Three years ago when I was still pregnant with my youngest I researched anything and everything that would prevent postpartum hair loss. I joined every Mommy community out there and grilled seasoned Moms about what they had done that worked. I was surprised that so many seemed to blame breastfeeding on their hair loss.
Do you lose vitamins while breastfeeding?
The more I thought about it, the more the possibility grew on me. When I had my first son I was breastfeeding exclusively and I remember feeling so drained and depleted after. I ate more while pumping than I did during my pregnancy, which made me wonder now years later had I lost vitamins while pumping? Had that loss affected my hair? Was feeding the baby literally the cause of my hair loss?
The consensus I've been able to find is this: It comes down to the mother's diet. Breastmilk is rich in vitamins and minerals that are needed to protect the health of a baby, and promote their growth and development. If the mother's diet is poor, then either the nutrients in the breastmilk may be compromised or the mother's own health could be affected.
Alright, since I was taking my prenatal while breastfeeding and eating decent that should have covered the nutrition for the breastmilk, but then why did my hair still fall out?
I took my prenatal while breastfeeding, why did my hair still fall out?
Next question, I took my prenatal so why did my hair still fall out? To answer let's go back to why hair falls out a few months after giving birth in the first place. Ok, here is what's happening: while pregnant our estrogen and progesterone levels soar, particularly from the second trimester on. Next, we go into labor, and then following birth, our estrogen and hormones do a rapid fall to pre-pregnancy levels.
For some women that fall is more extreme and causes thyroid hormones to get out of wack. For the sake of this article, we will say you had a typical plummet of estrogen and hormones, and now your hair follicles are transitioning out of the growth phase and heading into the resting phase.
Not only did you just have a hormonal/estrogen fall, but oh ya you have a newborn who doesn't sleep more than a few hours. Oh, and you probably aren't feeling you're most relaxed or stress-free. Since what we are describing is likely the case we will just insert a little cause for stress shedding too.
Ok, back to the resting phase our hair is now in post plummet. When follicles enter this phase they typically shed 3-4 months after. Scientifically this is referred to as telogen effluvium. Takeaway: This shedding is likely going to occur to some extent whether you breastfeed or not because you just had a hormone/estrogen-free fall. However, if you aren't getting enough vitamins and minerals and you are breastfeeding, the likelihood of it being worse is higher because you are sharing what you have with the baby through your milk.
What can I do to minimize the hair loss?
Let's go back to the information we know. The hair fall typically does not happen until 3-4 months after birth, so if you were to implement strategies early that can help reduce the severity of the issue the better off you will be. I know what you are thinking: Strategies like what???
1. Be gentle on your hair: To avoid shedding earlier than that 3-month mark be as gentle as you can when washing or drying your hair. Go for loose hairstyles and avoid any tight buns or ponytails that might pull at the hair follicles. A silk scrunchie or pillowcase is a great choice to make sure you aren't pulling your hair even while sleeping (do new Mom's even sleep?). The gentler you are on your hair the longer those telogen hairs stay in your scalp.
2. Eat healthy: Whether breastfeeding or not you need to ensure your body has a nutritional balance. Hormones be damned you can't change their effect on the hair loss. However, any nutritional changes or drops add demands on the body's energy and that can affect the hair cycle. If you are having a nutritional deficiency it imbalance for example the body is going to use its energy to help the vital areas like the brain, lungs, heart, and liver... what it's not going to worry about is growing your hair. Using energy longterm to support other areas will lead to longer postpartum hair loss shedding.
To avoid this prolonged shedding eat healthily. Get your protein, eat greens, and tons of veggies and fruits. Living things will make you feel more alive, and you are going to need that extra energy.
3. Get support from supplements: You are juggling new baby, being gentle on your hair, trying to make meals, attempting not to be stressed, trying to get a little sleep, and the list goes on. So cut yourself a little slack and add a postpartum supplement to help out.
Look for one with vitamins and minerals that support hair health. This will minimize the chances of prolonged hair shedding. Basically, if your hair has all the nutrition to get growing it's not going to linger in the resting phase. Get it back to growing faster with a postpartum hair loss supplement like the Baby Blues Hair Vitamin meant to prevent postpartum hair loss by supplying hair with these very essential vitamins and minerals.
Whether you breastfeed or not you will likely experience some hair loss due to dropping hormone and estrogen levels. However, if you are deficient in vitamins and minerals your body needs and you are breastfeeding (and sharing the supply you have with baby) chances are it's going to be worse. So eat healthily, consider adding a supplement to support hair health, and be as gentle on your hair as you can. Moms are superheroes. You got this Mama!