During the first few months of your baby’s life, it seems like they change every day. Some of those changes are exciting—gaining weight, smiling when they look at you, and holding their head up on their own, just to name a few. Other changes, however, can be worrisome, such as:
These issues often times develop without warning and can have you wondering what’s going on.
Perhaps one of the most worrisome changes is baby hair loss. The night before, your baby seems fine. The next morning, though, you notice a small clump of hair in their crib. Is this a sign of a larger problem? Should you be concerned? Before you rush to the pediatrician, let us assure you that baby hair loss is completely normal. They’re losing their hair for the same reason you lost some hair during your pregnancy (or will once your little one arrives): hormones.
But what exactly is baby hair loss, and why does it occur? What should concerned parents do if their baby starts to go bald? The experts at Mustela will answer those questions and put all your fears about baby hair loss to rest.
What Is Baby Hair Loss & Why Does It Happen?
Before we get into the specifics of baby hair loss, it’s important to note that the scientific term for this condition is telogen effluvium. This term can be both deceiving and alarming because telogen effluvium can be used to refer to a wide variety of hair loss in babies, children, and adults.
But most likely, none of the serious causes listed for telogen effluvium—like physical or emotional stress, chronic illness, and anemia—are behind your baby’s hair loss.
Hair has a growth stage and a resting stage. During the resting stage, the hair remains in the follicle until new hair starts to grow. As we get older, about 5 to 15 percent of hair on the scalp is typically 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.
Because a newborn's hormone levels fluctuate significantly right after birth, it may cause them to lose the hair they were born with. Their body is processing out their mother’s hormones and replacing them with something more suitable for their new environment outside the womb.
Baby Hair Loss Is Normal
Whether your baby loses a few tufts of hair here and there or goes completely bald, it’s nothing to worry about. The reason most adults immediately jump to the worst conclusion is because sudden hair loss (telogen effluvium) later on in life is usually a symptom of a larger problem. Again, that’s often not the case for infants. The fluctuating hormones that are likely the trigger for their hair loss are a natural part of the growth process.
What To Do If Your Baby Starts To Lose Their Hair
Keep in mind that your baby is losing hair as a result of a natural process that’s occurring inside their body, which means that there’s very little you can do to prevent the situation. You can, however, help to minimize it by following these simple suggestions.
1) Don’t Panic
Almost 10 times out of 10, your baby’s hair loss will be the result of the normal fluctuations in hormone levels that we mentioned before as their body metabolizes your hormones and replaces them with more-appropriate, and much gentler, newborn hormones.
That said, there’s still a very small chance that their hair loss could be the result of some other cause. As soon as you notice that your baby’s hair is thinning, you should start to look for other symptoms as it’s often better to be overly cautious in situations like these.
2) Look For Other Symptoms
One of the biggest indicators that something more serious is happening with your baby is a change in behavior associated with their hair loss. Are they sleeping less for no apparent reason? Are they refusing to eat foods they liked before? Are they acting strange?
These are not indicators in and of themselves (babies change the way they sleep, eat, and act all the time), but they can alert you to an underlying problem. Some symptoms to keep an eye out for include:
- Patchy bald spots with red, flaky scales.
- Isolated smooth, round, totally bald areas.
- Swelling of the tongue and around the eyes, coupled with cool, pale skin.
- Increased thirst and urination.
None of these symptoms indicate a life-threatening illness, but it’s important to consult a doctor for further advice if you observe them in your baby.
Note that hair loss can also be caused by external forces that have nothing to do with your baby’s hormones. If you regularly put your baby’s hair in a ponytail (of any size or at any location on their head), the tightness of the ponytail may result in hair loss. Even excessive twirling or hair pulling (by your baby) can cause irregular patches to fall out.
3) Observe The Way Your Baby Sits And Sleeps
Another external factor that may contribute to your baby’s hair loss is the way they sit and sleep. When you start to pay attention, you may notice that your baby spends a lot of time in the same position.
For example, when they sleep, they turn their head to the right to look at the world outside their crib. Then when they sit in their car seat, they turn their head to the right to look out the window. Spending too much time in one position can put pressure on your little one’s skin, creating friction that may cause hair loss.
If your baby usually sleeps with their head at one end of the crib, try putting them down with their head at the other end of the crib for a night or two.
4) Encourage Tummy Time
Every young baby should spend time on their tummy. Not only does this give the back of their head a rest and minimize hair loss, but it’s also essential for their overall health and physical development.
When a baby’s on their tummy, they have to work to lift their head, to turn their neck, to see mom and dad, and to interact with the world. Ultimately, tummy time helps your baby learn to push up, roll over, sit up, crawl, and eventually stand—all important developmental milestones in your baby’s life.
You can start practicing tummy time right away after your baby’s born. Until they learn to move their head effectively on their own, keep an eye on them while they’re in this position. If they fall asleep, be sure to turn them over onto their back.
Keep in mind that tummy time should only take place when you can supervise. Never let your baby sleep on their tummy until they can roll themselves all the way over.
5) Treat Your Baby’s Scalp Gently
Even though you can’t prevent hair loss altogether, you can minimize the effects by treating your baby’s scalp and hair gently.
Here are some simple suggestions:
- Avoid headbands and ponytails.
- Don’t wash your baby’s hair every day.
- When you do wash, use a baby-formulated shampoo, like Mustela’s Gentle Shampoo or Foam Shampoo For Newborns.
- Be gentle when washing your baby’s hair so you don’t stress the scalp and hair follicles.
- Comb their hair with a soft baby brush.
- Skip styling your baby’s hair.
Understand that even if you do everything on this list, your baby may still lose some or all of the hair they were born with. Again, don’t panic. The hair will come back with time.
Keep in mind, however, that sometimes the new hair will be completely different than the hair they started with. When their hormone levels stabilize, their new hair may be blonde even though it started out as brown. Their hair may also go from curly to straight or from thick to thin. Just be assured that it will come back.
Mention Baby Hair Loss To Your Pediatrician If Necessary
If you’re worried about your baby’s hair loss, or if you notice any of the symptoms mentioned early in the article, talk to your pediatrician right away. The doctor will either confirm that the problem is simply a result of hormones, or she’ll be able to let you know if it’s more serious. Either way, it will set your mind at ease and make you feel better. And that’s good for both you and your baby.