Infant Hair Loss
Baby hair can puff out, fall out, get curly, or change colors. Find out ways to easily treat cradle cap, wash a fussy baby’s hair, and learn about new ingredients to look for in shampoos.
Sometimes it’s a surprise to find that your baby, who was born with a full head of hair, is now having some hair loss and thinning. This is something that happens to many babies, although when it happens can be different. “It varies, either before delivery or right after birth during those first few weeks of life,” says Dr. Stephen Muething, MD, Associate Director of Clinical Services in General and Community Pediatrics at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
Why this happens is not really known, although it may have something to do with hormone levels. New hair grows at various times also. “Some babies have a full head of hair shortly after they are born, but usually during the nine- to 12-month range you can begin to see hair growth. Although, some babies can go until their first birthday and still be bald,” says Dr. Muething.
Bald spots are a relatively new problem pediatricians are seeing. “We are beginning to notice an increase in babies with a rubbing bald spot on the back of their heads from being continually placed on their backs. This type of baldness doesn’t cause any permanent damage, but it can be helped.” says Dr. Muething.
Parents have been advised for years now, to always place sleeping babies on their backs to decrease the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Doctors are now noticing a flattening of babies’ heads and patches of hair loss where babies continually rest their heads. “Now we are also recommending ‘tummy-time’ when the baby is awake,” says Dr. Muething. “This decreases the hair loss and also prevents flattening of the head. It is better to start early, right from the start placing baby on the stomach. Babies then become accustomed to this position and actually enjoy it,” Dr. Muething comments.
The Scoop on Cradle Cap
Your baby probably has cradle cap if you notice scaling skin on the scalp that often flakes off. Babies between six and 12 months generally are the most likely to get this condition, which usually is mild and does not cause any harm. You don’t really need to do anything. Parents, not babies, are often the most bothered by cradle cap.
There are several simple treatments that can help remove the dryness of cradle cap. Many babies with cradle cap can be helped by simply massaging the scalp, using shampoo before rinsing well, and making sure that the hair is washed at least every other day. Adding mineral oil to the scalp where the cradle cap is, will soften the scaling before the hair is washed. For severe cradle cap, parents should consult with their Pediatrician. Other skin conditions it could be are scalp eczema, or scalp psoriasis.
Still No Hair!
Look to the scalp for answers. If the scalp looks healthy, the hair loss is just a normal part of being a baby. A healthy scalp looks soft, with no scaling, redness, or oozing. If these symptoms occur it is best to discuss them with your Pediatrician who can prescribe a topical ointment. If hair growth is still sparse by age two, a Specialist should look into the cause.
Hair Texture and Color Changes
Genetics play a large role in determining hair texture and color. Think back to your own baby pictures and look at your hair now. You may notice that your hair color is much different than when you were a baby.
Usually baby hair curls more easily than adult hair because it is so much thinner and has less weight. The color of both hair and skin often darken during the first two to three years of life.
Hair Washing Made Easier
How can you find an easy way to wash your baby’s hair? Distraction! Don’t make a big deal out of washing the hair. Let the child play, sing to them, and while they are playing, gently wash and rinse their hair. Bathtub visors can be used to keep the bubbles out of your child’s face. Try using a detachable showerhead, which a toddler might find fascinating, or a damp cloth rather than running water.
Usually, babies do not like to get water in their faces. Set aside enough time for a bath during these fussy stages and try to stay patient. Continuing to talk in a calm, encouraging tone will let your baby feel that there is nothing to be afraid of.
Detangling Those Curls
Using a hair conditioner is always a good idea after shampooing, because it will be a lot easier to comb or brush the hair without tears. Specially designed kid-friendly, two-in-one shampoo and conditioners are now widely available. However, parents should not overdo washing their children’s hair. In general, you should use less soap. Baths can become long playtimes, and usually parents will wash their children first and then let them play. It’s better to have the bath play first and then save using the soap until the end of the bath.
The Best Shampoo for Baby
Shampoos that are designed for babies and children also usually state on the package as “tear-free.” These shampoos use a mild detergent that will not sting the eyes. In addition, shampoos are now are being designed with natural ingredients, such as extra-mild botanical ingredients and essential oils. Scented shampoos with ingredients like lavender or chamomile have been known to produce a soothing effect on the baby or toddler.
When should you schedule that first haircut? Whenever you want to! There’s really no rush. Cutting it during the first few years won’t change the health of the hair, so it is entirely up to the parents. If you don’t feel comfortable with scissors and you have a toddler that won’t sit still, there are many hair salons that specialize in children’s hair styling, with kid-friendly furniture, balloons, and silly themed rooms.
Styling a Little One’s Hair
Occasionally moms try to do certain styles, such as braids and pigtails, that can actually damage the hair. Hair in young children can be very fine and sometimes little ones can get hair loss from hairstyles that pull too tightly or are in place for a long period of time.
Many disorders can result from manipulation of the hair (such as traction alopecia, in which tight braids or other hair styling can lead to hair loss at the sites of the greatest tension) or treatment with chemicals. Children should have simple styles and avoid excessive manipulation or treatments until they are older.