"At about 9 to 12 months, most infants experience the onset of stranger anxiety—a normal phase of social and emotional development," says Stuart Teplin, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics in the Center for Development and Learning at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine.
"Being in an unfamiliar environment with new sensations, people, odors, sounds and the perception of possible harm often sets the stage," Teplin adds. "All these conditions come together in a 'perfect storm' during a baby's first trip to the hair-cutter; depending on the child's temperament, the reaction can range from mild to severe." Here are his tips for minimizing the "trauma" of a first haircut.
- Bring your baby along when you or your husband get your hair cut. Calmly talk about potentially scary features, such as the scissors, electric clippers and special "bib," as well as having the hair sprayed with water and seeing strands fall to the floor.
- Ask around to find a hair-cutter who is comfortable working with young children. The best option is someone who specializes in cutting their hair; babies often detect—then reflect—an adult's anxiety.
- Let your child bring a favorite cuddly toy or blanket along to hold for comfort while his hair is being cut.
- Try holding your child on your lap during the haircut, and be prepared to make a quick exit at any moment!