Hair Update: Did Shaving Work?

Some might be puzzBaby's Earled by this post title, but for those in Asian cultures wondering whether they should shave their baby’s head of hair in the first month of life, it’s a legitimate and often important question. It was for me. In early parenthood, I had posted an entry on this (see post To Shave or Not to Shave? That is the Question…) because it was a real dilemma at the time. Neither my husband nor I sport a thick head of hair, so we didn’t want our child to be the same. Not to mention there were all these anecdotal reports of the benefits of hair shaving at the one month mark (and some negative reports of course). In the end we decided to do it, even though it was difficult to say goodbye to that first head of hair.

Now 21 months later, what’s the result? I’ll like to say it made a huge difference in our daughter’s hair quantity and quality, but unfortunately I can’t. Honestly, my husband and I can’t see any difference. Our toddler still has a good amount of hair on her head, though the hair remains rather fine and thin—just like us. Like us, she is also starting to shed a fair amount of hair. Unfortunately, it seems that hair is still more or less determined genetically. I’ve also talked to friends who have shaved off their babies’ hair at one month of age, and all so far agree it didn’t make much of a difference. The conclusion I’ve come to is that if a parent really desires to see a difference, a baby may need to undergo multiple hair shavings that first year of life. Indeed, thinking back, the people that seemed to report this method really worked all had shaved their children’s hair at least 2-3 times that first year. So should you try this? I think only if you are really ready to try this method multiple times! Otherwise it might not be worth the effort and anguish of seeing those lovely first locks of hair go. Hope this update helps you in your decision making process!

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5 Things to Get Your Baby Started On Early

Here are 5 things you may want to get your baby started on early in the first few months of life (not in order of priority!) and the reasons why:

1. Taking Water
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding (i.e., no other food or drink, not even water) for the first 6 months of a baby’s life. Personally I think a little bit of water really won’t hurt, as long as it is not in a sufficient amount to interfere with breastfeeding. The confinement lady that helped me strongly encouraged me to start giving my then 2 week old baby a little water when she started hiccupping, and to begin getting her used to taking water. While I’m not sure giving water that early really made a difference to her accepting water later on as a drink, it has proven extremely useful in those hiccupping moments (see post titled ‘An Easy Cure for Hiccups’)!

2. Mouth Cleaning
Getting started early with mouth cleaning will get the baby used to the sensation of having something scrubbing in the mouth, and can pave the way to eventually transitioning over to a toothbrush. With a very young infant, simply use a small thin piece of sterile cotton gauze and wet it with cool boiled water. Wrap this cotton gauze around your little finger before gently cleaning baby’s gums top and bottom, then softly scrub the top part of the tongue. When you bring the wet gauze near baby’s mouth, you can open your own mouth to encourage baby to mimic you, and lots of praise when she cooperates always helps! As baby gets older, you can gradually move on to using a larger piece of soft cloth wet with water.
I began this practice daily as part of a bedtime routine when my baby was about 2 months of age. She didn’t really know what was going on then, but it certainly got me into the habit of cleaning her mouth. By 4-5 months of age, she had gotten so used to having her mouth cleaned before bed that she opens her mouth when I bring the wet cloth near her face and never complains when I do it!

3. Baths
The advice I got while in Singapore was that it was important to get baby into the water as soon as possible (we gave the baby her first bath at 10 days of age) to get the baby used to this quickly. It was also believed that this would help the baby sleep better afterwards. In a way, it makes sense to get the baby back into an aqueous environment partly to remind the baby that she came from a wet womb environment not so long ago. I could also see the difference: a screaming unhappy baby turning into a calmer and happier baby about a month later from daily baths. So it may be best to get some sort of routine going with your baby earlier rather than later. This can be as simple as a few minutes in a warm bath 2-3 times a week.

4. Difference Between ‘Day’ and ‘Night’
‘Day’ and ‘night’ are new concepts for your baby since he or she has just spent the last 9 months in a dark cozy womb. Helping your baby see a difference between ‘day’ and ‘night’ can help with sleep training later on. At night, keep lights low and voices quiet with minimal distractions, even during breastfeeding. In the daytime, turn up the lights and sounds! Have more noise, play some music, talk more loudly, interact and play lots with baby. Along with these cues (i.e., dark is for sleeping so no playing, versus daytime is more noisy and bright with music, people and interaction), it might also help to darken a room slightly during daytime naps too. Dark curtains or black ‘blackout’ cloths over a window in the baby’s room can come in handy at times like this.

5. A Noisier Environment While Sleeping
It is often said the womb environment is a noisy one, so at the beginning babies may be used to sleeping through a great deal of noise. One of the best things you can do is to get your baby to continue to be used to sleeping in a somewhat noisy environment especially during daytime naps. You can use music or some white noise to help create a level of background noise, or carry on with some household chores so baby gets used to sleeping through that. For music, start by putting on some soothing music while baby is awake and about to fall asleep (music with singing often works well) and this can help ease the transition to sleep. If you prefer, you can choose different soundtracks, types of music, or use the radio. If you consistently play certain songs during baby’s sleep time that may also help send a cue to your baby that naptime is coming up. The backdrop of noise will help drown out extraneous or sudden noises, so baby will be less likely to wake up, and you get to do more around the house without having to tiptoe about!

Savor Those Newborn Days

There is something deliciously simple about the first 2-3 weeks of a newborn’s life. Assuming there are no underlying issues and your baby was born relatively healthy, your baby will basically only do 3 things: eat, sleep, and poop. Sure, there will be lots of feedings and diaper changes during this time, but when your little one sleeps, he or she will basically sleep through almost anything. This is because they still have that ‘noise cushioning’ ability developed from having been in a busy, noisy womb environment for the last 9 months. You can pretty much throw a party beside the crib and the sleeping little one likely wouldn’t notice a thing. This noise cushioning ability seems to gradually decrease after the first month or two of life.  Even though the baby might wake up more often for feeds, each time he or she will be able to sleep at least a solid 1 ½ -3 hour stretch. Grab these opportunities to get some rest and much needed sleep yourself, because during this early period you will not have to worry as much about your baby waking suddenly from gas discomfort or noises, or how long the baby will actually sleep during naptime. As your baby gets older, who knows what will happen? After the first month of life, my little one developed terrible gas pains and was a nightmare to burp, causing her sleep to be affected. For the next few months, I just remember spending most of my time trying to burp her during feeds, after feeds and when she woke up in the middle of a nap or at night from discomfort.

So during this newborn period, your priorities should be (apart from marveling at this new little life) mainly to establish breastfeeding (if you desire), and to rest so that you can heal as quickly as possible. Enjoy the fact that as yet you don’t have to worry or think about making and preparing baby meals, plan play activities or potty train. Accept AS much help as you can during this time, especially with things that you don’t really need to be involved in, like diaper changes or baths. Savor these early days, and when baby sleeps, try to rest and sleep too!