Most mamas have experienced their baby grabbing their hair and pulling as hard as they can. But why does your baby pull hair? And what if they start to pull their own hair as well? This behavior doesn’t make sense to a lot of adults and our instinct is often to try and stop it, but hair pulling can be an important developmental phase for young children.
In this article: 📝
- Why does my baby pull their hair?
- When do babies stop pulling hair?
- Is pulling out hair a sign of autism?
- How do I get my baby to stop pulling hair?
- What about scratching?
Why does my baby pull their hair?
Is it normal for babies to pull their hair? Yes. Most babies will pull their hair at some point. Lots of them will also discover their eyebrows and eyelashes and check to see if they’re attached.
Just like pulling on your hair (ouch!) it’s how they discover the world. The texture is interesting, grasping is a basic instinct, and they’re also continuing to learn cause and effect—If I pull this, it hurts!
Once they’ve learned that they can pull their hair, it can become a habit they fall back on when they’re tired or angry. If you’ve ever been so mad you could tug at your hair, imagine how a little toddler feels when they’ve lost their cool.
For other babies, pulling hair can also be a method of self-soothing. Many parents report their baby pulling hair as they’re lying in their crib and waiting to fall asleep.
When do babies stop pulling hair?
For most babies, the hair-pulling phase starts when they’re about six months old and passes before they turn two. Babies pulling hair out instead of just tugging at it tend to do it for a much shorter time. It depends on the reason behind the behavior. Is it because something’s uncomfortable, are they curious, or is it something that helps them to slow down and relax?
Is pulling out hair a sign of autism?
It’s true that pulling hair can sometimes be an autism trait. It involves repetitive movements and can be a sensory-seeking behavior. However, hair pulling on its own is nowhere near enough to indicate that a child has a form of autism.
Even if your little one is pulling their hair out, it may be a short phase and not an indication of a deeper issue. If they do have a condition, it’s more likely to be Baby Trich (short for trichotillomania and often misdiagnosed as obsessive compulsive disorder). Trich is a condition where people compulsively pull at their hair to the point where they develop bald patches.
Although trich often begins between the ages of nine and 13, it can start as young as 18 months. In babies, it often resolves itself before sometimes reemerging when the child is older.
How do I get my baby to stop pulling hair?
For very young children, acting negatively towards a “bad” habit is unlikely to change their behavior. The younger they are, the less likely they are to be aware that they’re doing it at all. Telling them off is more likely to confuse them than to get them to stop.
If your baby pulls hair and you’d rather they stopped, the best way to tackle it is to replace their hair with another object which gives them the same tactile pleasure. A cuddly toy might work, but so might a rubbery texture. You might have to try a few different objects before you find what works, but there’s bound to be something they like to hold.
What about scratching?
Some parents report their baby scratching and pulling their hair. In this case, it’s worth checking to make sure that they don’t have an underlying problem that’s making their scalp uncomfortable. Cradle cap, eczema, or (we hate to say it) head lice can all cause young children to scratch their heads. It might also be a sweat or heat rash.
All of these conditions are treatable, and should keep your little one’s hands away from their hair. In babies between 18 months and three years, scratching the back of their head can also indicate that their final molars are on the way. Once their teeth are through, the scratching should stop too.