My Toddler Pulls Out Her Hair

It’s 12:17 a.m. as I hold my little girl tight against my chest.  I whisper, “I love you,” to her, promising that I will be right there for her, all the while pleading a silent prayer over her.  I know that as soon as I lay her back down in her crib, the self-soothing will begin, and by morning, more hair will be gone.

I go to the bathroom, put my head in my hands, and I cry.  I cry out of frustration because I’ve done everything I think I can possibly do, and the problem still remains.  I’m a fixer, a problem-solver.  A perfectionist.  I don’t do helpless very well.

At 20 months of age, my little girl started pulling out her hair…by the fistful.   I literally would find locks of her own hair in her hands and in her crib.

What was once a beautiful head of hair is now a checkerboard of bald patches that I work ever-so-creatively to cover up.  Gone are the days of pigtails and ribbons.  They have been replaced by a very real concern over the destructive nature of the hair pulling and one crazy-mom-on-a-mission determination to find the answer that will put an end to it once and for all.

Chloe is now 22 months old, so we have been dealing with this issue for the past couple of months.  I hesitated for a while to share it because I know how blessed we have been that she is an otherwise very happy and healthy little girl.  I whole-heartedly thank the Lord that I’m not in the hospital tonight, pleading over my child’s life – a child struggling to survive.  Those parents, I tell you, are warriors…heros like none other, and I salute them. My heart breaks for them, and I offer them my prayers and my tears.

Plain and simple, no matter how big or small the fight, it hurts when you discover that your child is battling with something, whatever that something may be for each of us. I don’t know why we are given the challenges we are given, but I still believe God is faithful, and while it stretches me beyond my comfort zone to put it out there, I hope it brings other mommies and daddies out there dealing with this same struggle some encouragement.

I have researched endlessly trying out one therapeutic method after another, waiting and holding my breath when one seems to work…for a while, that is.

For us, this hair pulling business came out of nowhere.  It started the week I first tried potty training my little girl, and it really came to my attention later that week in the car ride when we traveled to Madeline Island for vacation.  Chloe had always had a lot of hair, so it was alarming to see large patches of hair missing.

I don’t know of anyone else personally who has experienced their child pulling out their hair, but a quick search (turned obsession) revealed thousands of other parents dealing with this very same issue.  No matter who it is, every single one of those parents, like my husband and myself, have been distraught over this behavior.

Whenever I mention it to anyone, I get a sort of taken-a-back look like it is the weirdest thing they have ever heard of.  To be fair, I don’t know what kind of response I should expect of people.  It is weird.  BUT, it still stings, probably because I’m still in the thick of the battle.  I’m still a little sensitive about it, which it humbles me to admit.

At the same time, I want to be honest about it.  I’m told that toddlers pulling out their hair is very common (again, I know of no one else in my group of friends who have experienced it with their children) and that it is usually a phase that they grow out of, but often I silently wonder what if it isn’t just a phase for my little one?  While most do, some kids don’t grow out of it.

I pray that it is, indeed, a phase for my little Chloe.

My daughter pulls out her hair at three distinctive times – when she’s napping, when she’s sleeping at night, and when she’s riding in the car – all times when she’s very relaxed.  I’ve paid very close attention to her patterns, and I continue to try to intercept the problem and meet it head on.  I’m very mindful to respond in love and “redirection”, as I’m told that scolding does not help the problem.

Just a side note, you would think that hair pulling would be painful, but it’s referred to as self-soothing, as strange as it sounds.

I’ve tried covering her head in olive oil before she goes to bed so that she can’t grasp the hair (yes, that was an actual recommendation, and, yes, I actually tried it…several times), I have cut her hair shorter, I have made puppets covering her hands, and I even ordered and still put these special sleeves on her for every single nap, bed time and car ride.

Just last week, I finally took away her pacifier for good since she would wrap her hair around the nuk, and eat it.  Yes, she would eat her hair.  Par for the course, apparently.  Just to clarify, eating the hair goes hand-in-hand with pulling out the hair.  Geesh. The first time I read that I thought, “You’ve got to be kidding me?!” but then once I realized my little girl was in good company with a bunch of other little hair eaters, I breathed a sigh of relief thinking, “Oh, that’s normal.” Relatively speaking.  😉

I continue to pray for wisdom, believing that God still has time to care about my little girl pulling out her hair.

Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?  But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.”  Luke 12:6-7 KJV

I feel like I have tried everything short of shaving her head, which is another recommendation, by the way, that I just can’t bring myself to do.  Shaving her head would be my absolute last resort and ONLY if I knew without a doubt that it would correct the problem.

We have had our encouraging times, though.

After a month of pulling out her hair and the incredible damage it wreaked, the puppets did work.  I made them out of socks, drew cute faces on them, and tied them on with ribbons.  My husband and I made a big deal about them.  We got excited for her and told her how fun her puppets were, and, you know what?  She actually liked them!

But then, after a couple weeks, our little Houdini figured out how to get out of them.  Finally, the answer we had been waiting for seemed to come.  These Scratch Sleeves have been our saving grace for the past month.  With them, she had stopped pulling out her hair altogether to the point where it finally started growing in.  Yay!

That is until last week when  I had the week off of work and tried potty training again.  She’s such a smart, verbal little girl, and I hadn’t tried potty training in two months.  The hair pulling had stopped, so I figured I would give it another go.  No lie, the very day I tried potty training in the most gentle and loving way I possibly could think of was the very same day the hair pulling came back.  With a vengeance.  She figured out how to pull her hair even with her special sleeves on.

Lord, help me.

So, I scrapped potty training immediately since I am now convinced there’s a connection.  I’ve started giving her stickers, which she loves, when she wakes up without pulling her hair, but some days/nights are better than others.

So, as I sit here typing this out, it is now 2:40 a.m.  I am sleepless tonight because a couple of hours ago my little girl woke up, and as I lifted her out of the crib, I could feel the loose, pulled hair on her clothes, and by the light of the night light, I could see the void on her head where there once was hair.

I quickly grabbed a pair of socks and put one over each hand, then put her sleeves back on over top of them…double coverage was clearly needed.  Then, I just hugged her tight and held her, promising to soothe her back to sleep whenever she needed no matter how much sleep I lost…if only she would just stop pulling out her hair.

When she was finally back to sleep, I cried.  Like a big, old baby, I cried.

Then, I prayed.

And, now I’m writing.

Tomorrow is a new day, and once again I feel determined to press on.  I’ve always believed that when it comes to faith, their is also a call to action.  In other words, I truly strive to pray for wisdom over my decisions and the different challenges I face, but then I go forth in action.

I don’t always make the right decisions, but, thankfully, the Lord has always been faithful in directing my path.  While He has allowed me to suffer heart ache and pain at various times in my life, I have always felt His very real presence in the midst of those battles, and for that, I am truly thankful.

A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps.” Proverbs 16:9 KJV

For anyone else out there struggling with your toddler pulling out their hair, I feel your pain, and I hope you find encouragement here today.

As for me, I’m off to bed.

Update: Thank you, everyone, so much for your heartfelt comments! We are all in this battle together.

Just to add to what I’ve written already, I want to share that I have really focused on nutrition (not medication). I give my daughter unprocessed whole foods, fruits & veggies along with plenty of healthy animal fats (ie. grassfed butter, coconut oil, organic grassfed meats, etc., locally raised organic eggs – all high nutrient foods).

I also give her a 1/2 tsp. of fermented cod liver oil daily. I use this brand:

In addition, I give her homemade granola with pumpkin seeds – pumpkin seeds are a high source of natural iron (and easy to grind up and add into granola) that reverses the iron deficiency that so often causes kids to eat non-food items such as hair. Of course, there are other iron rich foods to add in as well. This is just what has worked well for us.

Granted, we did shave Chloe’s head back in August 2013 because there was such a significant bald patch, and we were desperate to break the habit, but as of today (Feb. 4, 2014), her hair has grown back in beautifully, and she is a thriving, healthy, happy 27-month old!

I am not a doctor, so please consult your physician as deemed appropriate. This information is simply me sharing what I’ve tried and what’s worked for my little one.

Note: Out of all the resources I came across, this article was the most helpful, as “Case One: Sally” almost perfectly describes what we’ve dealt with for our daughter Chloe (minus the carpet eating, thankfully).

Click here to read Part I: My Toddler Pulls Out Her Hair

Click here to read Part II: When the Rain Comes

Click here to read Part III: My Toddler Pulls Out Her Hair – 1 Year Later



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