Dear Dr. Markham,
DS is 16 months old and we have a hair pulling problem. I've seen several threads on this forum but very few people seem to have found a solution.
DS has always been into pulling my and my husband's hair, even from the time he was a small infant. However in the last months, I feel the pulling is almost like an urge that he can't resist and it's definitely a self-soothing thing for him. Our pediatrician said I should put him down and say no every time he pulls him hair but I find that quite impossible. So I'm not sure if I'm not being consistent...Sometimes I tell him to pat my hair softly and show him but that has little impact. Sometimes I put him down and sometimes I pull his hand away and tell him - We don't pull hair. That hurts Mommy when you pull my hair. And other times I just let him do it, say when he's falling asleep, or we're in the car and he's tired or cranky.
I've read a bit online about Trichotillomania but he seems too young for that. I'm just wondering why he's doing this. Is it stress and do I need to encourage other ways for him to self-soothe?
Is he needing affection or comfort? I try to give him as much as possible and his daycare teachers are very loving. He's very active so it's not always easy to get a cuddle in.
He's a generally active, healthy and cheery toddler who's developing very well. I've tried to think if this started in conjuntion with an event. However the hair pulling started before he started daycare at 10 months (short days / 4 days a week) and before our breastfeeding relationship
ended 2 months ago.
Another thing I've noticed is that it seems he always needs to have his hands busy. I lay him down in his crib on a knitted blanket and he often likes to fall
asleep playing with the threads. I have also given him shaggy stuffed animals which he likes however if I'm near, he'll much prefer a handful of my hair.
I've pretty much tolerated the hair pulling up to now but am worried this habit may not go away naturally and that I might need to encourage him to
find other self-soothing methods. He already uses a soother. As well, I'm really tired of having my hair tugged and pulled out. It makes holding him and
cuddling with him less enjoyable than it could be. I want to enjoy close moments where I'm not being physically hurt!!! We still co-sleep a little bit but
he would be in our bed a lot more if he didn't pull my hair. I now try to move him back to his crib after his nightly waking(s) because otherwise he can spend
an hour pulling my hair and I can't sleep like that.
I'd really appreciate your advice. I'd like to move him away from this habit in the most loving way and get to the source of this habit and help him be
as happy and secure as possible.