Q&A: an uncomfortable lovey

Elizabeth writes:

"This problem is really pretty funny, except that it's getting less andless so to me.

My eight-month-old son is obsessed with my hair. I have fine hair that goes
about to the bottom of my shoulder blades. Every
I pick him up, he grabs a handful of hair and sticks his thumb
in his mouth. It's pretty much the only time he sucks his thumb any more, but
if he can get my hair, that's the immediate next move. If I try to tie it back
or braid it, he gets a handful from near the scalp and pulls as hard as he can,
and it hurts. Plus I always seem
to have wispies for him to grab – my hair resists being confined. When I pry it
out of his hands, he starts sobbing. Every time I hand him to someone, I have
to pry his hands open to get my hair back before I can move. (My husband is
used to this routine and doesn't try to whisk him away, but I've been dragged
by the baby clutching my hair many times by other people who don't know that
they have to wait for this step.) When I lay him in the crib, he can be totally
asleep, but as I stand up and the last strands pull out of his hands, he wakes
up and sobs.

It's pretty clear that my hair is functioning as a lovey for him. But this
cannot go on. It hurts, it makes it hard for me to hold him or nurse him or
anything – it's unmanageable. But I'm afraid to cut it off (and I don't really
want to, although I'm willing if I can solve the problem) without having some
kind of substitute for him. I have looked for a stuffed animal or something
that has long "hair," but apparently nothing feels like mine, because
he's not interested.

What do I do? His sister never had a lovey, and I don't really know what to do
with a kid who does. Can I redirect it? Should I just slather Anbesol on my
scalp and hope he outgrows it? Help!"

There are parenting experts who will tell you to just suck it up because your son clearly needs the security of your hair right now. And there are parenting experts who will tell you that you need to show your child his place by cutting him off from holding onto your hair immediately.

That's why it's nice not to be an actual expert–I get to look at the problem from a bunch of different angles. And it seems to me that this is an opportunity to start helping your son with the give-and-take that all humans have to learn. He is extremely important, but so are you. And he can't do something that causes you pain for no good reason, but you can probably hold on long enough to find something to transition him to a more practical lovey.

He's not going for the loveys with hair, which makes me think he doesn't want to be tricked. (This seems to be similar to kids who won't take a bottle because they don't like to be tricked, but will drink out of  cup instead.) I'm wondering if you could find a lovey that would have a similar intensity of sensation. I'm assuming your hair feels pretty silky, so maybe something either smooth (like metal) or something else very tactile, like a koosh ball or wooden spoon handle or piece of wide satin ribbon might do it. When you find something he'll take, make sure you get 3 or 4 of them.

Once you've found something he'll accept, even if he still has a clear preference for your hair, you're going to have to try to transition him. The first step is to talk to him about it, about how grabbing your hair hurts you, so he should grab onto the lovey instead. Once you've talked to him about it a few times, it's time to stop him from touching your hair and put the lovey into his hands every time he tries to grab your hair.

Now, if it were me (and it's not, it's you), I'd go all GI Jane and buzz my hair off to really provide the opportunity to reinforce the new pattern and make the old pattern impossible. (Remember, though, that getting divorced has given me much less concern for what other people think of me, so I'd be fine walking around with a buzz cut. I'd just have to wear a hat everywhere until the weather got warmer.) If you don't want to cut off your hair, you should wear some kind of tight-fitting hat that he can't burrow under easily.

By doing this gently (and talking to him about it first) you are showing him that you respect him and that his needs are important. But by pushing to wean him off your hair, you're showing him that you're important, too, and that he can love you but he can't hurt you. (Once you wean him off your hair and help him with this balance, he'll be more emotionally advanced than the average 19-year-old…)

Oh, and he's about to go through a developmental spurt/sleep regression (usually around 9 months), so start on this ASAP, or you may end up having to wait 4-6 weeks until he's through the spurt before you can make any progress.

Has anyone else been in a situation in which something important to your baby has been untenable to you? How did you deal with it?

72 thoughts on “Q&A: an uncomfortable lovey”

  1. My 26 month old has always grabbed onto my hair whist nursing, and although I don’t sport a GI-Jane buzz cut, my hair is only 4 cms at the longest point and she still manages to get a hold of it. That or my nose. I don’t know, I guess it has never really bothered me all that much, as it doesn’t hurt and I see half the pleasure of nursing for her is actually having this contact with me, or part of me. If it helps, when she nurses with one of her stuffed toys, she is less interesetd in me.

  2. Could you wear a special necklace? You could make one with all different tactile objects – wood, metal, glass, felt, pom pom pom etc etc. If it’s the kneeding, maybe one of those stress balls? Hope you find a solution!

  3. I have heard of someone in this situation, and the only way she could get past it was to buy some sort of fake hair extension (kind of like a wig, but smaller) and attach her kid onto that. It worked, but it supposedly looked pretty strange to see a kid snuggled up at night with fake hair. I think it’s worth a try!I’m pretty sure I read the article in a parenting magazine, so if you google a bit you might be able to find it.

  4. I’ve gotten to do hair-lovey and skin-lovey, and in both cases I just waited it out while gently moving his hand so it didn’t hurt.I’m not recommending waiting it out, I’m just saying it can be done. But then, there was no “Ask Moxie” back then. Also, I wish I’d thought of Anbesol. Or that spray topical anesthetic they give you at the hospital, as though that helps.

  5. Not untenable, but Mr B’s lovie was Mr G. Totally serious – he had to know Mr G was at least nearby until he was at least 3 1/2 years old. He managed daycare okay, but the first thing he needed was Mr G when he got home. BIG BROTHER LOVE, serious big deal. When he transitioned to a new school, Mr G had to go with him, pretty much (summer care, for example, he’d be okay in a new classroom if his brother dropped him off). And while they were in the same school (a couple of years), Mr B would have to walk down to Mr G’s classroom to make sure he was actually there, before he could settle into the day. Fortunately, the teachers were okay walking him down to check.Nothing ever really counted as much as Mr G, and still doesn’t. BUT, we did manage to expand his repertoire to ‘things he can squeeze/hug’ (first level backups) and ‘things that engage his attention’ (like action figures or toys that light up or make noise, sigh). The draw was both physical contact and mental engagement/stimulation. So, that’s where he ended up for swap-options. He still doesn’t have anything like a lovie for bedtime.
    Mr G had me as a lovie, for a bit, but we swapped in a fuzzy cow, and then he selected a blankie (which we promptly got four of, and cycled through the laundry so they were all equally worn/softened). The blankie actually was selected because he recognized the characters (Pooh – he pointed to Tigger, said ‘Fwiend!’ and then he was all set). But he’d already transitioned by then – we just added the item into the cuddles or nap every time. So, if he was nursing, stuffed cow in his arms. If he was falling asleep, stuffed cow in his arms. If he was contentedly cuddled, stuffed cow in his arms. NO effort to swap out until he would start reaching for cow because that was part of the routine. Only when cow was part of the deal, did we start stepping away and leaving him with just cow.
    He also cycled rapidly through lovies, to the point where anything in his hand counted, on a daily basis. Didn’t matter what it was, mattered only that he had been carrying it. He does have two favorites, though, even at 11 years old – neither of them is cow, though.

  6. I don’t have any solutions here, but I can so completely relate to Elizabeth’s dilemma!!!I am in the same situation, except my daughter is 21 months old and her lovey is not my hair, but rather my skin. When we nurse, she pinches, kneads, and otherwise manipulates my skin (usually in the chest/neck area), and it HURTS! I’ve been trying the things Moxie has suggested, i.e. explaining that it hurts Mama when she pinches my skin (For the sake of simplicity, I’ve been referring to all of it as “pinching.”), and she responds to that, but only for a few seconds. It makes me think she WANTS to cooperate, but she also NEEDS something to pinch/knead. I’ve been wracking my brain for something that would give her a similar tactile sensation, but I just can’t think of anything. Anyone have any ideas? I’d be soooooo grateful!

  7. Since I’ve heard that the period of attachment is usually 8-10 months, maybe it isn’t too late to help him choose something new. I’d look for something silky, but just put your choices next to him every night even if he doesn’t choose them right off. You could even rub your scent onto it- consider your shampoo and other hair product smells even. It may sound odd, but your unwashed body (hair) is the smell he likes best.Then, I’d pair the hair grabbing with a negative consequence. A firm “no hair- ouch” and removal to a new person or into the bed or safe spot for a minute. The repetition of this will drive you crazy, but it will eventually sink in. You can pair the sign language for “pain” (index fingers toward each other) to help explain if it helps.

  8. I think @Treena’s fake hair idea is perfect! I would get a tight stocking cap, like Moxie said, and clip the fake hair to the side or back of it for a while so he’s still reaching in the same way but not getting real hair. Then he may transfer his affection to the fake hair (deLIGHTful) or maybe even to the hat — esp. if the hat starts to smell like Mommy.I remember my mom had a pair of knit gloves I fixated on and in the winter it was a constant battle to keep the pair together so she could wear them, because I would abscond with one whenever I could get my hands on it. I remember those gloves VIVIDLY.

  9. @Elizabeth – I wouldn’t want to cut my hair for this. But you could wear a broad handband or a bandanna or something, plus a ponytail. that’s something you could keep in your pocket and put on to protect the wispies.@applesauce – I’ve seen nursing necklaces for exacatly this purpose.

  10. My son only just started taking a lovey at 19 months old. It’s a teddy bear (two, actually, “Beah” and “Beah”) that he sleeps with, but while it is very clear that it is no stand-in for Mama or Dada, he seems to get some comfort from it.So I had a couple of suggestions, which you may have already tried.
    1) Have you tried going less for a direct swap and more of a “gee, this is a cozy, cuddly thing that is always around when I’m snuggling with Mommy?” (I guess this is along the lines of what Hedra already described.)
    I would avoid taking his hands out of your hair and then immediately giving him the lovey in case he’s associating it with being denied his favorite comfort object. I think that separating the two cause/effect pairs: “Grabbing hair hurts Mama/Mama stops me from doing it” and “I’ve got this lovey/I am being comforted” is probably important.
    2) My son is a lot older, but it was when he started being able to relate to “beah” as a huggable creature with eyes and a nose and a mouth that it started meaning something to him. So using silly voices to talk through the lovey and give it a bit of personality might help.
    3) Have you considered letting him hold onto a few detached strands of your hair? Of course, if he’s pulling on it that hard I suppose he inevitably ends up with a few already — OUCH!
    A mother I know used this trick when transitioning her child to a crib; with a few strands of hair wrapped around his finger, he would sleep through the night. (I know, it sounded too good to be true to me, too, and she’s remembering this 30-odd years down the road, from a time before baby monitors.)
    I think Moxie’s hat suggestion is brilliant.
    Good luck!

  11. With my first, when we were trying to get her attached to the lovey, I wore it under my shirt for a week or so, and gradually introduced it during snuggle time If she does go the hair extension route, it should definitely smell like her before trying swap it in. I’d go so far as to shampoo it in her shampoo and put it in her pillowcase for a bit.

  12. Yup, we’ve done ‘hair as lovey’ as well here. Fortunately, at nearly 20 months, V plays with it during active time more than she needs it during quiet time now. She does hold it while I’m rocking her to sleep (standing up) but she’s close enough that it doesn’t really pull. I remember though, trying to nurse and having my head at an awful angle while doing it b/c she needed to hold my hair.Our 2nd string lovies were cut up and hemmed bits of my old pajamas, which were the silky, slippery kind. You could try that.
    She’s been totally uninterested in the doll with realistic hair (i.e., not yarn) for this purpose.
    She didn’t really develop an interest in lovies until about 16 months, when she started using a very small stuffed puppy that had always been in her crib. These days, she’s got to have the puppy and unfortunately, her sippy cup to go to sleep. Really fun when the tip of the cup touches your shirt and soaks you while she’s falling asleep.

  13. Mine used my hair as a lovey too. He didn’t pull, so I didn’t need to stop it, however, I did place a T-Shirt in his crib with him one night, and just kept offering it to him when he had trouble falling asleep. (I had worn it, so it smelled like me). One day, he just latched on to the shirt and has been carrying it ever since. I’d suggest using something cuter than a T-shirt, but it can work.He’s almost 3 and he’s started holding and twisting my hair again. Trust me, you will want to break this one before your little one gets any stronger.

  14. I can totally relate to this- my daughter is 10 months old and loves, loves, loves my hair. We coslept for a while, and that’s where she started to use my hair as a lovey. It got to the point where she would have to stroke my hair to take a nap. Of course, she wasn’t very gentle, and would pull out my hair, leaving me with teeny baby hairs all along my scalp. She also wasn’t fooled by fake hair.It finally got to the point where I was incredibly frustrated with her and sick of the pain she was causing me. I had to transition her to napping in the crib (she was already there at night). It took a while, but she finally did it, which is allowing my hair to grow back. Another thing that has really helped that is completely beyond your control is that her hair is much longer, so she now uses her own hair to soothe herself! She sticks her index finger in her mouth, and her other hand strokes her own hair. I think that and time really helped. She still loves my hair, but she doesn’t need it as much as she used to.
    I would say her behavior peaked right about 8 months or so, so hopefully some of this will ease up on its own with time.

  15. Treena = brilliant. I’m now thinking about how funny it would be to be, say, Jessica Simpson, who wears hair extensions all the time. She’d never have this problem, because her kid would get attached to the extensions in the first place instead of her hair…

  16. Oh how I feel Elizabeth’s pain…literally. My 8 month old DS loves grabbing my hair, and has since he was able to actually grab. It’s when he gets those really fine hairs closest to my ears and pulls like crazy, really fast, that it really kills.Sadly’ I have nothing but commiseration as fairly early on I would tell DS in a calm but firm voice to ‘please let go of my hair, it hurts when you pull it’, while removing his hand. He now will stop grabbing about 75% of the time when I say that, so that tactic seemed to work for us.
    Maybe to stop the pain, and his immediate ability to grab whatever hair he can get, you can try to wear a head band (one of those wide, fabric elastic-y ones). At least he wouldn’t be able to grab the hair at your scalp when you have it braided. But I know, those whisps come out no matter what you do!

  17. Luckily, El uses her own hair as a lovey, stroking it as she sucks her thumb. Maybe you could redirect the baby to pet his own hair?Or, introduce a blankey by having it up on your shoulder like a burp cloth when you pick up the baby, then as you transition him to the next person or bed, he can bring the blankey with him. For different textures, maybe one of those taggie blankeys with the ribbon loops on the edge or one of the ones that is fuzzy on top and is silky on the bottom. It might be helpful to handwash it in your shampoo/conditioner too, to give it a little extra momness.

  18. There was an article about a similar situation in Brain, Child magazine… the toddler/preschooler got attached to a piece of fake hair that was braided (I think they called it “Hairy”). My computer is being slow, but I’ll see if I can find the link in their archives…

  19. Could you somehow make a hair extension our of a chunk of your own hair cut from the back (inconspicuously) so the texture is the same but it is not attached to your scalp? Yikes. Sounds right up there with nipple biting (which we are going through right now). Good luck!

  20. I’d be tempted to put mittens on the kid until the hair grabbing behavior stopped.I shouldn’t talk, though. My recently-weaned nearly-two-year-old likes to stick her hand down my shirt and scratch her way to my nipple. OUCH. Redirect, redirect, redirect. And distract. And we’ve been working on it for, oh, 3 or 4 months now, and it’s still not extinguishing.
    Kids are weird and persistent.

  21. After weaning at 29 months, Casper used my belly button as her lovey for several months. She couldn’t go to sleep without having her finger in my belly button. It was hilarious, except for the incredibly annoying part.I do think there’s a difference between lovey behavior that’s annoying and something that actually injures the parent. I would want to be firm that we do not hurt – even unintentionally – and would have been firmer about the belly button if it had hurt me.

  22. I second Sarah V’s & Moink’s suggestions of making a substitute lovey out of a chunk of your own hair. (Like donating to your own family’s “Locks of Loveys.” ;))I also wonder, in addition to your hair’s fine texture, if it’s your wonderful mama smell that is also especially attractive to your baby, which is why he won’t be fooled by no weaves!
    @hedra – What a precious story about Mr. G being Mr. B’s lovey!

  23. Pumpkin (now 23 months) uses hair as a lovey, too. She doesn’t pull (anymore), and is steadfastly uninterested in any other lovey (an we have tried A LOT of things), so we just go with it. I have been meaning to try the fake hair thing, but haven’t had time to get to a mall to buy one.So I have no advice, just commiseration. As she’s gotten more of her own hair, she will sometimes transfer from my hair to hers as she’s falling asleep. I remember a short-lived pulling phase. We’d just put her down when she pulled hair, and that didn’t last very long. I think she figured out that if she pulled, she lost her precious hair and stopped pulling.

  24. My 21 month old also uses my belly button as a lovey, has done so for almost a year now. I feel the same as caspar’s mom – it’s not painful, and kind of sweet, but incredibly annoying. I hate when he yanks up my shirt in public.For those with older kids – assuming the “lovey” act isn’t painful for Mom and you can’t easily transfer interest to a real lovey, when will it end on its own? I have visions of my son coming home from high school and rubbing my belly button for an hour (ok, not really, but it’s an awful thought).

  25. @ flea — I thought I was the only one. DS used to have to have his big toe in my navel while nursing. Now, he just have to swing his top leg up onto me.@appelsauce — I’m with you. We use nursing necklaces sometimes, but haven’t kept up with them. One thing that’s helped a little is a stuffed monkey with a sort of boob-like protruding mouth/nose area. DS has tried to nurse from it in the past, and I’m hoping to transition him more completely to the monkey.
    @Elizabeth, all I have is another possible item to add to the replacement list — a piece of scrap spandex. According to my little sister (now grown), they are very “rubby”.

  26. Yes, Brain, Child was likely where I read about using fake hair as well, sine I read that magazine regularly. Obviously it stuck with me!

  27. I don’t have suggestions, but I did want to share that I babysat for two girls, ages 2-4 who had used their mom’s hair this way. While she got ready to leave, they would wail at her legs until she ripped a few strands of hair out of her head for them to hang onto after she left. She tried giving them hairs out of her brush, but that was clearly not acceptable to the girls.I was a teenager at the time, and thought this was very funny, but now that I’m a mom, I can see how frustrating this must have been. You probably want to do something before you’re in this situation a few years down the road. 🙂

  28. I haven’t read the comments so maybe someone else has said this but:A friend’s son (who is now around 10) also used her hair as a lovey. So she bought him one of those hair-extension ponytails in her color and he walked around with that until… well until he didn’t anymore. It was quite a few years as I recall. The ponytail itself got a little, um, tangled over the years, but it did the trick. Yeah, it was a little gross, but I doubt anyone thinks about it anymore. In fact, I had forgotten until I read this, and I had brunch with the child in question just this past Saturday.
    Hope this helps – good luck!

  29. I was a “hair twirler” when I was younger. I would even stand next to my mom in the station wagon and twirl her hair (pre seatbelts, carseat laws etc.)as we drove around town. As an adult I have long hair and I still twirl my hair as I go to sleep, am nervous etc. Maybe let his hair grow a little longer and he will twirl his own hair???

  30. My first son was like this but not quite as extreme. I did not have to buzz my hair but I did cut it pretty short and that solved the problem very quickly. He was a lot younger so the reasoning with him would have been an impossible step. I just got sick and tired of my hair being chewed on so I cut it.

  31. All I know is, we worked very hard for Tink to get attached to a lovey, and now that she is, she’s surprisingly brutal. We have three monkeys in rotation now, and I’m constantly sewing their heads back on because of whatever it is she’s doing with them in bed. Sounds bad, probably is. My parents had me attach to cloth diapers, and I’m using the same kind as the supplemental crib lovey. Very nice because mass-produced, easily replaced, very washable. Maybe just pick the lovey that’s most convenient, and go with that? It’s easy to put the cloth diaper on your shoulder while nursing as an initial substitution step.

  32. I can’t remember who suggested what, so more generally:Nursing necklaces: I’ve got one, and it worked when my daughter was younger (9-16 monthsish), but it has lost its appeal, apparently.
    She has a favorite teddy bear that she held while nursing a lot, and that prevented all-out war on my skin, but now she flings teddy across the room before latching on. Sigh.
    Playdough is a great idea! I think I’ll try that ASAP. I’ve begun to get the feeling that if I’m going to have a substitute, it really has to be kneadable.

  33. Coming back in to add- I know of one other hair-attached kid who was successfully transitioned to using a My Little Pony.We tried that, with no luck. We have tried blankets- she rips them away if I try to put them between us when she’s settling in for the night and throws them down. We have tried all manner of stuffed animals and various textures of cloth. She either ignores them or throws them away. My mom even brought over a square of the blanket I used as a lovey when I was little- no dice. She liked rubber duckies for a while, so I tried one of those. She threw it out of the crib.
    I’ve been trying other loveys since she was about 3 months old, and nothing has worked. Which is why I’ve pretty much just given up and accepted that she’s a hair girl. She will let me leave without demanding I pull out hair, though. Other than the nagging suspicion that a substitute lovey might help her sleep better at night, the hair attachment has never been a real problem. In fact, it has some advantages- I ALWAYS have her lovey with me!

  34. just wanted to say that i am really loving all of your stories re: hair and lovies! this is where the wisdom of the community always shines through, and why i love it here so much. the bean pulls hair but doesn’t use it as a lovey (thank god!), has one of those minky on one side silky on the other blankies like his sister that we have made his lovey from day one. when he something that hurts me (like biting when done eating, yeouch!!) we do what cloud and jill in atlanta does, say “no” firmly and put him down in a safe place for less than a minute to help him make the connection that no one gets hurt in this family.he’s been fascinated with a mardi gras beaded necklace, but i can only imagine how much lead is in it, so i’m trying to not have that be the distractor during nursing.
    btw, thanks for the heads up on the 9 month crazies that are beginning around here- between that and the commando crawling and the teething, god help me, will i ever sleep again? will the bean? commiseration to all of you w/ 8 months old right now…

  35. @Amy: I am so glad that I am not the only one with that problem! I think my nipples hurt more now than they did while I was nursing. We too have been working on getting the little one off that habit, so far no luck. And he does have to sleep with his stuffed lion too, so it’s not like he doesn’t already have something else to hold on to.

  36. Our son was not quite to this extreme with hair but did really love it. We got him to transition his love for hair to a blanket with fringe at 8-9 months. He loves running his fingers through the fringe of the blanket and its a must for sleep/naps.

  37. @Cloud, we had to tuck the lovey on the far side, rather than between us. It was a ‘spare arm’ kind of deal – not central at all, just kind of casually added…Not sure if keeping the spare lovey secondary (so you and she are on the same page, essentially, “I know this isn’t anything like an equal player, I’ll just add it to the side over here…”) might be more tolerable as a way to get the foot in the door.
    You’ve probably tried that, too, though.
    Good luck!

  38. My son is a hair-lovey guy too. One thing that I am trying with some success is to help him stroke my hair instead of pulling. When he pulls, I say something like, “Ouch, that hurts mama. Gentle touches please”, and guide his hand to make a stroking motion. I figure nothing else feels, smells, or tastes like mama’s hair, so I am trying to teach him a better way to enjoy it.

  39. When I stopped nursing at 14 months my daughter would reach in my shirt for my breast for comfort. At some point she found a mole I have under my shoulder blade. She touches my mole even now ( just turning 3) for comfort. I stopped her from “saying goodbye to my mole” when I drop her off at school by having her say goodbye to it at home. A little too embarrassing for me at the school.Last month she spent 4 nights in the hospital and due to an IV in her mole touching hand, she couldn’t touch the mole for those days. I thought maybe that would wean her off, but no, as soon as she got home, she is back to her mole touching.
    It is sort of funny, when she needs comfort she walks up to me, reaches her hand in my sleeve, touches my mole, and then walks away.
    Still, I will be happy when she grows out of it.

  40. Belly button people – I think it was over when baby 2 was born (Casper age 2y11m). There was a lot of upheaval and change of routines at that point, obviously! We still mention the belly button sometimes now (Casper is 5.5) – she thinks it is silly now, in a charming sort of way!

  41. Unfortunately I can’t offer any solutions, but am very glad that I’m not alone in this (once again!).@Cecily T – “having my head at an awful angle”. Yes, yes and yes! I often have to look at the ceiling or wall (or I try to hold a book out of his reach) because M pulls so hard.
    M (20 mos.) is definitely one who *needs* to hang on to my hair while he nurses. He used to need it to fall asleep while nursing, but he’s recently started to outgrow that. We tried the stuffed animal route and he likes Mr. Ted, but not enough to use him as a replacement. Ponytails and headbands haven’t worked because he either grabs them and pulls my hair regardless or somehow finds the really little ones on the back of my neck. I have a feeling that I’ll just have to ride this out since I don’t really feel like battling a very strong-willed toddler!

  42. My 5-month-old doesn’t use my hair as a lovey but she has a habit of grabbing on to a chunck of it at the nape of my neck when I pick her up in a hug hold. I think she’s just trying to hang on for the ride. Ouch! I just say “no,” untangle her grip and turn her around and carry her facing forward. That seems to be working because she’s doing it less often. I know it’s much more complicated in your situation, Elizabeth, but, along with introducing a new lovey/lovies, maybe you could think of different ways of picking him up that don’t give his hands access to the nape of your neck while your hair is up in a ponytail? Since he’s bigger and has longer arms, maybe a facing out hip carry would work until he’s attached to a new lovey?

  43. On the run so haven’t read all the comments.Suggestions: find a substitute such as a blankie with fringe. Wear if down your bra and sleep with it and perhaps even wash it in your shampoo…ie make sure it smells of you and your lovely hair and transition it in when he’s in hair mode, plus other times. I wore a dou dou rabbit down my bra for two weeks and that has become our son’s beloved lovey.

  44. I believe Cloud was referring to me about the My Little Pony. Unfortunately, that lasted only a few days, and it was while we were on vacation. Once we got home (and I excitedly reported the idea to Cloud), she refused to even play with the pony anymore. So no luck for us with that, but it was something to try.I’d write my own story, but mine is almost exactly like Cloud’s. I almost always have my hair in a ponytail, and luckily she likes to twirl and fidget with the whole ponytail so she’s not pulling on a few strands. I also introduced my hair braided, which she sometimes accepts.
    Fortunately, my girl’s need of my hair is just at times she needs calming and not all the time, and it isn’t painful (though can be, and is a bit annoying). I just haven’t cut my hair because it’s easier for her and hurts less if it’s long and she’s playing with the bottom.
    Cloud and I have half-joked about cutting some of our hair and making it into a lovely! I will look into that doll someone linked to.
    @applesauce – Have you tried some sort of stress ball/toy? I remember having one that was filled with something similar to sand so that it could be manipulated rather than simply squeezed…

  45. My husband had the same attachment to his mom’s hair when he was a baby. As some other posters mentioned, my mother-in-law bought him a hair extension–a braid, I believe–to use instead. It worked, and he was the proud owner of a much-loved clump of fake hair (his “eesh”) for a couple of years. Good luck with finding a solution that makes everyone happy.

  46. Good point, Hedra. She still sleeps in her crib (until, um, she wakes up in the middle of the night and sleeps with us), so her bedtime routine mostly involves us rocking her. I haven’t figured out how to get a “second lovey” (love that term) in there. But I think when we transition her to a regular bed, that may change.Yet another argument for me to use in my campaign to convince Hubby that it is time for the crib to go!

  47. @Amy and NellaI am SO happy that I’m not alone. Since my 16-month-old has started weaning he’s been digging down my shirt for my nips when he’s upset or sleepy. And when he nurses at night he’ll twist the nip of the boob he’s not eating from. Makes me NUTS! I just keep taking his hand away over and over and telling him that it hurts mommy, it’s not nice, etc. He seems to have let up a bit, but I’m scared for when he gives up the night nurse. He might want them even more! I guess I’ll just be wearing high-necked shirts and moving his hand a lot until he gives it up.

  48. My oldest would twist my hair until it broke off. I don’t remember when he started but he was 18 months when I told him he couldn’t do it anymore since I was losing my hair (my dad is balding, so I told him I would look like Papa). He stopped for the most part (sometimes he forgets, even now at age 5!) My youngest is 8 months now and grabs on to my hair when I pick him up. He is also biting me when he nurses. I don’t let him bite me – so I suppose I should stop the hair thing, huh? Okay I am thinking as I am typing … but bottom line, YOU shouldn’t let him hurt you even without meaning to … so I would try and start by removing him fingers. Over and Over and Over again. Eventually he will get it. I don’t think you should cut your hair though! for your sake!

  49. My son’s lovie is my t-shirt. Any t-shirt will do as long as I’ve slept in it for a night or two. So I concur with the statement that it is all about smell. My son sucks his thumb with the t-shirt all wedged up in his nose, and I swear sometimes he’s huffing it! We found out that the t-shirt worked by accident – during the 9 month sleep regression, we had a night where he screamed whenever I put him in his crib (pretty sure it was seperation anxiety – he’d been happy to go to bed for several months prior to that point). After 2.5 hours of not settling down, I practically ripped off my shirt in frustration, gave it to him and walked out. And he was totally quiet and went to sleep with the t-shirt in hand. I don’t know what possessed me but it worked, and has been working ever since.I have sympathy regarding the hair pulling. DS sometimes pulls my hair by accident and it drives me mental – and that’s just a once in a while thing. Nothing at all like what the OP is dealing with. I hope you find some good advice here.

  50. It’s been a couple of weeks since I emailed this question to Moxie, so I’ll update on where we are now (not a lot different, but a little progress).I found a silk scarf that I had bought to dye as a playsilk for my daughter, and washed it with my shampoo and conditioner. I’ve been draping it around my shoulders when I nurse (at least at night – I haven’t been as consistent with it in the daytime, but he’s in daycare and drinking pumped milk from bottles in the daytime during the week anyway), and repeatedly putting it into his free hand. I try not to pry my hair out of his hand, but to stroke the silk against his palm and get him to open his hand to grab it – then I get the hair out as he’s getting the silk in.
    I’ve been nervous about putting this scarf in the crib for him, because it’s so big that it seems like it would be very easy to get tied up in. But I ordered a couple of handkerchief-size ones of the same fabric (plus a few different fabrics to see if there’s one he prefers – thank goodness for Dharma Trading), which arrived yesterday. I’m going to wash those in the shampoo and start giving him one as I lay him in the crib.
    I hadn’t thought about using a hat to cover up my hair. I’m now thinking of finding some kind of stocking cap thing (or even a wide headband) that I can attach the big scarf to – I will look ridiculous, but that’s not a problem. He does seem to like that the scarf drapes like my hair, and he tries to pull it like my hair and slide it through his fist. I’ve found he likes it if I hold the other tail of the scarf from the one he’s got, so he gets a little resistance when he pulls on it. If I can attach the scarf to the top of my head, he can get that resistance to the pull while he’s nursing. Hm, as I type this, I wonder if I should tie a scarf to the bars of the crib, rather than leaving it loose in there.
    I do think we’re starting the 9-month sleep disturbance – he’s always been an excellent sleeper, but he’s starting to wake up around 4:30 or 5:00 and think it’s playtime. So we’ll have to see how that plays into it. But I’ve definitely got more ideas to work with now – thank you all!

  51. elizabeth, be careful tying anything to the crib that is long, as it can be a strangulation hazard. i hate to be one of those “don’t do ___” people because normally they annoy me, but i do remember reading something about tying something long to the crib when i wanted to tie the pnuts binky to the crib so she could find it herself when she was smaller. it was good advice for me, as i hadn’t thought of that. good luck with your hair!@jac- that t-shirt idea is golden. we are just starting the whole “mommy leaves the room i should have a meltdown” phase- hooray for separation anxiety! i am going to try the shirt thing.

  52. Yes, the strangulation hazard is what I was worried about with the big scarf, even if it’s not tied. It seems like it would be hard to strangle on a 20″ square, though, doesn’t it? Maybe I should just settle for playing tug-of-war with him with it when I’m right there, though.

  53. I was able to convince my daughter to grab her hair instead of mine. Of course, this meant that a few months later I was dealing with combing/cutting out the knots she’d wound into it. Eventually she dialed down the hair-twisting intensity so knots weren’t an issue, but now sometimes she pulls out her hair for fun. Better than *my* hair but…clearly there’s a long off-ramp for this habit. Oh well. She still has a lot of hair.

  54. @Elizabeth, I remember my doctor giving us the OK to put something the size of a cloth diaper in with Pumpkin from a very young age. Not, as I mentioned earlier, that Pumpkin ever really took to this idea.

  55. I wouldn’t recommend trying to get your son to use his on hair as a lovey. My friend’s daughter used to twirl her own hair as a lovey and eventually developed a habit of pulling her hair out; this habit was incredibly hard to break, as it happened when the mom was out of the room.I do love the hair extension idea, as it seems the closest to real hair. Maybe you could buy a fake ponytail, wear it for a little while and transition your son to it? Hmm.

  56. Maybe in order to overcome the strangulation fears (and if you’re crafty) you could make the scarf safer by sewing it onto a pillow or a stuffed animal? It would make it less drapey but would maintain the silky texture and maybe you could leave a loose corner that he could grasp in his fist.

  57. @caramama – That’s a good idea. A stress ball filled with sand. I think I’ve been reluctant to try a lot of substitute loveys because my daughter has such a violent temper. If she doesn’t like something, it’s really a long, drawn-out process to calm her down again. So I’ve been saving experiments for the really good ideas. Playdough and a stress ball will be worth a try, I think!

  58. @cobblestone – I could see Silly Putty working, but I might have to have my mom mail me some. We live in Germany, and I’ve never seen it or anything like it here. But maybe I just haven’t spent enough time in toy and hobby stores! ;-)Here’s a random twist to the story: last night my daughter didn’t want her teddy bear, or even me, to help her get to sleep. She cuddled up with a miniature book instead! Who knows what that’s all about…

  59. I recall being told ‘nothing longer than 8 inches’ for strangulation risk. Cloth diapers won’t narrow down enough to be a risk anyway, because of the texture/thickness, but silk scarf might.You can also sew the squares into a toy shape by putting a ball or a wad of fiberfill stuffing (larger than choking size, to go with the theme) into the middle, and wrapping the scarf around the way they do with tissue ‘ghosts’ at school (remember those?). If you want to go really nuts, you can use the stuffing to make two smaller puffs for ears, and paint a bear face on it. (I’ve seen similar ones for sale)

  60. I’m glad the silk scarf is working! I was going to recommend that, because I had a “silkie” as my lovey (the silky border of a baby blanket).

  61. My son did the same thing. At 4, he still grabs for my hair (or snakes a hand down my shirt for a boob) when he’s feeling stressed.In desperation, I cut about a foot of my hair off for him to fondle when it wasn’t attached to my head. Didn’t work, though it was too mangled to donate to locks of love by the time we gave up.
    I did a lot of what PPs did: strong NO on anything painful (including the crazy nursing positions, which took a while for me, in my sleep-deprived state, to realize were abnormal) and many, many attempts at substitutes (including sleeping with them to give them my scent). Nothing really worked except his growing out of it.
    You have my sympathy!

  62. I have an almost 20-month old son with a hair attachment also. Like others, I have no suggestions, only commiserations, but it really is reassuring to know I’m not alone!! H will hold onto my hair as we wind down before bedtime, or when he’s feeling overwhelmed and seeking comfort. Of course, he’ll also grab and yank my hair if he’s irritated or upset with me! So far I’ve just been going along with it (and have hundreds of broken, short hairs to prove it!), but I might try the fringed blanket or fake hair as suggested by some of the other posters. Thanks for the ideas!

  63. I wonder about wearing a long silky scarf in your hair? Then it would smell like you, and feel good, and you could gently guide him too it and then he could keep it at night. Over time you could move the scarf onto a teddy bear or something for same keeping.My daughter, now nearly 4, used to stroke my hair too when she nursed, but she very seamlessly transitioned to her own hair when it got long enough and now she twirls her hair at night. I think it’s sweet that she has this habit that reminds me of when she was a baby.
    Good luck!

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