About a week ago, my husband, his close business partner and I visited our accountant. While my husband and his partner were inside our accountant’s office, I decided to slip out for a bit as my 1-year-old daughter was starting to get a tad fussy and I didn’t want her disturbing the important meeting. Anyway, as I rocked my baby, trying to make her go to sleep, a couple walked past me only to stop to turn towards me with friendly grins on their faces. I, of course, smiled back thinking they were smiling at me because of my baby (she’s a stunning little thing and I’ve had many people stop me at malls and grocery stores, telling me just that; it’s super sweet). However, turns out that the couple were very dear friends of my husband’s business partner and they were visiting the city for a few days. And, for some reason, they knew about me and recognized me instantly. We then struck up a small conversation and by now, my daughter was wide awake and alert, as she stared at the young couple, with her gorgeous curious eyes. The wife, whom I will refer to as “Sania,” then asked me whether she could hold my daughter. As I handed her over, this is how the conversation went:
Sania: “Wow, look at all that beautiful, curly hair! I hardly see babies with hair this gorgeous and thick.”
Me: “Yes, I know! Her hair is stunning. Would you believe that that is her birth hair?”
Upon hearing that, Sania’s jaw literally dropped open in shock.
Sania: “OMG! Nooooo! NO WAY! You never shaved her head?!!”
Me: “Nope. Never. And Never will.”
Sania: “No, but…but…but, you HAVE to! It’s a must! All newborn babies’ head MUST be shaved as soon as they are born so that they would grow new, clean and healthy hair that will be thicker and prettier.”
Me: *Laughing* “Um, well, look at her hair!” *I reached out and touched my daughter’s beautiful long, curling silky hair* “Can you tell me honestly that IF I shave her head now, she will grow hair far more superior than this? Her hair is already pretty. It really can’t get any prettier than this.”
Sania: “No, no it WILL. Trust me! My niece had very thin hair when she was a newborn. And then her parents shaved her head and now she has really silky, beautiful thick hair. Really, you should shave her head so that she, too, will grow hair even better than this. It’s a must!”
The discussion about shaving my baby’s hair continued on for a few more minutes, until my husband and his partner came out of the office, and I breathed a sigh of relief as the said topic was diverted to something else. I was especially glad that I didn’t have to stand there anymore, uncomfortably, and explain why I haven’t shaved my daughter’s head, despite it being religiously or culturally obligatory, without having to hurt this really nice woman’s feelings. I mean, I’d just met her and her kind husband, and I just didn’t want to come off too headstrong over something that they clearly had very strong sentiments over. And that’s fine. Everyone is entitled to their own actions and preferences. I just choose not to go with the cultural/religious norm of shaving my baby’s head and I will explain why as this post progresses.
It appears that in numerous cultures (and religions) around the world, head-shaving of newborn babies is quite common; from China to India (and the surrounding South-and Central-Asian countries) to Mongolia to Africa. And while in some parts of the world, especially in Muslim-majority ones, shaving of a baby’s head is Sunnah, in other places it is culturally practiced and even seen as a rite of passage.
Nevertheless, the reason I never shaved my daughter’s head was because, firstly, for me, it held no significance. None, whatsoever. And secondly, my daughter was born with a crown full of beautiful, very silky, thick jet black hair. (See picture below.)
In fact, her hair was so gorgeous that all the nurses and the doctors at the hospital kept telling me how they’ve never seen a baby with that much beautiful hair; it was so surreal and incredible. However, despite the superficial and lack of significance aspect of refusing to shave my baby’s head, both my husband and I also didn’t see the logic behind it. We also rejected the claim that shaving a baby’s head would result in the hair growing back thicker and healthier — a myth that desperately needs to be debunked because hair grows from a follicle beneath the surface of the scalp. So, what we do to the hair on the outside, or the surface, has no effect on the hair that is developing on the follicle. Also, it’s common — very common actually — for babies to lose some or perhaps even all of their birth hair by the time they are around 4 or 5 months old. I know this because I noticed my daughter shedding a lot of hair in her bassinet when she slept at night. I also know this because around 4-5 months of age, my daughter’s hair texture and colour began to change drastically. From being ultra straight, cotton-like and jet black, my daughter’s hair had suddenly become curlier, silky and lighter in texture and tone. To put it simply, my daughter’s hair, without my having to shave her head, had become even more gorgeous than ever. And, now when you see her hair, it looks nothing like when she was born. Mind you, we did occasionally trim her hair, mostly her bangs, because they would keep falling in her eyes and would bother her, and trimming your baby’s hair might actually make it appear thicker, just like ours does when we get a trim. This is because we get rid of the excess split ends and the unhealthy hair at the bottom, which makes room for new and much more healthy hair growth. But, yes, other than trimming, we’ve never touched our daughter’s hair so as not to ruin it. And never will, unless she wants a nice, trendy hair-cut, of course.
Thus, many people need to understand that head-shaving does not contribute to hair growing back thicker or healthier, because whether we shave, trim, or brush our baby’s hair a hundred strokes a day, it really won’t affect how it grows in. That’s up to genetics. Genes decide the colour and texture of our hair, not shaving.
It just annoys me when people tell me that when a baby is born, their hair wasn’t as nice or thick and then when they shaved their head, it grew back thicker and nicer. No. What happens is that when a baby is born, people end up shaving the head a few days after the baby is born; they get rid of hair that the baby will eventually lose or shed in a few months anyway. So, what people need to realize is that by shaving, they speed up the process of the “nicer hair” growing in, which explains why some babies remain bald for a little while, shortly after they’ve been shaved. There is a time when new, healthier and prettier hair will grow in. It doesn’t happen right away. So, shortly after a newborn is shaved, s/he remains bald for several months, save for a few wisps, until the new scheduled hair is supposed to come in. And, that is exactly what happened to my daughter. She had her birth hair for a few months, until she managed to shed all, or most, of it and around the 5 month mark, her new hair grew in, which is the beautiful hair that we see now. (See picture below.)
However, I understand why some people feel the need to shave their baby’s head, especially if they see that their baby’s head has developed a bald patch or that his/her hair is growing unevenly. But, to shave a baby’s head, just for the sake of believing it to grow back “thicker and healthier” is just silly and nonsensical.
Also, I should have added that another reason why some people choose to get rid of their baby’s birth hair is because of the fact that it was permeated in blood and amniotic fluid. And, believe it or not, but I actually knew of someone who said that she found birth hair “disgusting” and “unhygienic” and that the sooner we shaved it all off, the better it was for the baby. Mind you, at the time of this conversation, I didn’t have kids (or a kid) yet; heck, I wasn’t even married even. And, yet, what this girl had said sounded crass and quite insolent. How dare she make the assumption that baby hair that was floating in amniotic fluid is disgusting? I couldn’t help wondering, at the time. I mean babies, too, live and float in amniotic fluid for nine whole months, so how come we don’t find them gross or disgusting? You see the lack of logic in this insensitive argument, dear reader? We all know that as soon as babies are born, the nurses quickly wash and bathe them, ensuring that any or all signs of blood and the fluid has been cleansed away, leaving the baby smelling beautiful and fresh. From their hair to their skin to pretty much everything, newborn baby smell is absolutely wonderful. Those who’ve had or been around newborn babies know exactly what smell I am talking about. The smell barely lasts two weeks, but it’s the type of smell that you become addicted to and long for. And there is absolutely nothing gross or disgusting about a newborn’s hair, just like there is nothing gross or disgusting about your baby having lived in amniotic fluid. So, let’s not be like that person I knew, back in undergrad, and say/assume something that is so obtuse and thoughtless.
However, at the same time, while many people are huge fans of shaving their baby’s head right after birth, for whatever reason it may be, they have to be extremely careful, as the baby’s head is very delicate and sensitive, and they will need to go to an expert to do the shaving. Otherwise, if people use a simple razor, they fall at the risk of cutting off a layer of skin containing hair follicles, which may result in the baby being bald for a very long time — perhaps as long as 2 or 3 years of age. So, not only is shaving a newborn’s head, in my humble opinion, illogical but it is very dangerous and risky as well.
Anyway, my point in writing this blog post is this: To each his or her own. If you want to shave your baby’s head, because it holds significant meaning for you. Good. Go right ahead. However, please, please for the love of science, adorable babies, and pretty shiny things, do not force and tell other people to do the same thing, especially if they don’t hold the same values or sentiments as you when it comes to baby head-shaving. It should, and needs to, be a personal thing. Limited to personal preference only.
So, no matter how much someone tells me, or anyone else who is against the whole head-shaving idea, to shave our babies’ head, we won’t. We won’t do it. And there is nothing such people could possibly tell us that will change our minds on the matter. Nothing at all.
Live and let live, people! 🙂