How do I get my toddler to stop eating hair?

Q: My 15-month-old eats hair, dust bunnies and threads/fuzz off of clothing/stuffed animals/blankets. She will pick up any of these that she finds on the floor, so I do my best to keep them swept and dust-mopped. But she will also actively seek them out. She will pluck fuzz off of fabric items. And she combs through my hair and her own looking for loose strands. She's even resorted to pulling hairs out. Nothing we've tried to discourage this behavior has worked.

A: There are many habits which toddlers develop that can be challenging for parents. Hair/fuzz eating is not uncommon and may just be a bad habit. It could however be a form of PICA (eating things that are not food) which may be due to something missing from her diet so a visit to the pediatrician to discuss the hair eating is a good first step. If no dietary cause is found breaking the habit is the next step. Find another solid object/teething toy that is intended to be chewed on and offer that to her after removing the hair or fuzz from her hand and mouth. As you do that tell her that "we do not eat hair/fuzz but you can chew on this." I would not use a pacifier as that would be creating another habit that would eventually need to be broken. Keep the item close at hand so you can rapidly offer her the acceptable behavior. Praise her when she drops the hair and accepts the teething toy. If you can be consistent over time (likely weeks, not days) she should stop eating hair/fuzz.

Answered by Dr. Carrie M. Brown

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