My hair is falling out and getting very thin, is this anything to do with breastfeeding?
Hair loss postpartum (after the birth of your baby) is normal and temporary. Many mothers return to their hair growth cycle between 6 and 12 months after the birth. The good news is that breastfeeding is not the likely cause of postpartum hair loss. However if this is something that is worrying you or if it is very extreme, you may need to go to your doctor to have this investigated further.
How does the hair growth cycle work?
There are two phases of hair growth, the growing phase and the resting phase. Postpartum hair loss patterns can vary from person to person.
The growing phase can last approximately 3 years. Usually, around 85-95% of your hair is in the growth phase at any point in time. However, pregnancy can stimulate an increase in the percentage of hairs in the growth phase. Your pregnancy hormones ensure your hair stays in the growing phase longer, this is why many women enjoy thicker healthier looking hair during pregnancy.
Hair falls out in the resting phase and is followed by new hair growth. This phase lasts roughly 3 months. During this time your hair remains in its follicle until it is pushed out by the growth of a new hair. When your baby is born and the hormonal balance changes a larger number of hairs than usual can enter the resting phase.
Many new mothers will experience greater than normal hair loss once the resting phase ends but this is not related to choice of infant feeding nor would switching over to formula make any difference.
Postpartum Hair Loss
The normal postpartum hair loss can start at around three to four months after your baby is born. The start of shedding will be influenced by the individual’s usual pattern in the resting phase before new growth occurs, each mum will have a unique pattern. The average is around 3 months, but it varies from around 1-6 months.
Some mums have reported that breastfeeding may have delayed this shedding and regrowth phase for them, but everyone is different so there is no way of knowing how an individual’s hair growth cycle will respond to pregnancy and birth.
If your hair got very thick during pregnancy then this normal pattern can seem more extreme to you. Most women will return to their usual hair growth cycle between 6 and 12 months after birth.
Coming into the summer months most women will notice that their hair enters a resting or shedding cycle, so this, on top of the normal postnatal resting pattern, may explain an increase in hair loss during the warmer months.
If you think that your hair loss is greater than normal or you are concerned about this, then do go to see your doctor. Excessive hair loss can sometimes be caused by common and easy-to-remedy postpartum conditions such as hypothyroidism or postpartum hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormone) or iron-deficiency anaemia.
You doctor can carry out a simple blood test to check for these conditions and they can also check if vitamins such as B12 or D are within the normal ranges. If you are deficient in anything, your doctor can prescribe a medication or supplement that will help you return to normal levels.
Often a simple change in your diet is enough to ensure you get the right balance of nutrients for normal hair growth and healthy skin. However this is unlikely to change the cycle of hair loss, this will happen in time. The new hair that is in the growing phase will benefit from the nutrients and will grow strong and healthy.
What can I do until the hair thickens up?
- A good quality shampoo and conditioner may help, try the volume increasing ranges.
- Some mums like to try mousses or texturizers that give more volume to the hair.
- Get a good haircut. Your hairdresser can advise you on perhaps a shorter or lighter haircut that will help give the illusion of more volume.
- Avoid using a harsh brush or comb that pulls or stresses the hair.
- Use conditioner sparingly and at the tips only if possible.
- Avoid brushing your hair while it is still wet.
Do get in touch with your local breastfeeding support group, they can help offer you additional support and reassurance, you certainly are not the first mum to have this worry. https://www.breastfeeding.ie/Support-search/