As part of their growth process, babies tend to put things in their mouths and learn through taste and touch.
Often, their mom’s hair seems to be particularly attractive to their senses, and babies quickly become fond of playing with it, chewing on it, or in the worse case – pulling it!
As a result of these actions, poor mom’s hair can get damaged, tangled, become weaker, and even fall out, leaving bald patches.
(As if their hairdo hasn’t suffered enough during postpartum hair loss)…
What can I do to stop this if my little one will only settle if my hair is within reach?
Having your baby strongly attached to your hair can be problematic and quite stressful to your hair. The most likely reason your baby does it is for self-soothing. Alternatively, they are trying to get your attention by pulling your hair, or just simply, they are playing with it as part of a world exploration journey. You can try to stop this behaviour by going cold turkey from one day to the other and refusing access to your hair. You can introduce a lovie, a piece of synthetic hair or a toy with a long tail to substitute for your hair. You should also try to direct their attention elsewhere instead of your hair or tie your hair back, or have a haircut so that there is no easy-to-grab, dangling hair in front of your baby’s face. Or you can wait it out, as the attachment to your hair will weaken with time and resolve on its own.
Self -Soothing Mechanisms
Babies aren’t born equipped with self-soothing skills.
However, they still experience a variety of feelings and sensations. Just like adults – they can be tired, sleepy, bored, scared, in pain or discomfort. Therefore, they need to learn how to process and embrace these emotions.
Right from the beginning of their lives, they begin to develop the means of managing stress and (with our help) discover various methods of calming themselves.
One of these most common soothing mechanisms is; thumb-sucking, dummies, snuggling lovey, physical contact with parents like gentle rocking and cuddling and… playing with their mom’s hair, stroking or even rubbing it on their faces!
And that would be the most likely reason your baby is so attached to your hair. They see it as their comforter to help them calm down and settle for sleep.
You may have first noticed your baby reaching for and grabbing your hair during breastfeeding. They did it for extra comfort, which is quite sweet and innocent in the beginning, but it may soon turn into a rather unpleasant habit.
Keep an eye out for this behaviour, and make sure your little one doesn’t become too attached to your hair.
Otherwise, you will end up with a child who needs access to their mom’s hair every time is tired and try to settle for sleep. And their mom’s hair is the only thing in the world that will help them do this!
Oh dear, you are in trouble then!
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It’s Part of Discovering The World Journey
As your baby starts to distinguish black and white patterns or high-contrast colours, becomes a bit more mobile, and improves their eye-hand coordination, they start reaching out and grabbing objects of their interest.
That’s how they try to make sense of the world – by exploring and experimenting.
So, they want to see what happens when they do certain things and what effect it will have.
One of the earliest interactions with the world they have is batting at the musical mobile attached to their cot above their heads and trying to grab it.
That’s because the dangling toys above their head are within a reach of the little hand.
And a similar effect on your baby might have your long, soft, sweet-smelling strands dangling in front of them and soooo easy to grab!
And before you realize it, they put your freshly washed and styled hair into their mouth for a good gnawing (which is the case with any new things they can pick up).
And that’s a normal part of their learning and exploring the world. Through all their senses – sight, smell, touch, taste.
They Want Your Attention
Also, grabbing and pulling your hair may be your baby’s way of seeking your attention.
Although this explanation applies more to toddlers rather than young babies.
So when your toddler is after your hair – because they want to communicate to you their need and that they want your attention right now.
For example, they might be hungry, tired, bored or overwhelmed. Or they want to spend some quality time with you.
And to reassure you – this attention-seeking behaviour is absolutely a normal part of their development. Nothing that any parent can’t handle with patience and serenity.
Attention-Seeking Behavior: When “Just Ignore It” Doesn’t Work
Okay, so What Can I do to Stop my Baby’s Obsession With my Hair?
To break your baby’s attachment to your hair, you can try a few different things.
There is no guarantee that everything will work for you or your baby, and it is a trial-and-error process.
However, with the below 7 tips, a bit of luck and perseverance, you may be able to deal with this problem quite effectively.
1. Go Cold Turkey
Of course, the first thing you can do is be bold and go cold turkey.
So, from one day to the other, refuse access to your hair.
There will be lots of crying and tantrums initially – but after a few (painful!) days, your baby will adjust to a new reality. A life without your hair to lull them back to sleep…
Always communicate to your baby your disapproval and explain why you do not want them to do that, such as because that hurts you.
Also, try to keep your cool and don’t show negative emotions like annoyance or frustration when your baby attempts to grab your hair. This tends to backfire.
If you make a big deal out of it, your baby ill wants to do it again and again. Just to see if they get the same reaction from you.
That’s because babies tend to repeat the actions that get them A LOT of attention.
So, just calmly remove the little hand from your hair and redirect their attention elsewhere.
Do 1-year-olds misbehave on purpose?
2. Introduce Lovey To Your Baby’s Life
Alternatively, you can trade your hair for an alternative soother.
Because if you want to take away the only thing that keeps your baby calm – it is only fair if you give them something in return. And this thing is a lovey.
A lovey can be a plush toy, a soft blanket or another soft object that your baby will revert to in a crisis – when they need to ease discomfort or anxiety, settle to bed and any other situation they were using your hair for instead!
How to introduce a lovey to your baby?
Well, I wrote a post on this subject, so you may want to check it out:
3. Offer New Stimuli
Now, this one will work only during the waking time, when your baby is fully alert and demands access to your hair to play.
In such cases, you can divert their attention to something else they may find interesting.
The beauty of being a baby is that they lose interest quickly, and if you offer them something stimulating, they will forget that they were after your hair.
For example, if you have a new toy for your baby – this will be the perfect time to show it to them.
(So it’s good to keep some new exciting toys hidden away until such time comes!)
4. Synthetic Hair Piece
If you tried substituting your hair with lovey or diverting their attention to something else and it didn’t work, you can take one step further.
Give them imitations of your hair, such as synthetic hair pieces or clip-in extensions.
You could try to find it in your shade and texture similar to your hair to keep things more authentic.
So, next time your baby is reaching to grab your hair, hand them the hair extension instead!
5. How About Introducing Barbie Dolls or a Horsey With a Long Tail?
If you are uncomfortable giving your baby fake hair, perhaps you can settle for a doll with long and soft hair to play with?
The idea of stroking dolly hair will bring them the comfort they need, and hopefully, they will forget about your hair in the first place.
Alternatively, you can opt for a toy with a long and soft tail such as; My Little Pony or another horsey with a long tail you may find in a kid’s store.
Of course, if you want, you could make a long and fluffy tail yourself from yarn and sew it into a soft toy.
So, you have a few options here. Hopefully, your baby will accept one of these equivalents and leave your hair be.
6. Keep Your Hair Out Of Reach
So, basically, don’t create opportunities for your baby to grasp your hair.
Again, you have a few options on how to do that. You could tie your hair back in a ponytail, or you could wear your hair up, for example. Whatever you do, make sure that little hands cannot reach loose strands.
Although some babies might get really upset if you dare to put your hair up!
If that’s the case, you can go all in and cut your hair short.
So that you can stop dangling your hair in front of your little one’s face and provoking your little one by trying to grab it.
7. Wait it Out
The chances are, it’s just a phase, just like everything else about your baby’s behaviour.
So, hopefully, with a bit of luck, your baby will outgrow the bad habit of pulling your hair sooner rather than later.
Therefore if you can bear it and it doesn’t bother you too much, you can wait patiently for your baby to eventually lose interest in playing with your hair.
Remember what I said in tip #1?
Showing them a strong, negative reaction will only encourage them to keep repeating this behaviour that has gained them so much attention. So keep it cool.
Final Few Lines
There you go.
I hope the above information will help you understand and deal with your baby’s attachment to your hair.
It’s always best to understand their behaviour first so that you can d respond to it accordingly.
And rest assured – you are not the only one going through this phase with your child. There are many parents all over the world facing the very same issues!
So to summarise: your baby may be obsessed with your hair because:
- Your hair acts like a lovey or soother to them. Keeping them calm and helping them to settle
- They are exploring the world and experimenting with things within their reach
- They are seeking your attention
And to stop this behaviour, you could use one of the 7 techniques
- Be bold and go cold turkey
- Introduce a lovey
- Redirect their attention
- Offer a synthetic hair extension as a substitute for your hair
- Offer a toy with a long tail, such as a pony
- Wear your hair up, or get a haircut
- Wait for this behaviour to pass on its own.