Contrary to Belief, Infant Hair Loss Is Predictable and Normal
Hair fall-out, changes in texture and color, and bald spots in infants happen predictably and normally, so don’t worry, mom and dad!
Baby Gabriel came home from the hospital with a thick crop of dark black hair, which didn’t surprise his very dark-haired mother and father. But two months later, when it all fell out and was replaced by very light brown hair, they wondered, “Is this normal?” Baby Zoe came home from the hospital completely bald but eventually started growing in some light brown hair a month or two later … except on the back and sides of her head. Her parents wondered, “Is this normal?”
The short answer is “Yes,” according to Dr. Alan Greene, a pediatrician at Stanford University’s Packard Children’s Hospital and the founder of DrGreene.com. Greene explains that there are several perfectly predictable and normal reasons why babies lose their hair, grow in different hair colors or textures or experience bald spots during various times in their infant development.
- Hair fall-out following birth. Babies will have two major hair growth spurts during their first year. “It is perfectly normal,” explains Dr. Greene, “for babies to experience hair fall-out during their first month of life after the trauma of birth (called telogen effluvium). A second crop of hair will grow back, and it can be a different color or texture than the original hair. This is perfectly normal, so don’t be alarmed.”
- Cradle cap hair fall-out. “Cradle cap is another perfectly normal inflammatory condition of the baby’s scalp,” according to Greene. This refers to “a buildup of skin cells that may disrupt hair follicle growth, causing hair in affected areas to fall out.” He adds, Some babies develop a more severe case of cradle cap than others” and advises loosening and softening the scales by shampooing daily with a mild baby shampoo and warm water. “For more stubborn cases, parents can gently massage mineral oil into the baby’s scalp before shampooing, and let it sit for 10 to 20 minutes to loosen scales so they can be removed easier using a soft brush.” If the scales persist beyond two months, discuss the condition with a pediatrician, who may prescribe a cortisone cream or lotion. “Hair follicles will not be permanently affected, and hair growth will resume normally once the cradle cap condition has subsided,” says Greene.
- Contact hair fall-out. “While the “Back to Sleep” campaign in which parents are advised to lay babies on their back to sleep to avoid SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) has greatly reduced the amount of SIDS cases we see every year, it does have an undesired side effect of causing bald spots on the back and sides of a baby’s head from constant rubbing there as the baby lays on that spot and turns his head,” explains Green. “But don’t worry; this bald spot on the back of your baby’s head is a good sign that you have protected your baby from SIDS, and the hair will grow back.” He suggests that parents lessen contact bald spots in the following ways:
- Alternate sides of the crib. Because babies tend to always look in the same direction, alternate the side of the crib you put your baby down in every time so he will move his head in the opposite direction and likely lessen the contact rubbing in the same spot every time.
- Embrace tummy time! Whenever your baby is awake, supervise her on her tummy because this is great for a baby’s development as well for avoiding contact bald spots on the back of the head. Tummy time also reduces the incidence of a baby’s head becoming flattened or misshapen enough to require a head-molding helmet, which can also cause contact bald spots because the helmet must be worn for most of the day. Once your baby spends more time on her tummy during the day, both bold spots and flattened spots will decrease and correct themselves.
Dr. Greene concludes, “If your baby experienced hair fall-out or bald spots as described, don’t worry, because hair will grow back once baby grows and moves out of the infant stage and is able to sit up more, avoid contact bald spots.”
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