As a postpartum doula, I’m here to help you communicate with the newborn you love. Hair tourniquet syndrome is almost certainly not going to happen to your child, but if it does, your baby will suffer less if you are aware of this condition.

It happens when a single strand of hair gets wrapped around an appendage like your baby’s toe and blocks the blood flow. It can also happen to fingers and genitalia. Scientists believe that it happens specifically when moist hair ends up wrapped around a digit. As the hair dries out, it shrinks and causes strangulation of the encircled toe, finger, or other appendage.

Sometimes caregivers can see a little swelling, but can’t see the hair. They assume there was a minor injury at first, but then quickly after, the finger becomes very swollen. It’s not the caregivers’ fault that they don’t realize it’s a hair constricting the blood flow. Even medical professionals miss the hair tourniquet syndrome diagnosis. According to research published in the journal Child Abuse & Neglect, when public health nurses were surveyed with a presentation of hair tourniquet syndrome, 45 percent of them said they would suspect that it was an injury that might suggest abuse! Meanwhile, 83 percent of child welfare workers said that they would suspect an injury suggestive of abuse! See, it doesn’t look like a hair is wrapped around a toe. The hair is beneath the swelling. It looks like a swollen toe and the infant is inconsolable!

Sometimes, no one thinks to remove socks when their baby won’t stop crying. Fingers are exposed for longer durations of the day, but socks often hide the little toes. According to a paper published in Journal of Pediatric Orthopaedics, one cause of hair getting wrapped around toes leading to this painful condition might be washing baby socks without turning them inside out.

That’s why I’m writing this blog post. It’s not to scare you. This condition is very rare, but it does happen, and there may be a way to reduce the chances that it can happen to a baby you love. The preventative method is so simple. Besides keeping an eye on loose hairs within in your baby’s grasp or on the baby’s clothing, the researchers now suggest that all caregivers be informed about hair tourniquet syndrome and that risks can be reduced by turning socks inside out before laundering.

Additionally, research indicates that postpartum mothers, like my clients in the Metro Detroit area, should be aware that after pregnancy, women may experience some hair loss. I’d suggest you check to make sure that there are no stray hairs entangled between the fingers and toes. Any mittens, socks or footed pajamas should be turned inside out before being washed.

Maybe the age-old infant bonding game of the 10 little piggies every day serves multiple purposes, whether we knew it or not! Please pass this blog post along to anyone you know with a new baby and let us know if this has ever happened to a little one you know!

As postpartum doulas our goal isn’t ever to worry parents but to help keep them educated about their wonderful new babies.    If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of hiring a postpartum doula read our FAQ’s and contact us to set up a free consultation.