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Hair Loss While Breast-Feeding

author image Carolyn Robbins
Carolyn Robbins began writing in 2006. Her work appears on various websites and covers various topics including neuroscience, physiology, nutrition and fitness. Robbins graduated with a bachelor of science degree in biology and theology from Saint Vincent College.
Hair Loss While Breast-Feeding
A woman breastfeeds her newborn while also watching her toddler in the living room. Photo Credit: fiorigianluigi/iStock/Getty Images

On an average person's scalp, 90 percent of the hair is in a state of growth and 10 percent is in a state of rest. Every few months, the resting hair is shed to allow for new growth. It is normal to lose 50 to 100 hairs a day when you are not pregnant or breast-feeding. Telogen effluvium is the name for the excessive, but normal, shedding many women experience in the months following the delivery of a child. The condition is not caused by breast-feeding, and in most cases it will resolve on its own.

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Postpartum Hormones

Your body maintains a delicate balance of hormones during pregnancy that shifts dramatically following childbirth. The level of one hormone -- progesterone -- is high during pregnancy to suppress lactation. After you've given birth, progesterone levels plummet to allow you to nurse your little one. Levels of two other hormones -- prolactin and estrogen -- rise to encourage milk letdown and suppress your menstrual cycles while you are breast-feeding.

Shedding Your Pregnant Mane

Postpartum hair loss affects roughly half of all women, according to the American Pregnancy Association. During pregnancy, hormones keep you from losing hair at a normal rate, which is why women notice a thicker mane during gestation. Roughly three months after delivery, hormone levels return to normal and all the hair you retained during pregnancy starts to fall out. The hair loss isn't caused by breast-feeding, although the two seem to go hand in hand. For most women, postpartum shedding is transient and will stop within six to 12 months of delivery.

Breast-Feeding Diet

A healthy diet is just as important when you're breast-feeding as it was when you were pregnant. It can be hard to focus on nutrition when you are adjusting to new motherhood, but failure to consume adequate protein and iron may contribute to hair loss, too. Breast-feeding mothers should eat two to three servings of protein per day from sources such as beans, meat, poultry and fish. You'll also need 10 milligrams of iron. Dietary sources of iron include egg yolks, meat, beans and dried fruit. Talk to your doctor about taking a vitamin and mineral supplement to fill gaps in your diet.

Other Possibilities

While not directly related to breast-feeding or postpartum hormones, there are several other reasons you could be shedding. The first is stress. You are breast-feeding an infant around the clock and running on very little sleep. You are also recovering from the physically strenuous event of childbirth. The body sometimes reacts to emotional and physical stress with hair loss, which should stop three to four months after the stress has subsided. A purely practical reason for shedding is changes in your grooming routine. With a baby tugging on your hair, you may be sporting a ponytail more often. Pulling your hair back into a tight ponytail or bun can cause hair loss.

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