Margaret Cox, chief executive of the National Eczema Society, advised parents not to bath their baby daily because water and detergents have a drying effect on their delicate skin.
Ms Cox said that washing habits over the past 50 years, along with central heating and other environmental factors, have conributed to an increase in eczema.
She recommended that parents follow advice from NHS Direct that babies be fully bathed two or three times a week, and be washed 'top to tail' every day.
Ms Cox said that there was a lot of confusion over whether children with or without eczema should be bathed every day. She said those with the condition should be bathed each night using an emollient in warm water, which helps trap moisture and reduces the occurrence of broken skin that attracts bacteria.
Dr Raj Thakkar, a Buckinghamshire GP who writes a column for Nursery World, said, 'Bathing daily may indeed exacerbate eczema as the natural skin oils, which are protective, can be stripped away. Daily bathing, however, helps many parents manage their child's routine. Avoiding soaps and using emollients in the bath and on a regular basis throughout the day can certainly prevent eczema in children without the condition, or reduce or eradicate symptoms in those with it.
'Ultimately, each baby is different and it is difficult to generalise. If they are concerned, parents should discuss their baby's health with their GP.'
Research at the University of Bath has found that aqueous cream BP, sometimes prescribed as an emollient to manage eczema, worsens the condition. It is thought that one of the ingredients in the cream, sodium lauryl sulphate, a detergent, damages the skin's natural barrier even in people without eczema.
The National Eczema Society has published a factsheet, Childhood Atopic Eczema, with advice on treatment. Visit www.eczema.org.