Guidelines around bathing babies can be confusing, especially if your little one has eczema. So what’s the best advice? Let’s have a closer look at why baths can be both good - and bad! - for eczema-prone babies.
Advice about bathing babies seems to change with every decade; from daily baths with the now-banned talcum powder and liberal applications of mineral baby oil that were once standard, to spurning baths altogether, it can be very hard to work out what’s the right thing to do for your little one!
And that’s not surprising, because every baby - and every baby with eczema - is different. Some types of eczema react well to frequent bathing, and others not well at all. And while it’s been shown that immune systems develop more robustly with more everyday exposure to dirt, and that the incidence of eczema and asthma seems to increase the more baths children are given, nothing is quite as simple as it first looks.
What’s the problem with daily baths?
- Exposure to water dries out the skin and can cause eczema flares
- Bubble baths and shampoos can trigger flare-ups
- Baths wash off the skin’s natural microbiome reducing immune-system resilience
What’s good about daily baths?
- Less chance of skin infections taking hold
- Warm water can be calming for restless babies
- Water can rehydrate dry skin under the right circumstances
- Bath additives can help moisturise or calm dry or itchy skin
So there is clearly a balance to be struck! Here are our six steps to ensuring that baths are helpful for your eczema-prone baby, and aren’t making things worse!
- Use your judgement! You know your own baby better than anyone else. You know what kind of eczema he or she has, and whether it’s super dry or moist. Use your judgement: it’s likely to be better than a one-size-fits-all guideline. You know if they need a full dunk because of an explosive nappy or a tumble at the park, or whether they can be cleaned effectively without a bath.
- If you do bathe your baby, make sure that you Soak & Seal: pat dry gently, and apply emollient oil or salve within three minutes of getting out of the water
- Add something to the water that can soothe irritated skin: a oat-filled sock; natural bath oil (like our Bath & Body Oil); highly diluted bleach if your little one is prone to infections (see our guidelines for details and check with your GP first!).
- Avoid the bubbles! Anything with soap or sulphates in it can irritate delicate skin, so leave the bubble baths, baby body wash or shampoos on the side. For the first year at least, babies usually only need warm water to clean their skin. If you think they need active cleaning or are older than one year, try something gentle and SLS-free like our multi-purpose Natural Shampoo & Body Wash. You can use it all over and it’s free from irritants like fragrances and sulphates.
- Ask yourself if your baby is enjoying the experience! There’s little point in traumatising a little one by going through a routine that they hate. But if they love a calming chamomile-scented bath last thing before sleep, then go for it!
- You can keep babies clean with top and tail cleans without a bath: babies need daily cleaning, even if they don’t need daily baths. Keep their nappy area, chin folds, thigh folds and faces clean with warm water, natural oil, and damp cotton wool instead.
Recommended products for bathing eczema-prone babies:
Balmonds Natural Shampoo & Body Wash
with calendula & chamomile
Bath & Body Oil
with lavender, hemp and olive
If you require medical advice we recommend you always contact your healthcare professional.
If you or someone you are caring for seems very unwell, is getting worse or you think there's something seriously wrong, call for emergency services straight away. For general medical advice, please contact your healthcare professional, this article does not contain or replace medical advice.
Do not delay getting help if you're worried. Trust your instincts.