Ask the Doctor: Is my hair breaking because of breastfeeding?

I am 28 years old and have a six month old baby.  Before giving birth I was told by friends that my hair would break immediately after. True to their word, it did. They say it has something to do with nursing the baby.   It has been six months now and I don’t breastfeed as often as I used to. However all my front hair is gone! And it doesn’t look like it is growing back anytime soon. I am really not the weave or wig type but I am now considering it. I want to breastfeed my baby longer but I don’t like what it is doing to my hair. Are they connected? Please help.

I am 28 years old and have a six month old baby.  Before giving birth I was told by friends that my hair would break immediately after. True to their word, it did. They say it has something to do with nursing the baby.  

It has been six months now and I don’t breastfeed as often as I used to. However all my front hair is gone! And it doesn’t look like it is growing back anytime soon. I am really not the weave or wig type but I am now considering it.

I want to breastfeed my baby longer but I don’t like what it is doing to my hair. Are they connected? Please help.

Grace, Kimironko

Dear Grace,

Hair loss after pregnancy and delivery (puerperal alopecia) is a fairly common condition. During pregnancy, due to the effect of hormones, the retention phase in the cycle of hair is prolonged leading to thicker hair. But after delivery as the hormone levels return to pre pregnancy levels, the extra hair is shed and hair thickness also returns to the levels before pregnancy. This is what is interpreted as hair loss after delivery. 

Apart from this, there are nutritional factors as well. During pregnancy and lactation, demand for iron and calcium is increased in the body. Moreover with a small baby to take care of, women tend to neglect their nutrition. Depletion of essential nutrients like iron, antioxidants, flavinoids and also proteins (vital for hair growth) also contribute to hair loss. 

Stress and strain of looking after a new baby including lack of adequate sleep also contributes to this problem. At times, due to negligence, one may have dandruff or even superficial fungal infection over the scalp resulting in itching and excess hair loss. Shampoos with strong chemicals, chemical hair colours, hair conditioners, electric dryers and curlers, all contribute to and aggravate hair loss.

There is nothing for you to worry about it. Continue feeding the baby as breast milk is very important for the baby. Start taking a balanced nutritious diet. Do not consider dieting to reduce extra kilos gained during pregnancy. Take a diet rich in green leafy vegetables, fresh fruits, whole grains, cereals, nuts, milk and milk products, eggs and fish. The quantity should be adequate.

It is also vital to learn to cope with the baby. Organising a good time table where you can have some rest, arranging a helper for baby care would also be useful. Learn and start some techniques for relaxation like deep breathing, meditation, yoga, e.t.c.  Taking up some creative activity in any free time available helps to relax the mind and take off any mental stress. 

Avoid using hair dryers and curlers. Let hair dry and set naturally. Similarly instead of using shampoos with strong chemicals try using natural substances like vinegar to rinse the hair.  Artificial hair colours should also be avoided as they tend to make hair brittle and more prone to fall. Good regular massage of the scalp with oils like olive or coconut oil prevents dryness and subsequent dandruff.  This helps in preventing hair fall. Keep hair tidy because tangled hair tends to break and fall more. 

With the adoption of the measures mentioned, your hair will come back to normal in thickness and luster.

Dr. Rachna Pande is aspecialist in Internal Medicine at Ruhengeri Hospital

 

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