I remember typing these words on Goggle ‘How to Stop Baby Pulling and Eating their Hair’ the first time I saw my baby engaging in this frightening act. Of cause, I was terrified and could not imagine the pain my baby will feel and the implication that will follow her actions.
My findings were surprisingly amazing. As it turns out, just as adults tug on their hair when we are angry or stressed out, babies feel and do the same also. In babies, hair pulling is a self-soothing therapy and in most cases, it is harmless.
However, if you notice that your baby is making it a habit to throw tantrums and pull his or her hair when angry or seeking attention as they grow older, then you should take action. If the baby continues the habit, it could lead to severe consequences.
As for the part where they eat their hairs, babies are notorious for putting things in their mouths. So if they have a handful of hair, there is only one place it is likely to end up.
In this article, we have highlighted all you need to know about how to stop baby from pulling and eating their hair. We will also look at the causes and implications, let’s get to it already.
Why Do Babies Pull And Eat Their Hair?
You are likely to notice your baby pulling and eating their hair from the age of 6 months until they are a year old or over. If they continue after this age, then you need to take action to stop them because it is not a good sign.
According to studies, a baby would pull their hair when they are feeling overwhelmed as a result of anger, stress, or anxiety. As a baby grows older, there is a need for the baby to learn how to react to certain personal-psychological reflexes.
Tugging the hair is a trait common in 1 – 4 % of the entire world’s population and it is especially common in women – just as it is more common in baby girls. To a baby, this is a way of striking a balance and putting themselves under control when they are under anxiety, stress, pain, or seeking attention – which they are not getting. Also, there are instances when a baby does this as a way of creating an ‘emotional blackmail’. Funny – right? Well, let me take a few seconds to explain this more. [Also Read: How to Wash Newborn Hair]
A baby knows you will never allow any harm to come to them, so when they are seeking the attention of the mother or caregiver, you can see them tugging on their hair as a way of making you pay attention to them and try to stop them from hurting themselves any further. Let us take a deeper look into the reasons why babies pull and eat their hair; check them below.
6 Major Reasons Why Babies Pull and Eat Their Hair
1. If They are Teething
When you notice that a baby is tugging or pulling on their hair – especially the ones behind the ear area, it could be a sign that the baby is reacting to pains around the gum area. These pains are mostly due to teething problems babies experience when they are about to develop teeth.
We have all gone through the pains of teething even as adults, so we can relate when we see our baby pulling their hair as a result of the pains from teething.
2. They are Playing with their Hair
Once a baby notices that they have hair, it is hard to get their hands off it. As they try to familiarize themselves with the strange development of having an extension grow out of their head, they will often try to pull it off or play with it.
So, one major reason why you may see your baby tugging on his or her eye is nothing serious – they are actually having some fun – playing with a part of their body they probably are just getting familiarized with.
3. Tiredness Could be a Major Reason
It is a common sight to see a tired baby tugging on their hair and probably suckling on a finger. They do this to soothe themselves or try to induce themselves to sleep. Yes, a baby can work themselves to sleep without the help of their mother or caregiver.
So, when you see your baby pulling the hair, he or she could be in the middle of a psychological therapy to invite sleep for a much-needed rest. Who says babies do not know what they are doing?
4. When they are Enjoying their Meal
Have you seen a baby tugging and pulling the hair when they are breastfeeding – I bet you have! It is common to see a baby play with their hair once they are breastfeeding and sometimes they may pull their hair in the process when the experience hits home
This is most common if the baby had cried before the nursing, so they will try to comfort themselves from the crying as they feed. The therapy helps them to relieve their pains faster and calm their nerves, so you could see the baby smiling within seconds.
5. They are Feeling Cranky
I believe everyone does this – consciously or unconsciously. When a baby is feeling cranky like something is creeping under their skin, you may find them pulling on their hair multiple times.
You have to understand and accept that this is the best way for a baby to calm themselves down – maybe not the best though, but this is their favorite way of calming themselves down.
6. The Baby is Seeking Attention
In my personal books, I have termed this ‘emotional blackmail’! Many times, a baby may tug their hair as a way of seeking attention from their mothers or caregivers.
So, once you notice that your baby is pulling at his or her hair repeatedly, you should know that it is a clue that the baby needs your attention, and it’s demanding you stop everything you are doing – or else they will hurt themselves. If this isn’t the perfect blackmail, what is?
Causes of Baby Pulling their Hair
The psychological cause behind the pinching, pulling, and biting off hair by babies is connected to their personal exploration of their environment. As you already know, this activity is most common between the ages of 6 – 12 months – a period where the baby is becoming aware of his or her new environment.
Within the first 6 months, an infant is too young to actually learn about their environment and they are mostly unaware of the activities that go on around them. After 6 months, they are becoming more aware of their environment. So, when they pull their hair, it stimulates their curiosity and is a way of helping them better observe and understand their new environment.
How Stop Baby Pulling & Eating their Hair
Since there are so many reasons why babies pull and eat their hair, the first thing to do when you want to stop them from pulling and eating their hair should be to find out why they are pulling the hair in the first place.
According to reports, these signs can be normal and could also spell bigger problems because many children and adults suffer nervous breakdowns – and hair pulling is a big symptom of this. So, finding out the cause is the first step to solving the issue. [Also Read: Cradle Cap Causes, Treatment And Prevention]
Below, I have highlighted the actions you should take when trying to stop your baby from pulling and eating their hair. Let us check them out together.
3 Tips on How to Stop Your Baby from Pulling and Eating their Hair
1. Confirm the Reason Why they are Pulling their Hair
To stop your baby from pulling and eating their hair, you should start by checking if the baby is teething or experiencing any discomfort. It is not advisable to ask babies to stop tugging on their hair when you have not addressed the reasons why they are doing so in the first place.
After you find out the reason why they are pulling the hair, you should try to attend to it. For example, if the baby is teething, you could try getting them a medicine that will ease their pain or a sucker to help them scratch their gums with.
2. You Should Calmly But Firmly Oppose Them
When you notice that your baby is making it a habit to throw tantrums or seek attention by pulling their hair and maybe eating it, you should make your stand known. You should stop them from indulging in the act and make your stance known when they look to you for confirmation.
From a young age, a baby is able to tell what the mother likes and approves of. So, they will not continue with something they know their mother is not pleased with.
3. Give them Something to Pull on Instead
It is not enough to just say ‘no’ or ‘stop’. Try to give them an alternative. Something they can pull on instead. You can consider giving them a stuffed animal or always pass a finger for them to nimble on instead.
If there is no alternative, chances are that the baby will keep on going back to the pulling and eating their hair. Bottom line is, if you do not like it, then you should give them something else to engage them.