The reality of a newborn baby's appearance is not always the pretty picture you might have inside your head. The soft and creamy-skinned and sweet-smelling bundle of joy you've expected may take some time to arrive--the reality is that many babies are born with dry, flaky skin and excessive body hair. A hairy newborn might make new parents a little nervous or uncomfortable, but in most cases, your baby is perfectly fine. Consult a pediatrician if you child's appearance concerns you in any way.
Characteristics of Body Hair
Newborns who have excessive hair growth at birth are likely to have the hair on their backs, cheeks and foreheads, according to the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin. The hair is generally very soft and fine; sometimes, the adjective "downy" is used to describe this type of body hair.
The majority of babies who are born with excessive body hair are perfectly normal in this respect and are not still growing more hair. The fine body hair that covers these infants is called lanugo and acts as a protectant in the womb. Every baby has lanugo before birth; those who are born pre-term are more likely to retain the hair as they make their way into the world. By the time most full-term babies are born, they have shed their lanugo.
Excessive hair growth in infants that is not considered typical and is cause for concern is a condition called congenital adrenal hyperplasia, or CAH. CAH is a situation in which the baby is born without a certain enzyme that prompts hormone production. According to the National Institutes of Health's Medline Plus information service, people who have CAH don't make enough of the hormones cortisol or aldosterone. A deficiency of these hormones means the infant will make more androgens, or male hormones, whether the child is male or female. An overabundance of male hormones can lead to excessive hair growth, particularly in females. Babies who have congenital adrenal hyperplasia may also have a low blood sodium concentration, a symptom that can cause severe dehydration, heart abnormalities and shock.
Treatment for babies who have held on to their lanugo at birth involve nothing more than waiting for the hair to shed on its own. The usual time-frame for lanugo shedding is within the first month of life. Treating CAH can be more tricky, especially in a newborn. Balancing the child's hormone levels is the goal. Synthetic hormones and steroid medications are administered every day; when the hormones measure at appropriate levels for the baby's age and gender, hair growth returns to normal.
Children who experience excessive hair growth due to CAH must continue life-long treatment to supplement the body's lack of essential hormones but won't experience ill effects from the prior experience of having too much body hair. According to the Magic Foundation for Children's Growth, kids who have CAH and are undergoing treatment often grow taller than their peers during childhood but stop growing earlier and may remain short-statured as adults.