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Baby Hair-Care Basics

Like so many things baby-related, newborn hair (or lack thereof) is unpredictable. Whether your baby's bald or bushy depends upon a mix of genetics, ethnicity, and hormones. But no matter how hirsute your tot is, try not to get too attached to the look. His hair will likely change during the first year. Check out how:

Hair today, gone tomorrow. If your baby was born with hair, he'll probably start to shed it during the first six months, thanks to hormonal changes. That hair loss peaks when infants are around 3 to 4 months old, says Dan Brennan, M.D., a pediatrician in Santa Barbara, CA, and a dad of two. And it can be quite dramatic (a hairy kid can turn into a bald one) or more subtle, especially when your infant's new hair grows in simultaneously.

Seeing spots. Another reason for your baby's thinning locks? Since a younger baby will spend a lot of time on his back, the friction of his head against the crib mattress and the car seat tends to produce a bald spot, especially in the back of the head, says Dr. Brennan. If you notice that your baby favors one side when he's lying down, try changing his position so that his head doesn't go bald and flatten there, too. His bald spots will disappear when he's a bit older and starts to spend more time upright.

Who's that kid? Once all his new hair grows in (sometimes as early as 6 months, sometimes as late as toddlerhood), it may have a completely different texture or color, or both.

Hair-Care Basics

However your baby's hair looks when it grows in, it will be finer-and more fragile-than yours, so follow these tress tips to prevent it from getting too dry or damaged:

Wash as needed. Babies under 6 months produce less oil on their scalps, so there's no need to shampoo more than two times a week-and just once a week if your baby is African-American, says Erica Harris, a stylist and owner of Joi Salon and Spa Escape, in Boston. Once your child is older-and more likely to rub bananas in her hair-you may want to shampoo it more often. African-American babies should stick with the once-a-week shampoo routine, though you can rinse it every night with water and conditioner. No matter how many times you wash your baby's hair, try to use hypoallergenic, fragrance-free products, says Dr. Brennan.

Tame tangles. A good trick for preventing knots if your baby has a lot of hair or tight curls: Use a baby-friendly conditioner after shampooing and rinse out only about 75 percent of it, Harris suggests. Use a spray detangler for sparser hair (leaving in conditioner can make fine hair look greasy), and spritz just the ends, not the scalp. To coax out a stubborn tangle, hold a chunk of the hair between the scalp and the knot, spray it, and gently comb through.

Style safely. Keep an eye on any clips or hair accessories your baby's wearing; they may pose a choking hazard if they slip off (so what's okay for church when your babe is on your lap may not be safe for your sister's wedding, when she's bouncing between aunts and grandmas). Since infant hair can break easily, avoid pulling your daughter's hair into a supertight ponytail until she's a toddler, recommends Harris (not that she'd let you anyway!).

Maria Livingstone is a freelance writer and a mom.

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