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How Often Should You Wash a Baby, Really?

According to these two, only when the baby is visibly dirty. Photo: Jesse Grant/Getty Images

And now, one of the great polarizing questions of our time: How often do you need to wash a baby? Babies famously lack autonomy and cannot wash themselves; they are also famously messy, barfing on their caretakers, smearing food on the walls and also their heads, gnawing on dusty household objects, blowing out their diapers. This is a 24-7 spot-cleaning job, but do they require a regular, full-body scrub on top of it? Do any of us, for that matter?

According to dermatologists, microbiologists, and also Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher, the answer is no; soaping yourself daily can actually become counterproductive. The Mayo Clinic advises that “there’s no need to give your newborn a bath every day,” and that it’s totally fine to just sponge them as needed. Even for older children, the American Academy of Dermatology Association says that at least once a week is probably okay, unless the kids are “playing in the mud” or something. Actors and parents Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher, meanwhile, recommend cleaning your dependent offspring “if you can see the dirt on them.”

Admittedly I am not a parent, but … sounds about right to me! If not to Monica Padman, co-host of the podcast Armchair Expert. In a recent episode, Kutcher and Kunis reportedly discussed their views on hygiene, agreeing with Padman’s co-host Dax Shepard that, as a rule, one “should not be getting rid of the natural oil on your skin with a bar of soap every day.” From there, the exchange went something like this:

Padman: “I can’t believe I am in the minority here of washing my whole body in the shower. Who taught you to not wash?”

Kunis: “I didn’t have hot water growing up as a child, so I didn’t shower much anyway. …But when I had children, I also didn’t wash them every day. I wasn’t that parent that bathed my newborns — ever.”

Kutcher, piggybacking off of all this: “Now, here’s the thing: If you can see the dirt on them, clean them. Otherwise, there’s no point.”

Granted, Ashton Kutcher is a (self-appointed) policy expert, not necessarily a wellness expert. However! He is probably correct in this assessment: If the baby doesn’t smell, doesn’t have anything on it, isn’t giving you any kind of visual or olfactory cues that it needs a bath, why dry out its little baby skin unnecessarily? Probably we should all be wet-wiping the crumbs from our folds more often than we are clearing them with a sudsy plunge, but to each their own I suppose. Unless we are talking about hand-washing. That’s a nonnegotiable.

How Often Do You Really Need to Wash a Baby?