You’ve probably noticed that some babies are born totally bald while others have a full head of hair. Experts aren’t entirely sure why this happens, but they think genes and DNA may play a role.
What You Can Expect
There are a few general milestones for your baby’s hair:
14 weeks of pregnancy. They start to develop hair follicles.
20 weeks of pregnancy. Hair starts to grow on the eyebrows, upper lip, and chin.
22 weeks of pregnancy. Hair called lanugo begins to grow on the head and body, especially the shoulders, back, ears, and forehead.
23 weeks of pregnancy. A pigment called melanin starts adding color to their hair.
Your baby’s body hair is usually shed around the 24th to 28th week of pregnancy. This means it’s gone before birth, although some premature babies are still covered with lanugo hair.
The hair on your baby’s head is another story. The follicles that grow while they’re in the womb form a hair pattern they’ll have for the rest of their lives. New follicles don’t form after birth, so the follicles you have are the only ones you’ll ever get.
The hair is visible on your baby’s head and may grow quickly or slowly during the weeks leading up to birth.
Babies’ Hair Changes After Birth
Most of the hair a baby is born with is lost in their first 6 months of life. Even little ones born with an entire head of hair can go bald in a matter of weeks. But don’t worry, it grows back.
Your baby’s hair falls out because of hormone changes in their body. When they’re growing in your womb, they get large amounts of hormones from you. After birth, these hormone levels plummet, causing their hair growth to stop.
When your baby starts a new hair growth cycle, the old hair falls out, causing temporary patchy or bald spots. The new hair will probably have a different texture or color than they were born with.
It’s hard to predict what your baby’s hair will look like. Genes can interact in unexpected ways. Your child’s hair color or texture can come from anyone in your family tree. Couples who have blonde hair could make babies with dark or red hair, or a baby born with straight hair could later have curls. It's always a surprise!
How to Care For Your Baby’s Hair
Some babies' hair grows back right away, while other babies take years to grow their hair back. Try not to compare your child to others; each baby is unique.
Here are a few tips to help you care for your baby's hair:
Hold off on cutting it. Shaving or cutting your baby’s hair won’t make it grow thicker or faster. Let nature and genetics take their course, and hold off on cutting your baby’s hair until after their first birthday.
Wash gently. Washing your baby’s hair 2 to 3 times per week is a good rule of thumb. Wash gently. Scrubbing too hard or too long will strip the hair of its natural oils and make it dry and frizzy. Stick with a shampoo that is safe for kids that won’t hurt them if it gets in their eyes.
Avoid oils and lotions. It’s normal for newborns to have dry scalps as the old skin cells shed away. Avoid using oils, petroleum jelly, or lotions to treat their scalp. Products like this only stick to the dry skin flakes and make things worse. In some cases, babies get crusty or oily scaly patches on their scalp. This is known as cradle cap. It’s not painful or itchy, but it can cause thick white or yellow scales that aren’t easy to remove. These scales come off on their own with gentle washing and a baby hairbrush. If they don’t go away or get worse, see your baby's doctor.