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17mo developing serious hair washing phobia

(18 Posts)
TeamEponine Tue 16-Feb-16 08:36:11

DD (17 months) really hates having her hair washed, and it is now becoming a serious issue. We've tried loads of gadgets, but she instantly puts her head forward, water goes in her face and she freaks out.

She loves being in the bath, playing with her toys and is fine having her body washed.

We washed her hair Saturday night, and it was the worst yet. She really panicked. Sunday night we didn't bath her. Last night I got her ready for her bath, all fine until I went to put her in. She wouldn't sit down and really panicked. She was crying and screaming, retching, her heart rate was through the roof. She was on the verge of a panic attack, and she's only 17 months old sad

We managed to calm her down enough that she would stand in the bath so we could wash her down, but it was awful. All three of us were traumatised.

So, what can we do? We need to slowly build up her trust so she will get in the bath again, and we can do that I'm sure. But what about the hair washing? We've tried everything and we are out of ideas. I'm considering trying dry shampoo and forgetting the hair washing altogether!

I'm really worried that this is developing into a full on phobia and panic attack issue, and she's so young. Otherwise she is very happy, calm and confident. Other than the usual toddler tantrums, realatively little upsets her. It is very specifically hair washing.

Any ideas or suggestions?

Thank you!

TheWordOfBagheera Tue 16-Feb-16 10:19:17

Get in the bath with her for reassurance perhaps?

And then gradually build up getting a little bit of hair wet at the back with lots of praise, next bath a little more hair wetting and working up to wetting the top of her head (but no shampoo to start with as then you're tied into washing it out!). At 17months she can get away with not having a proper hair wash until you've cracked it!

Lastly, does she have a doll that could go in with her that she could wash it's hair, then you do hers? Oh, and a mirror to she how funny she looks with a soapy head? And watch you washing your hair too? Lot's of disjointed ideas I'm afraid, but I hope you crack it.

toomuchtooold Tue 16-Feb-16 11:48:40

I have one like that. First off, let me say that after a particularly traumatic hair wash we decided to just leave it for a while, and she had her hair wet in the shower every couple of nights but no shampoo for over three months and her hair smelled OK.
Our daughter was a bit older (3) when it all went to hell so maybe this won't apply exactly but we basically backed off and let her do her own hair, stanind under the shower. She is a lot less worried when she canontrol it all herself.
Also what helps with that is giving her shampoo that is a bit diluted with water - it doesn't stick to the hair so much then.
Oh and also, have you tried swimming goggles or giving her a flannel to hold over her eyes?

ChelseaNannyTree Tue 16-Feb-16 14:20:06

Hi There

I would suggest role modelling... firstly, do not make this into a big issue yourself. You need to remain calm and talk in the same tone of voice when you wash her hair, to how you wash her body. She can sense your stress and anticipation so staying calm is best.

Get into the bath with her and let her see you wash your hair. This way when water goes in your eyes you can respond with smiles & a 'Oppps!'. Let her wash your hair, (maybe use baby shampoo so it doesn't hurt when it gets into your eyes..) and as the other user said, let her have a baby in the bath that she can wash her hair...

I'd also use a hair washing jug and stick stars or stickers on your ceiling - point them out to her so she looks up...
Alternatively use a head 'skirt' ... if you opt for the head skirt, don't wash her hair for the first 3 times you put it on... then it won't automatically be associated with the dreaded hair wash.

Personally I wouldn't stop trying to wash her hair until she's over it as it may build the fear instead of dealing with the problem... just stay calm

I would also encourage her at swimming to get her face wet...!

starpatch Tue 16-Feb-16 19:24:40

I had to just let my DS have a break from hairwashing too he was refusing to get in bath also so just let him build up confidence to use bath. Then we were able to put a little bit of foam shampoo in at shower at swimming pool. 2 years later he still only has hair washed once a week at swimming pool. I would say don't force it they can go longer than u think without hair wash (and I mean months).

Memom Tue 16-Feb-16 19:30:12

We had this a while ago, resolved it by giving her a small 'baby' doll to wash. She bathed baby, including her hair. She liked being the big girl doing the washing.

We even went through a stage on reusing the baby bath inside the normal bath as she was scared. Crazy but it worked.

Could you put something above the bath? A balloon maybe so she looks up?

RustyPaperclip Tue 16-Feb-16 19:35:00

I felt the same when I was a child, but I have no idea why. I was terrified of water and shampoo getting in my face and being in my eyes. I know it caused my parents a lot of trouble but I have no idea what caused the problem. The only one thing I remember helping was having a towel wrapped around my head to stop shampoo getting in my eyes and very gentle washing by my parents until I trusted them. If it is any reassurance, I had completely forgotten about this until your post and love washing my hair now!

RustyPaperclip Tue 16-Feb-16 19:36:56

Ok, just re-read and I was a few years older than your child, but even so I would have loved the idea of the hat

DontBuyANewMumCashmere Tue 16-Feb-16 20:01:30

DD is only 14mo but has been like this since about 6m, I always get in with her and used to lie her on my lap while I washed it but she started screaming every time I lay her down. Now I just use some of the bath suds to wet her hair gradually and if she doesn't freak out I put a bit of water slowly into it too. I still only attempt this 1-2 times a week as she freaking hates it!

TeamEponine Wed 17-Feb-16 16:03:39

Thanks everyone. It is actually really reassuring just to hear that it is ok to not wash her hair for a while! I was feeling bad about that option.

She loves washing the hair of her toys in the bath, but won't do it to herself. She does quite like splashing and washing daddy's face, so we might use that to try to get hair washing more tolerated.

This is going to have to be a very drawn out process I fear. I'll work my way through all your suggestions. Thank you! flowers

WilLiAmHerschel Thu 18-Feb-16 15:39:15

We've never washed dd's hair op. It gets rubbed with the sponge when she is in the bath but she's never had a proper shampoo and rinse and her hair is perfectly fine. It doesn't smell or look dirty.

WilLiAmHerschel Thu 18-Feb-16 15:39:38

Forgot to say she's 18 months.

CutYourHairAndGetAJob Thu 18-Feb-16 15:45:36

If she has long hair would you consider cutting it short, to make hair washing easier?

Dd is three and doesn't like having hers washed. We get her to look for spiders on the bathroom ceiling while we do it, so the soap doesn't get in her eyes.

5minutestobed Thu 18-Feb-16 15:51:43

My ds is the same, we haven't washed his hair for a couple of weeks now to at least try and get him to get back in the bath to start with. I have been wiping his hair with a wet flannel when not in the bath to try and tame the sticky up bits.
No advice but lots of sympathy, we will be trying some of the idea on this thread!

BabySocks Thu 18-Feb-16 16:00:10

My son is just three and barely had a hair wash for months and months I think! Occasionally it got wet in the bath and we swim most weeks, I think I got a bit of shampoo into it once or twice!

However he recently saw a character shampoo in the shop and asked me to buy it, I said there was no point as he never lets me wash his hair ( in a factual way not a mean way! ) but he insisted and then wanted to wash his hair 3 nights in a row! !
Genuinely I would just leave it and try and make bath time happy again smile

(Ps he also used to be very nervous getting water on his face but then in the last fortnight has got me to fully dunk him the swimming pool. .. I could have never imagined that happening! )

EBearhug Thu 18-Feb-16 17:09:34

Do you know what the fear is? If it's just getting soap in the eyes, go for a hair skirt as above. (I have early memories of my own fear of soap in the eyes, which put me off having my hairwashed - that and having tangles pulled.)

If it's water on the face, what I used to do with nervous swimmers is give them homework. Fill a basin (or large bowl) with warm water, no soap or shampoo or anything. Ask the child to put their face in, ideally for a count of five, but if they can only manage a count of one, that's okay -the aim is to build it up over time. So if they only put their nose in the first time, that's okay. Over time, they should build up to it being as long as they can without needing a breath, after which, they can turn their head to the side to breath in, rather than taking their face out entirely. Also, opening their eyes under water (eyes shut once you're using shampoo though!), blowing bubbles under water, and eventually putting their whole head in, not just their face.

It's all to make them feel more in control and learn how to react if they get splashed in the face. And if it's the shampoo they don't like, learning how it feels with water on the face and eyes open or eyes shut as a deliberate action rather than instinctive panic should also help.

Biscuitless Fri 19-Feb-16 21:10:21

I'd suggest trying the many good suggestions above, but if none of it works, just don't wash her hair unless you really need to. Unless she is a really messy eater or you live somewhere really hot, it probably doesn't need doing anything like as frequently as you think. She's not producing all the oils that teenagers do. DS aged 2 had huge terror of baths and especially hair washing. After coaxing him back into the bath after 3 months, we weren't about to undo all that work with a hair wash, so he would go weeks at a time between it being washed. You wouldn't have been able to tell - his hair remained beautiful and sweet smelling and he never got itchy.

FusionChefGeoff Fri 19-Feb-16 21:30:34

I haven't actively washed DS (3.5) hair for at least a year and a half and you honestly wouldn't know.

He goes swimming once a week and will often muck about in the bath so he gets it wet himself and that seems enough.

I couldn't let hair washing ruin a lovely bedtime routine so just put it off and put it off and here we are!!

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