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My newborn is losing his hair. Is this normal?
Newborn hair loss is perfectly normal and nothing to worry about. Babies often lose their hair during the first six months. This kind of hair loss is called telogen effluvium.
Here's why it happens: Hair has a growth stage and a resting stage. The growth stage lasts about three years, and the resting stage lasts about three months (although anywhere from one to six months is normal). During the resting stage, the hair remains in the follicle until the new hair starts coming in.
About 5 to 15 percent of hair on the scalp is usually in the resting phase at any one time, but stress, fever, or a hormonal change can cause a large number of hairs to stop growing all at once. The shedding begins when the next growth stage starts up about three months later.
A newborn's hormone levels drop right after birth, which can cause him to lose the hair he was born with. (New moms often lose large amounts of hair for the same reason.)
Parents are sometimes surprised to discover that when a baby grows a new head of hair it's a completely different color and texture than what he was born with. our site reader Julie's son Will was born with a full head of thick black hair. "He looked just like Elvis – he even had sideburns," she says. "Both my husband and I are blond, and we wondered where the dark hair came from. Almost immediately after birth, though, it started falling out. The hair that replaced it is a beautiful wheat color."
If you notice that your baby has bald patches, observe the way he sits and sleeps. If he always sleeps in the same position or tends to sit with the back of his head against a baby seat, he may lose hair in that area. He may also develop a bald spot if he rubs his head against his mattress.
There are other conditions that cause hair loss, but they're very uncommon in children under 12 months old:
- Patchy bald spots with red, flaky scaling (and sometimes black dots where the hair has broken off) may mean that your baby has a contagious fungal infection called tinea capitis, or ringworm.
- Physical damage – from tight ponytails, for example – can result in hair loss called traction alopecia.
- Irregular patches of hair may fall out if your older baby twirls or pulls his hair compulsively. This is called trichotillomania.
- If your baby has smooth, round, totally bald areas, he may have alopecia areata, a condition in which the immune system attacks the hair follicles, drastically slowing hair growth. This type of hair loss usually appears in isolated patches, although it can affect all of the hair on the body.
- Some medical conditions – such as hypothyroidism (a thyroid disorder) or hypopituitarism (an underactive pituitary gland) – can cause hair loss all over your child's head.
What can I do about my baby's hair loss?
There's nothing you can do about newborn hair loss related to hormone levels except look forward seeing your baby's new 'do.
If the bald spot is the result of your baby spending too much time in the same position, try alternating the way your baby sleeps during naps and at night. If you usually put him to sleep with his head at one end of the crib, try putting him down with his head at the other end every other night. Your baby will naturally turn his head to the side to look out of the crib, so he'll be resting on a different part of his head.
Make sure your baby spends some time on his tummy every day. In addition to giving the back of his head a break, tummy time is essential for your baby's overall physical development.
Mention your baby's hair loss to his doctor, especially after your baby's 6-month birthday. Chances are the hair loss is normal, but his doctor can make sure that there isn't an underlying medical condition and help with treatment if there happens to be a problem. If your child has ringworm, for example, an antifungal medication will be prescribed.
If the doctor suspects alopecia areata, you might be referred to a dermatologist for further evaluation. (Some children simply outgrow alopecia areata without treatment. Others – usually older children – receive medication to stimulate hair growth.)
If breakage caused your baby's hair loss, you'll just have to treat his hair and scalp tenderly for a while until it grows back. (Keep in mind that a baby's hair is finer and more delicate than an adult's. Opt for natural styles and brush gently.)
There are no guarantees, but in most cases a baby's hair loss is temporary. There's a good chance your child will sport a full head of hair within a year.
What if my baby's completely bald?
Many new babies are bald, although upon close examination of your baby's scalp, you will probably see pale, downy, extra-fine hair. This type of baldness can sometimes last until a baby's first birthday. Until then, enjoy the maintenance-free style!