Hair Loss in the Infant: Does Sleeping Position Matter?

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2 to 3 months after birth, some babies start losing hair at the back of the scalps.  The medical term for this hair loss pattern is "Neonatal Occipital Alopecia." 

For years, it was thought that this occurs because of pressure on the back of the scalp from babies sleeping on their backs.  It’s now understood that this hair loss occurs as a normal physiological phenomenom in some babies and has nothing to do with pressure. The condition always improves on its own and some parents don’t pay much attention to it at all.

But why do some babies develop this temporary hair loss condition and others do not?

Researchers in Korea set out to answer this question by examining 338 newborns over a time period of 1.5 years. They found that 20 % of babies developed hair loss in the back of the scalp.  Moreover, babies born to younger moms less than 35 years, moms who did not have C-sections and babies born after 37 weeks were most likely to develop this condition.

Conclusion: It is important for parents and grandparents to understand that hair loss at the back of the scalp occurring in a 2-4 month old baby has nothing to do with sleeping positions. It occurs as a normal phenomenon.  Babies should sleep on their backs rather than their stomachs, according to recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics.  The recommendation was put forth in order to reduce the incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

References of Interest

Kim MS et al. Prevalence and factors associated with neonatal occipital alopecia: a retrospective study.  Ann Dermatol 2011; 23: 288-92.

American Academy of Pediatrics AAP Task Forice on Infant Positioning and SIDS: Positioning and SIDS. Pediatrics 1992; 89: 1120-26

Gibson E et al. Infant sleep position following new AAP guidelines. American Academy of Pediatrics. Pediatrics 1995; 96: 69-72

Dr. Jeff Donovan is a Canadian and US board certified dermatologist specializing exclusively in hair loss. To schedule a consultation, please call the Whistler office at 604.283.1887

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