Many first-time mums are faced with the choice of shaving off or not the first hair that the child is born with. Some shave off the hair for the sake of traditions, while some just leave it there for it makes the baby look cute.
The tradition of shaving the baby’s first hair is highly regarded in the Luhya community in Kenya. The paternal grandmother is tasked with the responsibility of shaving it. This rite is believed to help stop the baby from frequent and unnecessary cries and maybe death! Well its essence is to prove paternity of the baby whereby if the child does not belong to the father, their son, it will eventually die!
Though the culture is slowly fading off in the modern age and few do practice it. Modern parents have dismissed it as outdated.
Amumbwe, a first time mum dismissed the claims noting that they are merely threats among the Luhyas meant to scare women from getting kids outside wedlock.
‘I didn’t take my baby home for the big shave and we are Luhyas. Nothing happened to him after I shaved him myself. So what does that tells you?’
‘These traditions are outdated. We are learned and that means we should reason and think differently from the old folks due to the wide gap between us,’ she adds.
Among the Luo community in Kenya, the first hair cut could only be done if both parents were present and must have been intimate the previous night lest unpleasant things befalls the baby.
Mary, a mother of two and married to a Luo disputes the tradition surrounding the first hair cut as old.
‘We took the girl home to see her paternal grandparents when she was four months old. Her grandmother didn’t shave and she never bothered to. I shaved her after we travelled back to the city. Nothing strange happened to her and the hair is grown all again!’
According to Mary, the idea of travelling home to cut the baby’s first hair was to ‘force’ couples to go upcountry as some would take years before paying the old folks a visit.
‘The whole idea of travelling home was a way of forcing people to go and see their parents. So they would use the threats to scare you, leaving you with no options but travelling home. So people should just visit their parents as much as they can,’ she adds.
Others like the African –American folks wouldn’t cut the baby’s hair within the first year as they believed it would attract bad omen to the baby.
Muslims and Hindus shave the baby’s first hair to show that he/she is a servant of Allah the Prophet. Hindus scatter the hair in a holy river while Muslims weigh it and give the equivalent weight in silver to charity.
Mercy, a mother of one says she never cut her daughter’s hair when she was young but had to do it later when she was 4 years old as the hair could not grow anymore.
‘I never shaved my girl when she was young because I had no reasons to. But I later shaved it when she was four years as the hair couldn’t grow anymore.’
‘So basically I think the idea of shaving the first hair has nothing to do with tradition. I feel it’s about the growth of the hair especially when it’s a girl because we tend to believe the hair will not grow if it’s not cut in its early stages.’ she concludes.
Culture, beliefs, religion or beauty aside, do you know the reasons why it’s advisable to shave off your baby’s first hair? Well, medical practitioners weigh in on the subject.
According to Dr Lynder Otieno, a medical practitioner ,It is common to have lanuga (the first hair of new born baby) on new born, fortunately it can go away by itself sometimes in weeks or months after the birth of the child but if it doesn’t it should be shaved.
She states that its continual development after the new born period or later in life is a sign of the following;
- Extreme malnourishment/stunted growth. lanuga is a dead cell and if it piles up it’s believed it has got an effect on nutrients on the baby.
- Genetically disorder- hereditary disorders might be detected from the falling lanuga upon diagnosis of a doctor at a later age in life if the lanuga had not been shaved at the child’s early age.
- Cancer- if cancer is present hair will fall on its own.
- Endometric disorder- It will form layers of scales then skin will start to crack.
- Endocrine disorder
- Metabolic disorder.
- Dr Lynder Otieno advises parents to shave the first hair as it is beneficial to the child.“Hair is genetically a dead cell so if left unshaved it will reach a peak it won’t grow anymore and will start falling off by itself.Shaving it helps in maintaining the hygiene. The piling of the hair may not allow water to penetrate into the scalp thus irritation which may later cause an infection,” she explains.
- “It also doesn’t allow proper penetration of vitamin D that helps the infant at an early stage for bone nourishment,” she adds
In addition to that, the process helps the hair to grow thicker and stronger and get better exposure that will help in immune building especially when the child is bald headed.
Its worth noting that lanuga cannot always go off completely from the scalp instead it piles up thus should be shaved to change the texture and appearance of the hair.
The doctor recommends the child should be shaved after 2-4 weeks after birth though you can do it in less than a year to prevent absorption of nutrients by the hair and acquire natural hair for beauty.Meanwhile shaving your baby’s first hair is your choice.