Caring for your baby’s scalp!


What to expect

Baby’s head might well be a little misshapen after birth but this usually smoothes out within a few hours. After forceps, vacuum or a difficult delivery, it might take a while longer and there might be some bruising and swelling, but this too will subside. Some babies have long hair, others almost none. Long or a thick mop of hair at birth is often lost within the first three months of life.

The fontanelles

Babies have four soft spots or fontanelles at the meeting places between the skull bones. The biggest is the anterior fontanelle on top and slightly to the front of the head, and the second biggest is the posterior fontanelle, situated on the midline of the curved rear surface of the skull. There are two much smaller ones on the sides of the head but to most people these are not even detectable. Babies have fontanelles and the sutures that join them to enable the skull bones to mould over each other for an easier birth and to enable the brain to continue its
rapid growth after birth without hindrance by a set structure.

The anterior fontanelle will close between six and 18 months. Run the pads of your fingers gently over the anterior fontanelle to acquaint yourself with its size and how it feels normally. If closure of the anterior fontanelle occurs on the slow side, your baby may need the tissue salt Calc phos. Babies with extremely big heads, with a large fontanelle and scrawny bodies,
often require the tissue salt Silicea. Should the anterior fontanelle ever bulge in a pronounced way and your baby has a fever or seems ill, see your doctor immediately. If it is particularly sunken and baby is not drinking well, vomits or has diarrhoea, immediate medical attention for dehydration is necessary.

Cleaning baby’s head and hair

To routinely clean baby’s head, simply wipe down with a warm, damp face flannel. If baby has a thick shock of hair or perspires freely on the scalp, you might need to do so once or twice daily, or wash baby’s hair with gentle shampoo at each bath time. Do not be scared of the fontanelles when washing baby’s hair – simply be gentle over this area. One does not need to wash
a baby’s hair every day, not even in the early months. With small babies who do not have much hair yet, a simple daily wipe down of the head with a wash flannel and warm water at bath time will refresh them nicely, and every week a good wash of the developing ‘fuzz’ with a gentle baby shampoo is a good idea. Babies with a full head of hair or those who are a little older
with hair growth coming along quite nicely (apart from the typical bald spots at the back and sides from constant turning of the head against the cot linen!) usually require more regular hair washing.

Babies perspire quite a bit on their heads as a temperature controlling mechanism and milk deposits (and later food!) are often caught up in the hair too, making a two- to-four-day hair washing schedule advisable. Many babies seem to retain a sour odour, despite good personal hygiene, and this is often due to milk deposits caught up behind the ears, from when they have regurgitated a little milk! Whether or not you are washing hair, do gently pull the shell of the ear away from the skull and clean in the crevices with a flannel each day – many moms think this has to do with not washing hair daily, but this is the real reason.

Do not worry too much about getting a little water in the ears. If baby has a burst eardrum or grommets to drain fluids after infection, it is important to avoid water in the ears, because then it can pass through to the middle ear. Otherwise the tympanic membrane (eardrum) provides an effective barrier to water. Most babies will not like it if water flows down the outer ear canal and it is more for this reason that one is taught to block baby’s ears while washing hair. In a real world though, a little water will often trickle into the ear. Simply dry with a cotton bud that you do not introduce into the canal but just use in the shell of the ear and just-just into the entrance of the canal.

How to wash baby’s hair:

  • Wash baby’s hair before placing her into the bath.
  • Wrap her up tightly in a big towel, securing her arms next to her body and hold her like a rugby ball under your arm.
  • Cradle her head in your hand, your thumb over one ear and your middle finger covering the other to prevent water entering the ear canals.
  • Wet her hair, holding her over the bath.
  • Apply a little shampoo from a squeeze bottle and gently wash.
  • Rinse the hair thoroughly.
  • Dry the hair with a small towel or fluffy face flannel.

Cradle cap

Cradle cap is a crusty, yellow layer clinging to the skin of baby’s scalp and sometimes the eyebrows. It is related to a certain type of eczema and baby may well develop this later if preventative measures are not taken. Cradle cap is not serious, nor does it trouble baby. Moms don’t like the look of cradle cap, of course, and fortunately there are a number of self-help solutions. Washing hair regularly does not prevent cradle cap and in some cases, sensitivity to the shampoo can even make cradle cap more likely, as this condition is related to eczema, which in turn has a strong allergy connection.

Cradle cap responds very well to the following measures:

  • Give the tissue salt remedies Kalimur and Kaii sulph, one tablet of each crushed and dissolved in 5ml cooled boiled water three times a day.
  • Massage olive oil into the scalp, leave overnight and wash out the next day or use a fine-tooth comb to remove crusts.
  • Make a paste of bicarbonate of soda and water, apply to cradle cap and remove by rinsing after five minutes.
  • If cradle cap persists you might need to change baby’s formula milk to a special allergy formula.
  • If breastfeeding, reduce dairy and grain products in your diet.
  • Do not introduce cereals to baby as a first or early food.

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