Parenting--Toddlers/Infants/Pre-Schoolers/18 month old nephew eating hair

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Question
My nephew, who is 18  months old is eating hair from where ever he can find it. His sister's hairbrush, the broom, the floor- he can spot it from a mile away! When I rock him to sleep, he plays with my hair, and does the same to his sister. I know the hair can't be digested, and I take it away from him every time I catch him. Why does he do this? Should I seek professional help?

Answer
Hello Meghan,
This is a new one. I have not heard of a toddler who has the habit of eating hair.
However, I will assume that it is a habit or a temporary obsession much like others that toddlers develop.
In most cases, if you don't spend a lot time talking about the habit or trying to change it, the habit will go away on its own -- often in three to six months.
The only reason I can think of to involve a professional is to perhaps consult with a pediatrician to rule out that eating hair is a way to replenish some kind of nutrient. I can't imagine that that might be the case, but I suppose it's possible.
If this habit doesn't go away on it's own in a few months, get back in touch with me.
Best,
James Windell  

Parenting--Toddlers/Infants/Pre-Schoolers

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James Windell

Expertise

I can answer questions related to normal child development, disturbed behavior and how to provide appropriate guidance and discipline.

Experience

I've been a clinical psychologist in a juvenile court, worked in school settings, been a child psychotherapist in a private psychiatric clinic and consulted with schools, courts, hospitals and daycare centers.

Organizations
American Psychological Association
Michigan Psychological Association

Publications
I have been a columnist with the Oakland Press (Oakland County, MI) for 21 years writing a weekly column called Coping With Kids, which is also published weekly in the Staten Island Advance. I have been a mental health columnist with the Detroit Free Press and a columnist for Working Mother Magazine. In addition, I have published articles in professional journals. I have published 16 books, among them are "8 Weeks to a Well-Behaved Child" (IDG Books), "Discipline: A Sourcebook of 50 Failsafe Techniques for Parents" (IDG Books); "Children Who Say No When You Want Them to Say Yes" (IDG Books), "What You Need to Know About Ritalin" (Bantam Books) "6 Steps to an Emotionally Intelligent Teenagers" (John Wiley & Sons), "The Fatherstyle Advantage" (Stewart, Tabori & Chang) and "Defusing High Conflict Divorce" (Impact Publishers). My latest parenting book (2012) is "The Everything Child Psychology and Development Book." Articles about my work with parents has appeared in the New York Times, the Chicago Sun Times, the Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press. My website at Jimwindell.com includes more information about me, my books and includes many columns I've written.

Education/Credentials
B.A. in Psychology from Wayne State University
M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Oakland University

Awards and Honors
Best Educational Program by Juvenile and Family Court Judges Association (National award for the development of a parent training program for parents of delinquent teenagers. Beth Clark Service Award from the Michigan Psychological Association.

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