My 2 year old toddler loves to pull on hair. He pulls on mine and his own, usually to calm himself to sleep.

He has always loved pulling hair - which most babies do, but he didn't stop. I tell him gently he can't pull my hair, and he usually stops, but then soon he does it again.

I am especially concerned about the fact that he does it to calm himself (I wonder if it is a form of Trichotillomania, though it is not that severe). He doesn't actually pull out big chunks of hair, if any.

I usually move his hands from my hair to his if he is about to sleep (I don't want to say firmly 'no' or even talk to him when he is half asleep). I don't know if that just reinforces him in pulling.

As a complication of this, most nights he comes and sleeps in our bed (I am not looking to end the co-sleeping). Around 4/5 he gets half awake, and starts pulling my hair. This makes it hard for me to get my sleep. I usually just remove his hands from my hair. Again, I really don't want to get him to a wakeful state.

So my questions are:

Why does he like pulling hair? Will it stop? How can I get him to stop, especially when he is not really awake? Is this something I should be concerned about other than the annoyance for me?

as a side note: He loves the hair of other toddlers too, but mostly remembers not to pull it. He also doesn't have any developmental issues we are aware up, and as far as we know all his behaviors and milestones are within the norm.

  • 3
    It's not trichotillomania until he's pulling his hair out. Still, I think you're on the right track; it may be a body-focused repetitive behavior which he finds soothing, much like thumb sucking, nail biting, etc. For some reason, he finds the feeling of pulling hair comforting. Have you tried giving him a very nice (in the tactile sense), long-haired plush toy he can carry around with him and use to self soothe? He might get used to doing that instead of pulling yours at night if you steer him in that direction. Commented Oct 12, 2015 at 22:27
  • 3
    Basically what @anongoodnurse said - self soothing over a tactile channel. I myself had fabric handkerchiefs fulfilling the same purpose. Try finding a substitute. It may take some time for the transition, but should be successful in the end.
    – Stephie
    Commented Oct 13, 2015 at 6:30
  • If this behavior does not concern to unpleasant thoughts, then as @Stephie says: just try finding a substitute. But if the cause relates to some stress (like parents’ divorce) then you probably need to consult psychologist to prevent development of trichotillomania.
    – Seo Bro
    Commented Apr 13, 2016 at 9:19

1 Answer 1


Our daughter has always softly pulled on hair when going to sleep and sometimes just sitting watching TV. However, she pulls on her dolls hair (i'm quite bald!).

I don't think there is anything wrong with it and like so many things it will stop in time as she matures. When I was a child I would rub the satin edge of my blanket, also harmless and yes I did stop.

Possibly a nice toy (doll?) with silky long hair would be a good choice for your son and you can migrate his pulling of your hair to the doll by moving his hands there.

  • 1
    My niece pulled every hair off of three stuffed-bears - all identical - before she stopped this self-soothing behavior. :) Commented Nov 29, 2015 at 8:37
  • 2
    @anongoodnurse ;) we got two identical dolls for my daughter in case of catastrophe or just needing cleaned (they've been pee'd and puked on). She didn't know for a while but of course figured it out at some point when wear made them recognizably different, lol. We fairly recently got a cat with very long and soft fur. She does very much love petting and feeling that cats fur. Luckily the cat is super calm and craves the attention. A great match!
    – RLH
    Commented Nov 30, 2015 at 9:28

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