Baby pulls out hair

How to Manage Hair Pulling in Babies: Unheard-Of Tips That Work

Read on for some tried and tested tips you can use to stop your baby from pulling their hair.

Why a baby is pulling their hair?

As a mom, you've probably learned lots of different ways to calm your baby if they're tired, cranky, or hungry. From soothers to nursing, lullabies to rocking chairs, you do everything you can to make your baby feel better.

As babies get older, they learn self-soothing techniques to help calm themselves down or make themselves feel safe. Though it might not look very comforting, hair pulling is a common way that babies comfort themselves. Hair twirling and hair pulling develops as a habit from around six months old and can continue well into the first year. The habit tends to be more common in girls than boys, but it can affect both sexes.

Take a quiz

Find out what you can do with our Health Assistant

If you notice that your baby starts to tug at their hair, it could be a sign that they're feeling overwhelmed. The habit can be a demonstration that your baby is self-soothing during moments of stress or anxiety. Adults do it, too. This habit is seen in 1–4% of the population, and it's more common in women than in men. It usually starts during childhood or adolescence, and is associated with a stressful event in 25% of patients.

There are several different reasons why your baby might be twirling or pulling their hair. Here are some common situations where your baby might use hair pulling as a coping mechanism:

They're tired

If your baby is tired, they might twirl their hair as a way of winding down. Your baby might also pair hair twirling with sucking their thumb as a way of soothing themselves to sleep.

They're cranky

You might also see your baby reach for their hair and start to pull or twirl it if they are getting fussy. Because hair twirling is a favorite way for a young child to calm themselves down, it could be a good body language cue for you to recognize situations where your baby might be needing some comfort.  

They're nursing

Some babies will gently tug at the hair on the back or sides of their heads while they're breastfeeding as a way of comforting themselves. If your baby is teething, they might also pair hair twirling with biting to help relieve pain in their gums.

They're teething

If your baby is pulling at the hair behind or around their ears, it could be a sign that they're teething. Hair and ear pulling could indicate that your baby is experiencing some pain in their gums or jaw, and they're trying to alleviate that pain.

They're having fun

If your baby only occasionally tugs their hair, it could simply mean that they're playing! Perhaps your baby has just discovered that they have hair, and they're twirling it around their fingertips to familiarize themselves with the new texture and sensation.

How to manage hair pulling in babies?

Generally speaking, occasional and light hair twirling by your baby isn't something to be too concerned about. If your baby becomes so attached to twirling their hair that it prevents them from holding onto other things, or they start to actually pull their hair out of the scalp and develop bald spots, then it's time to intervene.

When you notice your baby pulling their hair, you can try:

  • Offering something else for them to hold on to, like a soothing blanket or favorite toy
  • Giving them a stuffed animal with long hair or fur to tug and twirl
  • Playing a hand-eye coordination game like patty cake or the itsy-bitsy spider
  • Comforting your baby with a gentle cuddle
  • Gently massaging the spot on their head where they want to pull from and nudging their hands and arms down to rest

If you notice your baby is pulling their hair, stay calm when you correct the behavior. Remember that some light hair pulling is normal in young kids and not something to worry about. But if your baby starts to develop bald spots, or the habit becomes more frequent, continue to try and distract or redirect your baby's attention to something else whenever you notice them going for their hair.

Just because you might be suffering from post-partum hair loss, doesn't mean your child should be going bald from hair pulling. As with other habits like biting nails or sucking thumbs, most people recommend trying to intervene hair pulling before your child develops it into a bad habit. A frequent hair pulling habit can develop into a more serious condition called trichotillomania if it continues into your child's school-aged years.

If a baby is pulling your hair

What if your baby is pulling your hair? In this case, it's a habit that's best nipped in the bud. The first time your baby pulled your hair they likely got a reaction out of you: maybe you let out a little yell or started to laugh. Your baby recognizes this response and will try it again and again, hoping to get your attention.

To stop your baby from pulling your hair try:

  • Tying your hair back when your nursing or carrying your baby, so they can't reach anything to pull on. Stretch marks and sore nipples are enough with breastfeeding, you don't need the extra pain from having your hair pulled!
  • Calmly and firmly saying no as you release their grip and move your hair out of the way. Offer a gentle alternative, like showing them how to softly stroke your hair instead.
  • Distracting them with something else, like playing with a toy or singing a song.

Whatever tactic you use to stop your baby from pulling your hair, be consistent. The more they learn that it's not something they should be doing, the quicker they'll give up trying to pull your hair.

Hair twirling in babies is a common self-soothing technique. The habit only becomes harmful if they start to pull their hair out completely or they develop bald spots. As with any bad habits, the sooner you can intervene the better.

How to Stop Baby Pulling and Eating Their Hair

Is your baby exhibiting some concerning behavior, like pulling their hair or perhaps even eating it? Or has your toddler entered a phase where they pull other people’s hair?

Babies and toddlers can be strange little people; there’s no hiding that fact. But it’s frustrating to see our babies doing things we don’t expect.

Hair pulling is quite normal, and there’s no need to feel like it’s your fault. Most of us moms have had little ones who exhibit this behavior!

However, it’s crucial to understand why it happens and recognize what to do and how to act in these situations.

Table of Contents

  • Why Is My Baby/Toddler Pulling Their Own Hair?
  • Help! My Toddler Is Pulling Other People’s Hair
  • In Conclusion

Why Is My Baby/Toddler Pulling Their Own Hair?

As a veteran mom, I’ve seen my fair share of strange behavior — my little ones pulling at things, smelling odd things, tasting gross things — the list goes on. When it comes to your toddler or baby pulling out their own hair, there are a few causes.

1. Curiosity

Hair pulling is generally something babies do simply because they can. The world is new and exciting for them, and even hair pulling is an educational experience. They love to explore and see what happens when they try new things.

Just because your baby is pulling their hair doesn’t necessarily mean something is wrong. But if you feel worried, you can observe their behavior for a week or two and then mention it to your pediatrician.

If you see that the hair pulling is hurting them, try to redirect their attention. Give them a toy they love, or move their hand to another area.

An interesting case study demonstrated this curiosity and that babies’ interest in hair decreased with gentle distraction techniques (1).

2. Self-Soothing Mechanism

Sometimes babies and toddlers use hair pulling as a self-soothing mechanism. Some babies fall asleep easily when they stroke their head or rub their nose; this could be the same. Other babies find it soothing to twist their mom’s hair in their fingers.

You may see that hair pulling generally occurs in sedentary moments such as during breastfeeding or bottle feeding or when your little one is feeling tired or upset.

Babies doing this will likely grow out of the habit as they age.

3. Trichotillomania or Baby Trich

Trichotillomania (TTM) is a disorder in which people feel an urge to pull out hair from their bodies. Depending on the severity, it typically results in bald patches (2).

This disorder generally has an onset between the ages of nine and 13 but can occur in children as young as 18 months old.

When this condition occurs in children under the age of 4, doctors refer to it as “baby trich.” Fortunately, when this disorder affects younger toddlers, it usually resolves quickly.

While adults suffering from this disorder usually do it intentionally, young children often don’t realize what they’re doing. They might not even remember it later in life.

Trichotillomania is different from the “bald patches” that form on the back of the head from an infant lying on their back. These bald patches occur because the back of the head rubs against flat surfaces during sleep, diaper changes, playmat time, etc. In clinical practice, I find that this hair begins to regrow by 7 to 8 months old when the infant spends more time in an upright position (3).

Editor's Note:

Dr. Leah Alexander, MD, FAAP

Symptoms of Baby Trich

Usually, baby trich sufferers show both emotional and physical symptoms. However, mental and emotional signs can be tricky to spot in toddlers since many do it unintentionally. Still, there are some ways you can detect it.

Your toddler might do any of the following:

  • Constantly tug or twist their hair.
  • Pull their hair repeatedly in one place over a period of time, where a bald spot might appear. This could also include eyelashes or brows.
  • Exhibit an urge (that they might try to resist) right before they begin pulling.
Why Does Baby Trich Occur?

Doctors are still unsure about this, although some studies suggest that lack of parent-infant interaction, low pain threshold, or parental aggression could be some of the triggers (4).

Unfortunately, although this disorder is pretty common, there’s still very little information about it. It’s often misdiagnosed as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and inappropriately treated (5).

It can be difficult for parents to witness their little one pulling out their hair, but all you can do is try to redirect their attention. If your child is old enough to understand, you can calmly ask them to stop. Avoid making a big fuss about it, as this will likely cause unnecessary stress for both of you.

Alternatively, if you feel that your little one is doing it more when you’re asking them not to, try to ignore it. This can be hard, but try to scream on the inside and stay cool as a cucumber on the outside. In this case, they may be doing it just to push your buttons.

If you worry that your little one might have baby trich, it’s best to contact a professional.

Treatment for Baby Trich

Physicians primarily treat this disorder with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This treatment helps your little one become aware of their actions (6).

The aim of CBT is to teach your child how to recognize the emotions and triggers of the hair pulling. Depending on the age, this could involve anything from wearing bracelets to carrying something around as a reminder.

The second phase of treatment begins once your little one understands the problem. This involves reversal therapy.

Your doctor might recommend placing bandages on your toddler’s fingers to make hair pulling more difficult. Another suggestion is to tie their hair back in a ponytail or cover it with a hat.

Generally, for older kids who like to play with their hair, doctors recommend giving them something with a similar texture to play with. This could be a textured pencil topper, feather, or ribbon.

4. Pica (Eating Hair)

You probably heard of this when you were pregnant (women sometimes crave strange things to eat, such as dirt or chalk). But it’s also pretty common for young children.

A baby may try eating their hair once or twice out of curiosity and never do it again. However, pica is a disorder when a child persistently eats more than one non-food item for at least a month (7).

This condition is not something to take lightly. The unnatural substances your baby puts in their mouth can contain toxins. This could lead to parasitic infections, poisoning, intestinal blockage, and even death.

Depending on your little one’s age, they could eat paint, plaster, fabric, or hair. Older kids may opt for sand, leaves, pebbles, and even animal droppings or insects.

This disorder can continue into adulthood, where experts often describe it as a severe form of self-harm.

Signs of Pica

Doctors take pica very seriously, especially when it occurs in small children. The prevalence of death is, unfortunately, high, so they will examine your little one thoroughly.

The clue to look out for in smaller children usually includes seeing your little one eating one or more non-food items (such as hair). This continues for more than one month, despite your efforts to stop them from doing so.

Why Does Pica Occur?

Like baby trich, experts are not sure of the exact causes of pica. Still, there are a couple of circumstances that might contribute to its development.

  • Nutritional deficiencies: A lack of iron or zinc can sometimes cause a craving for a non-food item.
  • Malnutrition: This is not a common trigger in the U.S. This generally applies in developing countries, where children often resort to eating soil or clay.
  • Lack of supervision or parental neglect.
  • Other conditions: Autism or other developmental disabilities, for example.
  • Mental health disorders: Like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and schizophrenia.
Treatment for Pica

Treatment generally aims at finding a way to prevent the hair-pulling. This could include placing mittens on your child’s hands or giving them stuffed animals or blankets to comfort and distract them instead.

The next step is to ensure your little one gets all the nutrition they need. Your doctor might conduct tests to check if your child’s mineral levels are normal. If not, they will likely advise you to include more nutritious food in your toddler’s diet.

If your doctor suspects an underlying condition, they may suggest continued checkups. Fortunately, for most young children, pica is something they will outgrow.

From what I see in practice, iron deficiency anemia is the most common reason an infant or child exhibits pica. It could be associated with a high serum lead level. My routine initial workup is a complete blood count (CBC) and a lead test for children under the age of 5.

Editor's Note:

Dr. Leah Alexander, MD, FAAP

Help! My Toddler Is Pulling Other People’s Hair

As a mom who’s had to apologize countless times for a misbehaving toddler, I can relate to this one! It’s frustrating and embarrassing to face the judgmental eyes of other moms and the screams of their tots.

But what can you do about it?

1. For Babies

This will sound much like the hair pulling above, but babies often pull hair as a way to experiment and explore.

Pulling at other people’s hair helps babies to work out cause and effect. This usually occurs between the ages of 6 and 12 months.

Your baby might pull your hair when they’re feeding or playing with you, merely to watch your reaction. Will you ignore it, laugh, or get angry?

Remember, babies are learning everything from us — even how to react to hair pulling!

How Should You React?

Because your baby is working out cause and effect, the best way to react is to simply put them down and ignore their actions.

It may be a case of, “You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.” Laughing at them can make it into a game. But getting angry or exhibiting an extreme reaction could fascinate them and make it worse.

Try this: when your baby is pulling your hair, give a clear verbal response that they can understand, like, “No. ” It is important to make eye contact and remove distractions while saying “No.” Then gently remove their hand from your hair.

By doing this, you’re taking your attention away from your baby, which will clearly show them that it was unacceptable. Still, it might take a few times before they get it. Just remember to be consistent.

2. For Toddlers

Toddlers are more mature than babies and are probably aware that hair pulling hurts the other person. But hair pulling might be a way for them to express genuine anger or hurt (8).

For toddlers, especially younger ones, expressive words are sometimes hard to use. Perhaps your little one doesn’t speak yet. They may find it easier to bite, pinch, or pull someone’s hair when that person did them wrong.

Another cause could also be copying someone. Toddlers are still learning the rules of the world, and when they see other kids pull each other’s hair, they may try it too.

What Can You Do?

The first thing to do is work out the reason behind the behavior. Why is your toddler doing this? Is hair pulling something they see others do? Do they feel frustrated in some way?

Next, ask yourself how your reactions are received. Are you getting angry or being supportive?

Here’s what you do:

  • Stay calm: Even if you have to fake it. Your toddler will see this, and it’ll teach them how to deal with being frustrated.
  • Turn away: If you feel your toddler is doing this for attention, take that away.
  • Give a consequence: If they continue, despite your reaction, tell them that it hurts and gives them a consequence, like a short timeout.

You can always teach your child descriptive words by saying that they look like they’re feeling angry or sad. But remember, consistency is key!

In Conclusion

Babies and young toddlers who pull their own or other people’s hair are often just exploring their boundaries. However, it’s important to observe their behavior if they continue since it can sometimes indicate underlying issues.

Fortunately, most children outgrow this hairy habit. It will, undoubtedly, be something worth remembering and bringing up at their graduation party!

Feedback: Was This Article Helpful?

Thank You For Your Feedback!

Thank You For Your Feedback!

What Did You Like?

What Went Wrong?

What to do if your child is pulling hair out of his head

If your son or daughter compulsively pulls hair out of his head or eyelashes, it is very likely that he suffers from trichotillomania. This is a type of disorder that occurs during childhood and adolescence. In the vast majority of cases, a thing shouldn't evolve further and fade over time, so you don't have to worry too much. However, there are much more serious cases requiring special treatment. nine0006

In the following article, we explain the causes or reasons why this disorder may occur and guidelines and advice that parents should follow to treat this disorder in children and young adults.


  • 1 What is trichotillomania
  • 2 Why are there children who pull out their own hair or hair
  • 3 What damage does this type of disorder cause
  • 4 What should parents do

What is trichotillomania

A child or young person suffering from this problem will experience great pleasure pulling hair from the head or eyelashes. Most often suffer from this disease in adolescence. In order to be able to induce trichotillomania in oneself, a number of factors must be observed:

  • A child or young person has significant bald spots. either on the scalp or in the eyebrow area.
  • Before pulling out hair, a person is in a rather significant stressful situation. Performing the hair-pulling action, one feels great relief.
  • Bald spots are caused by compulsive hair pulling. No problem with hair.

Why are there children who pull their hair or hair out

There are many reasons or factors that can cause a young person or child to pull their hair out of their head or eyelashes. nine0005 This may be a family history or environmental factors such as anxiety or stress.

There are a number of emotions that can make a child pull hair out of the scalp:

  • Negative emotions such as episodes of extreme stress or anxiety. The child loses motivation or is bored and this results in the child pulling out large amounts of hair or hair.
  • Emotions can also be positive, for example the very fact of getting great pleasure when removing hair from the head or eyelashes. nine0006

In many cases, hair pulling is not associated with any emotion. The child or young person does this without realizing it, either while studying or watching TV.

What damage does this type of disorder cause

  • The most noticeable damage is physical. The appearance of a large number of bald spots on the scalp or on the eyelashes is normal. There are also wounds and scars. nine0006 There are cases when hair enters the child's body due to digestive problems.
  • Emotional problems also arise, leading to serious damage to the child's self-esteem and safety. This is a behavior of which they are not at all proud and may suffer from bouts of depression and anxiety.
  • Another type of fairly common problem in children and young people with this disorder is related to social relationships. They have severe difficulty maintaining social contact with friends and they often become the subject of much ridicule.

What to do for parents

If parents notice that their child won't stop pulling his hair, it would be good to go to the pediatrician. It is normal that there is a direction to the psychological sphere. It is important to find the cause of the disorder and work with the child or young person to resolve the problem from there. In addition to therapy work, the child may be given medication to help reduce anxiety or stress levels. nine0003

Ultimately, Trichotillomania is a disease that is more common than it might seem at first glance. In the vast majority of cases, there is nothing to worry about. If the problem persists and gets worse, it is recommended to seek professional help.

The content of the article complies with our principles of editorial ethics. To report a bug, click here.

You may be interested

How to explain to a child that it is not necessary to pull out mother's hair



Expert advice

Psychologist's consultation

Child's age: 1.9

Tags: relationship with mom ban

How to explain to a child that you shouldn't pull out your mother's hair

Good evening. Today was the last straw. Son 1.9, constantly pulling his hair and not just pulling, but pulling it out with roots, trying to pull the hair out of his hands, he tears off what happens. At the same time, he is very funny. How many times I said "mama wava", it hurt, or screamed in pain - I don't understand. Exactly for a second. So he asked himself to sleep and again got out on his head, and began to tear his hair, I broke out with grief in half and hit the soft spot (he was in a diaper), and left. You won't drag your mom by the hair anymore. And she went into the kitchen (to pour kefir into a bottle for him), and he immediately got nervous and started calling me. I said, my mother was hurt, she was offended by you. Then he came into the kitchen, I had already poured kefir, took my hand, said "bye". We went, he drank kefir and fell asleep. Question: Did I do the right thing? It's a pity to beat, quite small. And how can I explain that he would not tear my hair if this happens again? nine0003


Evgeniya, hello!

A child at this age does not yet understand your explanations very well. Moreover, he still cannot, in the way that we adults perceive it, take the position of another and understand his pain. For him, playing with your hair is a really fun activity involving the manipulation of something that is apparently long, crumbly. Your pain, in view of the still undeveloped brain, physiologically immature, is not perceived as pain. Rather, the child understands that he is doing something wrong, in the end. But the new situation gives him interest again, and the past is forgotten. nine0003

In your situation, it is primarily your responsibility to protect yourself. And here it literally works - you can’t climb up to your head, you can’t touch your hair. At this age, one of the effective ways to stop the behavior that causes harm is to physically prevent it from happening, to warn it. Those. stop, do not let it get to the hair. Calmly, clearly, carefully explain that you can’t tear your hair, it hurts your mother. Pull hair into a ponytail. Grab a child approaching them. Intercept pens, for example, by playing patties. Or just say “I see you want to play with your hair, but it hurts a lot, so you can’t do this. ” And do not let the hair. nine0003

And then your task is to bear the child's emotions. And they will be, perhaps, very bright: disappointment, annoyance, resentment. There may be a cry, a cry, a demand. And all this is important to take as a natural reaction to your ban. And stay close, hug, comfort. Say what the child is experiencing right now. To say how you sympathize with him, that you are ready to help, that you will not leave, you will be with him. Yes, there is a rule, there is a ban, but it does not destroy your connection. Rather, on the contrary, through experiencing feelings about the impossibility of doing something, your relationship improves: the child gains an experience of frustration, on the one hand, and begins to trust you more as a reliable support that you can turn to when it’s hard / bad / painful and can’t cope , with another. nine0003

Each such problematic situation in a relationship can be something destructive for the family, or it can be a point of growth.

Learn more