When a child is learning all about a new world, a fascination with hair is normal. Hair is new and something that most children don’t have a lot of. So mom’s hair often becomes a thing to touch, pet, and pull! But what should you do if it seems like a simple hair fascination is turning over into an obsession? Certain obsessions can be symptoms of other problems. Most of the time, a child is looking for certain stimuli. If they are not getting that other places, they may look for it in ways such as hair pulling. An obsession can occur where a child pulls out their hair. What if your toddler starts pulling out their hair. These are all things that can lead to other problems. Here are a few facts on hair fascination and obsession in children.
How the hair pulling obsession starts:
When your child is initially finding out about hair, pulling, and petting, it is normal. It is something new that they are interested in finding out more about. Especially if mom’s hair is long, they will enjoy the feel and smell of it. That is completely normal. Children have to explore the world and find out new things. One way that the do that is through touch and feels. Baby might enjoy rubbing a handful of your hair on her face or arm. Exploration of the new hair is normal but may be uncomfortable for mom.
Dealing with the hair-loving baby:
One way to deal with the hair-pulling is to let it happen initially. If your child just wants to look and explore, the fascination will likely end quickly. However, if you jump or make a scene about the hair-pulling, they may be triggered to do it again because they want that responsibility. This is why the best response is no response. As with most negative behaviors, the best thing to do is redirect your child. Offering them a different toy or new stimuli can often make them forget they were looking at your hair. If your baby is pulling hair out of comfort, then try handing them a different blanket or stuffed animal.
Keep your hair out of baby’s mouth:
Babies and toddlers explore by putting things in their mouths. However, when it comes to hair, it is best to keep it out of the mouth. For one thing, hair has lots of icky bacteria. It can harbor bacteria that are not the best for your child to be ingesting. Also, hair is really hard for the digestive system to process. So if enough hair is ingested, it can cause a hairball similar to cats. So all in all, it is best not to let your toddler or baby put your hair in your mouth.
Often, babies have a special blanket or stuffed animal that they like the touch of. That special thing can bring them comfort. Just like that, babies can enjoy the touch of hair. Especially because if mom has long hair, nursing puts that hair right at hand level. Along with that, babies may twist their hair or touch their hair while nursing. This is a form of relaxation and is normal.
Does your baby pull their own hair?
Although children often love moms’ hair because it is long and smells nice, babies often find their head of hair. Babies and toddlers may spend the first year of their life, not even realizing that there is hair up there. So when they find it, it becomes something to explore. Just like how they find their toes and their ears, babies have to find their hair. After a few days of exploring it, they will often lose interest in it.
For the most part, hair pulling is normal. But in conjunction with some other symptoms, it can be concerning. It can be a small sign of autism or other mental health disorders. If you see hair pulling in conjunction with developmental delays, then it is concerning. Or, if your child is unwilling to interact socially or unwilling to make eye contact with adults, that is a sign of autism. The hair pulling often is just in conjunction with other symptoms. So, for the most part, don’t be alarmed. Other symptoms to look for in conjunction with hair pulling is sensitivity. If your child is sensitive to other sensations such as touch, then there may be other problems. Children who don’t enjoy being touched but have an obsession with hair are looking for stimuli. Always call a doctor if you are at a loss of what to do.
There are a few things that you can do to help avoid the hair-pulling situation. Always have your hair tied back when you are holding the baby and make sure that your hair isn’t available while nursing. If they are pulling their hair, try and keep them busier throughout the day. If they are excessively pulling their hair, keep their hair shorter. Or keep their hair tied back in a ponytail. The unavailability of the hair to pull will help a lot. Another great tip is to offer other stimuli throughout the day. There may be toys and blankets that can meet your child’s need for that hair touching stimuli.
There are things that babies do that may seem alarming but are just normal parts of the development. One of these things is often hair pulling. As long as hair pulling doesn’t continue into toddler and adulthood or get to the point where it is causing bleeding and pain, it is relatively normal. If you see hair pulling in conjunction with other symptoms, then it is best to get a pediatrician involved. They will often refer you to a specialist. Hair pulling to a far extent can be a sign of stress.