Will My Hair Survive Breastfeeding?
Question: I am losing hair on my hairline due to breastfeeding. What can I do to save my hair?
Babies bring much joy into our lives, but at a cost. Unfortunately, childbirth and lactation do take a toll on our bodies. Post-partum hair loss is deemed normal because of the hormonal effects of pregnancy. Joanne Stone, MD, Co-author of Pregnancy for Dummies explains that it is because the resting phase of hair growth is elongated during pregnancy, but once oestrogen levels drop, the hair that was resting starts to shed.
It is common, but it is not inevitable in each and every mother. Within the first six months you can expect your hair, which thrived during pregnancy, to lose some of its thickness and luster. However if you suffer from extreme hair loss after baby is born, if could likely be an indication of nutritional deficiency. During pregnancy and nursing, your body nourishes the baby as its first priority. This means that hair and nails are the last to receive essential nutrients.
What are these essential nutrients?
Primarily proteins are required for growth and maintenance of cells. Your baby is using up proteins from you, among other macronutrients required for growth and health. Start immediately to add nutrient-dense real foods into your diet.
You can find these nutrients in meat, fish, kienyeji eggs, liver, vegetables, butter, coconut oil, ghee, avocados, nuts and seeds and whole milk. If you are vegetarian or you have food intolerances, find substitutes that provide as many bio-available proteins and minerals. Your liver is crucial for balancing hormones, so eat liver-strengthening foods. Bitter greens (traditional vegetables), beetroot and beet greens, turmeric, dandelion, garlic and fermented foods are some examples. Fresh veggie juices are an amazing instant food that is as nutrient-dense as it gets.
Note that baby does not need that many carbohydrates and neither do you. Eating for two does not mean over-eating. It means ensuring that you get the best quality food into your system so that both you and baby are adequately nourished.
Drink More Water! Milk production requires constant hydration.
The book ‘The Science of Black Hair’ by Audrey Davis, explains that water is absolutely crucial for hair growth and a healthy scalp. If you are not drinking enough water, all of it will go towards making milk and keeping you alive, leaving none for your hair. So in addition to drinking bone soup (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for healthy skin, healthy baby and healthy hair) and your tea or porridge or cocoa or juices, continue to chug large amounts of water. Fenugreek seeds soaked in a thermos of boiling water are recommended by Indian gynaecologists. These seeds (methi) help detox the body, they help produce milk and fenugreek is also known to aid hair growth.
A general rule of thumb during and after pregnancy is to eat the foods our great grandmothers would have eaten. These are better than eating empty calories (mandazis, bread, sugary snacks etc.) For convenience and as a shortcut to save your hair and skin, superfood powders are recommended. These are much more effective than supplement vitamins, because they are real foods and they are easily absorbed. Having said that, taking supplements is a personal decision. Some superfoods that are most effective for post-partum health are:
- Moringa powder. Sprinkle into your juices, soups, onto your food. Chew a few moringa seeds for great skin and an energy boost.
- Bone Broth. Yes, it is a superfood. Seriously. Drink at least two cups a day. Skim the fat if you don’t like it. Use potassium broth if you’re vegan.
- Baobab powder. It is made from mabuyu. A natural vitamin C supplement. It wards off colds and helps you heal after childbirth.I mix mine into fruit or veggie smoothies.
- Spirulina. If you can only buy one, buy this one. This natural multivitamin is a blue-green algae is grown in Kisumu. It contains a host of B-vitamins and omegas, and is great for brain health, as well as protein synthesis.
- Chia seeds. They are high in omegas and dietary fibre. A small amount will help you feel full while providing energy and nutrients essential for you and baby.
- Remember that a good diet will not change hair that is already on your scalp. If you are experiencing post-partum shedding, be patient. Within a few months, these dietary improvements will result in healthier and thicker new growth.
Caring for your hair post-partum
- To encourage the new re-growth, gently massage your scalp with rejuvenating oils like castor oil, moringa oil, baobab oil, macadamia nut oil and essential oils such as peppermint and lavender. Avoid putting heat on your hair. Be gentle when styling or combing. Keep your hair properly moisturised and use low-manipulation protective styles like cornrows, loose plaits, twists and buns. You probably are exhausted so get some cute scarves or head-wraps and rock them.
- Always sleep on a satin or silk pillowcase. If you have a favourite chair for breastfeeding, make sure it has a satin cushion to protect your hair. Tie a satin or silk scarf around your head-rest when driving.
- Finally, do what you can but do not stress about your hair. Stress can also lead to hair loss, and decreased milk production so don’t worry! Your hair will grow back.Whatever small inconveniences you are undergoing now are just a tiny price to pay for your precious bundle of joy.
For customised nutrition advice during breastfeeding, comment below and we will put you in touch with a lactation support and nutrition specialist. For stockists of the supplements and products mentioned, check the info centre.
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