The Dangers of Hair Ties to Babies

If you're lucky enough to have a baby girl with hair, the urge to do it up in hair bows or ties is nearly irresistible. Hair ties can damage your baby's hair, unless they're fairly loose. Unfortunately, if they're loose, she can pull them out of her hair and swallow or choke on them. A determined baby can even work a tight hair tie loose.

A young baby girl smiles in amazement at her mobile laying back in her crib while she wears a hair tie. (Image: FamVeld/iStock/Getty Images)

Hair Damage

Babies and children have thinner, more fragile hair than adults, so it's more easily damaged. Putting tight ties on fragile hair can cause traction alopecia, a type of hair loss. Hair can break off in the area where the ties are tightest or stop growing altogether in those areas. Stop using hair ties if you notice any type of hair damage; expect it to take around three months for the damaged hair follicles to recover and for new hair to grow, but permanent hair loss can result if you don't loosen the tension, according to the textbook, "Oski's Pediatrics: Principles and Practice."

Choking Risks

A baby will put almost anything in her mouth. If your baby has very fine hair, hair ties often won't stay on unless you make them excessively tight. Loose ties, however, pose a choking risk. Hair ties that have added decorative pieces can be a choking hazard even if they stay in place, if your daughter manages to pull off the decoration and puts it in her mouth.

Swallowing Risks

In most cases, objects a baby swallows pass harmlessly through the intestines in the stool. However, objects with sharp edges or larger objects could damage the intestine. A hair tie with added decorative pieces could injure the delicate tissues in the esophagus, stomach, intestine or rectum as it passes through; a larger hair tie could cause an intestinal blockage. If your little one swallows a hair tie, let her pediatrician know. He might suggest checking her stools for three to five days to make sure it passes, according to pediatrician Dr. William Sears. If he suspects a possible intestinal blockage, he'll likely order an x-ray to check its location.

Safe Alternatives

It's difficult to resist the urge to put your daughter's hair into cute hairstyles. If you do, use scrunchies with a fabric backing rather than rubber bands. Don't pull the hair too taut to reduce the risk of damaging your little one's hair. Rather than putting your little one's hair in the same style every day; rotate hair styles to avoid stressing the hair in one area repeatedly. Don't use hair ties small enough to swallow or choke on or those with extra decorative pieces on them, which she could pull off and put in her mouth.

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