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My Baby Pulls Hair When Falling Asleep! (Quirky or Concerning?)

The question pops up frequently in parenting forums: My baby pulls hair when falling asleep.

What should I do?

Ignore it?

Use behavioral modification methods?

Seek medical help?

Put the poor thing in therapy?

If you are asking these questions about your own infant, you will find reassurance, guidance, solutions and practical help below.

Knowing when to relax and not worry, or when medical intervention might be needed is crucial for confident parenting.

Why is My Baby Pulls Hair When Falling Asleep?

Babies are wonderfully inventive and resourceful little creatures.

They are pushed inconveniently from a quiet cozy womb into an obnoxious world of light, sound and movement.

Who wouldn’t seek a little comfort?

Common self-soothing habits often develop.

These include thumb sucking, using a pacifier, or establishing a touching and meaningful relationship with a nearby stuffed animal.

But a little more bewildering to the new parent is seeing the baby playing with and pulling his or her hair.

An example in the video below:

Touching, stroking or softly pulling hair is a delightfully calming experience.

Because of this, hair play is typical of many babies and young children.

While concerned parents may wonder why do babies pull hair, the answer is simple.

It’s comforting.

Hair Play is an Educational Opportunity

As curious explorers in a new land, babies and toddlers only have a few investigative tools at their disposal.

Their senses of sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste help them learn and interact with their surroundings.

The sight of morning sunlight and the sounds of bird songs that filter through an open window brings the great big beautiful world right into the nursery.

baby discovering photo

Little wiggly toes that catch their attention suddenly become objects of intense study.

Hair is simply another soft texture waiting to be discovered.

It can be twisted, twirled and (ouch!) pulled.

Exploring and manipulating their body parts, including fingers, toes and hair is an essential learning experience.

These behaviors help a baby develop his sense of self and become better acquainted with his environment.

When Hair Pulling Becomes a Concern

If you feel your baby pulls hair when falling asleep with increasing intensity or roughness, your warning lights may be flashing.

A startled mom might find some discarded hair in the crib.

The little pigtails may not be as full as they were a month ago

or there could be visual thinning of the hair.

You may notice small scratches on the scalp.

There are practical steps you can take to eliminate the hair pulling:

#1 Keeping a cheerful and positive attitude when you feel apprehensive can be difficult.

A new dad who notices that a charming little idiosyncrasy has ramped up to, he is sure, obsessive-compulsive behavior may want to head to the nearest emergency room.

Remember, your demeanor can make a difference.

Never let ‘em see you sweat. Small children can sense tension and worry.

Your quiet confidence will create an atmosphere of security and increase the possibility of a successful outcome.

#2 Having a support group of innovative peers and also seasoned parents is invaluable.

Ask for advice. They can give reassurance and useful ideas.

Play dates will become not only fun for the children, but also a time to hear foolproof methods from experienced moms.

Often another parent can be your greatest resource.

#3 Cuddling, rocking and comforting your baby before a nap or bedtime is a pleasure for both of you.

Busy mothers or fathers often need some downtime to catch their breath.

Your child will feel reassured and calm after spending some time in your arms.

Fill his little comfort bucket to the brim with lullaby time and then lay him gently in his crib.

#4 Finding an alternative comfort to use when baby pulls hair when falling asleep works for many frustrated parents.

A safe stuffed animal or a soft blanket with satin binding helps babies self-soothe.

Patiently redirecting a child’s hand to the new comfort may take time

but with perseverance, you can help him discover how useful that little teddy bear from Aunt Sally really is.

#5 Outfitting your baby in a new wardrobe may be another answer.

There are jazzy little products online that include mitts that cover the hands so the baby is unable to actually touch her hair.

They come in a variety of colors, styles and sizes.

This temporary measure can help stop the habit of hair pulling.

If you are the do-it-yourself type, you can sew some socks onto the sleeves of her favorite pajamas.

Who knows? You may start a new fashion trend.

#6 Cutting off those beautiful golden curls may seem like an extreme measure

but with the temptation to pull his hair taken completely out of the picture and a satin bound blanket nearby, your child may make the transition.

This suggestion might be more appropriate for little boys than little girls.

When Intervention May Be Needed

In most situations, parents can put their mind at rest.

Hair twirling, touching and pulling is usually a phase that babies and children outgrow.

It may continue for a few weeks, months, or even years yet not be a cause for concern.

However, how do you know if it has become serious enough to warrant professional intervention?

Any googling parent with a hair pulling concern has undoubtedly found disconcerting websites with pictures of adults who have pulled out their hair, picked their scalps and been diagnosed with a mental disorder because of hair pulling.

This can send even the most cerebrally balanced among us running, panicked, into the nursery to compare their toddler’s head with the web photos.

Trichotillomania (TTM) is an impulse control disorder characterized by the urge to pull out one’s own hair.

TTM is a rare disorder. It is normally associated with preadolescents and adults.

Some of the important descriptions associated with this type of hair pulling are ‘long-term’ and ‘uncontrollable urge’.

It is not normally confined only to bedtime.

This disease usually includes hair pulling from the scalp, eyebrows and eyelids, although occasionally other areas of the body could be involved.

A genetic component can be a factor.

Less than 2% of adolescents and adults may have some degree of this disorder.

Typical baby self-soothing behavior which includes hair twirling and pulling is not, nor does it usually become, trichotillomania.

If you feel the hair pulling behavior has become serious and moved beyond self-soothing, bring it to his doctor’s attention during a pediatric check-up.

Be sure that your inquiry is documented in your child’s medical records.

The pediatrician may have some suggestions and materials for you to read about hair pulling, or she may feel it is time to take further action.

She can refer you to a specialist who will be able to answer your questions and determine a plan of treatment.

However, if she feels a referral is unnecessary, you can be assured that your child is acting within the normal parameters of this stage of life.

Additional information:

Video credits: sftransmission.

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