Many parents have received strong advice about their baby’s first haircut. Often that advice is conveyed with apparent authority, but curiously contradicts the very next thing you’ll hear which is expressed with an equally strong sense of conviction.
Surprised that this is such a hot topic? There are many theories on when and why a baby should or should not have his/her first haircut. Some theories seem non-sensical, others seem somewhat credible, while others still, are based on cultural traditions or even religious beliefs.
One admittedly extreme approach is to shave your baby’s head in her first days of life.
Shaving a baby’s head?
Shaving a baby’s head is a ritual in a number of cultures: Hindu babies, for example, are shaved to remove undesirable traits associated with past lives. Muslims will shave the head of the infant on the seventh day after a ritual sacrifice. Shaving the head of an infant is traditional in Korean and Thai families, and surely in other less well-known cultures as well. Curiously I have also read it is a tradition in Hispanic culture. However, I am from Spain and had never heard of it. Internet, are you lying to me? Well, maybe not, maybe it’s a very old tradition, maybe not in Spain. Who knows? Do you know?
Others do it for seemingly scientific reasons. A well-spread belief is that shaving a baby’s head will make her hair grow thicker and stronger (or faster). The truth is, however, that because hair grows from follicles that are under the head skin surface, cutting or shaving it will have no effect on the development of hair follicle. It may appear that way initially, but in reality it is not growing faster or stronger.
That’s not the only apparently scientific reason for shaving a baby’s head. Another theory claims this should be done for… cleanliness? According to this theory, cutting a baby’s hair helps to clean the head from any muck or fat remaining on the head after birth. Honestly, how about shampooing instead? That sounds much less traumatic. I think it is safe to say that you can disregard another “scientific” claim that the baby is at risk of suffering a speech delay if her hair is cut before the age of two. Those two matters could not be more unrelated to each other.
In conclusion, there are no scientific reasons to shave your baby’s head. You may have other motivations however, such as following religious or cultural traditions.
So, if you won’t shave your baby’s head, when will he get his first haircut?
In some cultures the answer is clear. For example, if you are an orthodox Jew, you’ll wait until the male child’s is three years old and the hair will be cut in a ceremony called Upsherinish.
Another milestone frequently referred to an appropriate age for a haircut is the one year mark. Although many consider it a must-follow rule, it is just as arbitrary as many others. We have heard that hairdressers’ insurance in the USA won’t cover children until they are one year old, so that may be one of the reasons; if you cut your baby’s hair in the first year, you’ll probably have to do it yourself. On the other hand, you should be able to do it just fine, and unless you have money to spare, you might as well.
We propose a different approach; unless you are following a religious or cultural tradition, cut your baby’s hair for the first time based on the length of the hair, not on the age of the baby. Basically when she needs it, regardless of age. Doesn’t that seem logical? Ask yourself questions such as: Does it look really bad? Is the long hair getting in their eyes?
You probably got this far in the article because you have decided it’s time to cut your baby’s hair for the first time. It is also the first time you give a baby a haircut. How do you do it?
Let us start with two pieces of advice:
- Keep away the bowl technique, please. No bowls are to be used for this haircut. That is just cruel. If you don’t know what I am talking about, I am referring to the technique of putting a bowl on your child’s head and cutting around the edges. Please do not subject your child to this haircut!
- Timing is crucial. Wait for your window of opportunity. If your baby fell sleep sitting upright you would be in luck! It will never get easier than that. If you’re not so lucky, look for a time when he is most relaxed, maybe watching a cartoon, or peacefully eating his favorite cracker.
You won’t need many tools for this operation. Arm yourself with:
- Small hair scissors. The bigger the scissors the more dangerous…
- Spray bottle with water. Hair is more easily cut when is damp and heavier.
Begin by caressing your baby’s head and stroke her hair while getting it damp with the spray bottle (or your wet hand if that works better). After that everything will be prepared for the cutting operation. The goal is to be done with the actual cut in under two minutes. With a bit of luck she’ll think you’re still just caressing her hair.
Concentrate on strands that have grown too long. Pull sections of hair between your fingers or comb and cut. Putting your comb or fingers between the scissors and the skin will prevent uneven cuts and, very important, skin cuts. Remember that you can always cut it shorter later. Too aggressive a haircut and you’ll have to wait for months before you’ll like it again.
Good luck parents!