’s usually fine anyway. A bit mad, but fine.
    The other this I won’t hear any “should” about is cold weather gear. He’s one of those kids who’s always sweaty and so trying to force a coat on him just because he *might* get cold seems ridiculous. He gets ill no more or less often than his friends, and in any case he does ask for a coat when he feels he needs it. I think that’s another one lots of people find it hard to let go of though.
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  • Reply Kellie 24 March, 2015 at 8:42 pm

    Baths and showers are totally just for fun and relaxation. I like to have my fun and relaxation once a day, ideally for a whole hour but that almost never happens with 2 little ones.
    Up until a few months after his little sister arrived my son used to get in the bath when we had a shower (our shower is over the bath so he would just put the plug in and it would fill up). But only on the days he felt like it.
    Our baby LOVES bath time so she gets one almost every night now, but for her first couple of months we only bothered every 3 or 4 days. Big brother usually hops in part way through her bath and keeps playing after she hops out.
    We don’t use anything but water on either of them and they always get clean enough. Apart from one time when our eldest got his face painted as a buzzy bee and didn’t want to wash too close to his eyes so had big black circles around his eyes for a day or so. I got quite a few funny looks while taking him shopping like that and explained to more than one person that it was just paint.
    Food colouring, permanent marker and temporary tattoos are best removed with oil not soap I have found.

  • Reply Pennie Brownlee 25 March, 2015 at 7:39 am

    Good morning Lucy,

    LOVE the post about the bath – this ‘cleanliness’ thing isn’t about health or cleanliness. It has deeper roots than that, and the toiletries industry knows how to milk that scare us into buying all sorts of unnecessary stuff just by saying “bacteria”, especially if they cleverly tie it into “do you love your children/family?”

    There’s one small thing I would question though, a thing I had brought to my attention at the Emmi Pikler Institute. There the children didn’t have anything – toys or colouring – in their bath with them, “Because … Water; it is SOMEthing”. Anna Tardos Director of the Institute. And I got to thinking about it: Water, it IS something! When I go to the beach or the river it isn’t with a bucket of toys, it is to be in ‘the properties of water’. At the Pikler Institute they wanted the sensory information the child/child’s body was taking in and dealing with to be water pure and simple. Something worth considering especially for the child under one, the child whose sensorimotor brain is working over time ‘placing the body in this physical world’.

    Warm water wishes to you,
    Pennie

    • Lucy
      Reply Lucy 25 March, 2015 at 11:14 am

      What a lovely thought!

  • Reply Mammasaurus 25 March, 2015 at 12:56 pm

    I’ve taken bathing Kit and Ozzy back to the 1908’s when my mum used to declare Sunday nights bath nights. They wash their hair once a week then too if it looks to me like it needs it. They’ve never had nits despite some outbreaks at school so maybe that’s connected!
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  • Reply Amanda 26 March, 2015 at 9:00 pm

    We give our daughter a daily bath, and its a beautiful part of our daily rhythm, a calming space before bedtime and often some quality time with her dad too. But our girl has always been a water baby, so we’ve never had any arguments about it, say the word bath or shower and she’s there. And because we don’t use soap and she gets a post bath rub down with coconut oil, we’ve never had trouble withher
    skin. We’re outside all the time and our soil is a fine dark silt, which really makes everything filthy, clothes, rugs, sheets etc. So it was fun to read your post but don’t think less of the mostly daily bathers, we love it and it works for us. Right, the firebath in the garden has heated up so I’m off for a bath . . .

    • Lucy
      Reply Lucy 27 March, 2015 at 11:00 am

      Awesome 🙂 It definitely want intended to make anyone think less of the daily bathers 😀

  • Reply ruth 27 March, 2015 at 5:26 am

    We have kids with eczema so never have done the daily bath thing, sometimes I get to the end of the week and think “did the boys wash this week!?”, but this post reminds me last week talking to my son about looking after his body as he was getting into the shower I sung a song we learnt at primary school, “my bodies no bodies body but mine, you run your own body, let me run mine” must be sung with great gusto! One memory from school that really stuck, I can still remember the whole song, have you heard it? You would love it 😀

    • Lucy
      Reply Lucy 27 March, 2015 at 10:59 am

      I LOVE IT

  • Reply Sonya Cisco 31 March, 2015 at 2:02 am

    Sydney suffers from eczema so I only bath him once a week-ish unless he is insistent- Max, my 11 year old, loves a bath though, especially with bubbles and has now also gained a bath pillow which he is very happy with – he takes after me, I love a good bath!
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  • Reply Boo Roo and Tigger Too 31 March, 2015 at 5:44 am

    My children go in the bath once a week, only more if they are especially messy with just a daily wash – worked OK for me as a child so I’ve just continued
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  • Reply Carolin 31 March, 2015 at 7:29 am

    We used to give Amy a bath every day, but sometimes life just gets in the way and I’d rather enjoy bath time than make it a chore and stressful. If we had a long day, Amy has a simple wash or quick shower. Baths are for the days where we have plenty of time, so they can turn into super long play sessions and fun.
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  • Reply Alice 31 March, 2015 at 10:43 pm

    I stopped giving my daughter daily baths because she started getting dry skin that was itchy and sore. I didn’t see the point in then slathering her in lotion to counteract. Now she has fun baths, in the day, every few days with a dollop of coconut oil to help her skin. She enjoys it so much more too!

  • Reply Andrea 31 March, 2015 at 11:26 pm

    We really don’t have time to bath Sophie daily, by the time Daddy is home and we have eaten dinner together! I remember being a child and having a weekly bath!
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  • Reply Lucy 3 April, 2015 at 12:55 am

    I bath my daughter as and when I feel like it. She isn’t old enough to choose yet. (17 months). She eats food that she’s dropped on the floor in the house and she crawls around in the dirt outside. She’s vomited once in her entire life. She gets coughs and colds like any other kid but she totally owns it! Never whines, never stops playing, eating or drinking.
    I must admit that it’s lovely to cuddle a shampoo smelling baby in fresh pyjamas before putting them into a newly changed bed. But not everyday. Maybe not even every week!

  • Reply Emma 4 April, 2015 at 5:49 am

    Awww, fab post. We do bathe everyday, but more because it’s become part of our bedtime routine than anything else.

    I hope the blue scalp fades soon 🙂
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  • Reply Jorge Sanz 11 April, 2015 at 11:51 pm

    Hello. I read an article about your search for a better and healthier self. Congratulations.
    I myself and my family had taken the step 18 years ago and it is a healthier one so far.
    I did not use shampoo for seven years. For the past 18 years I shower only with water and I use an organic shampoo on my hair every two weeks. Since my son was born 13 years ago we bathed him only with water once a day and since he was 8 we never obligated him to take a shower. Only when he went to the pool we had him rinse himself to get rid of the chemicals. I could know two days in advance if my son was getting sick for his smell changed and was not hidden by the chemicals. He was always healthy and our skins smell good and natural. I share this experiences with you for encouraging your search. Also, we never obligated or put pressure on our children to say hello or good bye to other people for them to learn naturally by seeing us and everybody else doing it. It worked well.

  • Reply Fernanda 16 April, 2015 at 2:42 am

    Well, I’m from Brazil, a tropical and super hot country so I hardly agree with this. Seriously, here you’d actually want to shower/bath everyday, and maybe more than once: it is really normal for us to bath/shower 2 or 3 times a day.

    That said, here the problem comes when you don’t bath/shower, not when you do. I don’t know how things would work in colder countries but here it is super easy to make a babie/toodler/kid to enjoy bath/shower and use that to be a every day stuff. And kids normally like that.

    But now about chemicals: it is not safe to put artificial stuff in any part of our body and because we here bath/shower so much, doctors says a lot about how it is important to DO NOT use anything besides water when bathing/showering, otherwise we’d have dry skin :p

    Anyway, I like that this work for you and a lot of family. Maybe if one day I live in a colder country I take note about that, but living where I do it is a impossible task to avoid daily shower/bath :3

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