If your baby was born with a full head of hair, which has since fallen out, the good news is that in most cases this is a completely normal process and nothing to worry about.
Hair loss in babies is very common and is called Telogen effluvium. This postnatal hair loss is caused by a change in your baby’s hormone levels, which drop immediately after birth.
Telogen effluvium can happen at any stage in life, and is related to the life cycle of the hair follicles, which have a long growth phase, followed by a short intermediary phase when the hair follicle degenerates, and then a resting phase when the hair follicle lies dormant. This last phase is the telogen phase.
Read: Types of hair loss
Telogen effluvium occurs when this normal hair cycle is interrupted – either by hormones (as in the case of babies) or stress, high fevers, surgery under general anaesthesia, excessive intake of vitamin A, severe injuries and some prescription medications.
However if your baby continues to lose hair after the first few weeks and is losing it in patches, such as at the side or back of the head, assess how they sleep and sit. Babies can’t roll over for a while, and if they are always sleeping on the same side or sitting in the same position, the same patch on the head may be rubbing against the bedding or pillow, causing a bald spot.
Other causes for hair loss in babies include:
- Tinea capitis (ringworm): This is a fungal infection resulting in hair loss. It is indicated by patchy bald spots with flaky, red scaling on the scalp. In addition, there may be black dots in locations where the hair broke off.
- Trichotillomania: This condition can occur if an older baby pulls or twirls the hair often, and can lead to irregular patches where hair falls out. Trichotillomania is thought to be an obsessive-compulsive disorder characterised by patchy hair loss and broken hairs of varying length.
- Trauma: The hair follicle is very fragile, and trauma, caused by the hair repeatedly being pulled into tight braids and pony-tails can cause damage and lead to hair loss.
- Alopecia: Although very rare in babies, some may be born with alopecia (hair loss), which can occur by itself or in combination with some abnormalities of the nails and the teeth. Alopecia areata is a condition more common in older children and teenagers and causes hair-loss in a circular area, causing a bald spot.
Generally, however, babies’ hair grows back within six months to a year, often a different colour than the hair they lost. If the hair does not regrow it could be indicative of other medical or nutritional problems, and you should consult your paediatrician.
Baby Hair loss; New Health Guide; Last Updated 13 July, 2016.; http://www.newhealthguide.org/Baby-Hair-Loss.html
Hair loss; healthychildren.org; 11/21/2015; https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/skin/Pages/Hair-Loss-Alopecia.aspx
Children’s hair loss, Causes and Treatment; American Hair Loss Association; Reviewed by Paul J. McAndrews, MD; http://www.americanhairloss.org/children_hair_loss/causes_treatment.asp