Parents are often distressed when the full head of hair on their cute newborn suddenly melts away. In fact, many babies begin to look like their dads! A study done several years ago showed that many babies temporarily develop male pattern baldness that closely mimics that of the father. Whether this is coincidence or genetics is not clear, but do not despair, the hair will start to grow again. Some babies continue to be bald until well into their second year, when soft little feathers begin to sprout at the back of the head. On a scale of things to worry about, hair loss or lack of hair in infants does not top the list. That said, parents of girls may look forward to the day when long hair can help strangers tell their babyâ€™s gender.
There are other causes of hair loss as the baby gets older. Many babies sport a circular bald spot on the back of their head from lying on their back. This is one consequence of the â€œback to sleepâ€ program started in the â€™80s to prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Often the bald spot is accompanied by a flat shape to the back of the head, called positional plagiocephaly. I always try to reassure parents that these, too, shall pass. Once the baby starts to crawl and heâ€™s not always on his back, hair begins to grow again and the head resumes a rounder shape.
Another cause of hair loss in children is trichotillomania, or hair twirling or pulling. Some children find that twirling a strand of hair makes for a good accompaniment to a thumb suck. Others may just absentmindedly twirl their hair without any thumb sucking. Over time, the constant trauma to the hair follicles can lead to patches of hair loss. This hair loss is not permanent; the hair will grow back once the pulling stops.
Corn rows are popular among African American children, but occasionally the tight braids lead to bald patches. Similarly, other braids, pigtails, and ponytails, if done tightly and frequently, can lead to bald patches from trauma. The hair will grow back after the trauma stops.
Occasionally, children will be infected by a fungus called Tinea Capitis, which can cause patches of hair loss. This fungus is difficult to treatâ€”infected children need to take an oral anti-fungal medication such as Griseofulvin for several weeks. It is stubborn and takes a long time to be eradicated. Once the infection is cleared, the hair will grow back, but it may take time.
Sometimes bald patches appear for no known reason. We call this alopecia areata, which means areas of hair loss. Dermatologists will sometimes try topical steroids to treat alopecia areata, but many times hair loss is persistent and difficult to treat.
Has your baby lost hair? Do you have any treatment tips for hair loss?
Family Health Guide
To take advantage of the latest medical advances, and to deal with the often-confusing world of health care, you need information that is clear, accurate, easily understandable, and accessible. The Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide brings you the information you need to keep your and your family healthy and to cope with illness when it does strike. 170 faculty members of Harvard Medical School, physicians who care for patients every day, developed this comprehensive guide.