My oldest daughter Taylor at three months of age.
There’s nothing more natural than the hair of a newborn baby. Most, but not all, African American babies are born with a head full of hair. New mothers, including myself, are often full of questions when it comes to caring for the hair of a newborn baby. For African American mothers, the questions are usually How often should I wash their hair? What should I put in their hair after washing it? Do I put oil in their hair, and if so what do I use? Thankfully I was blessed to have my mother (who raised six kids) to help me through it all.
But what if you’re a white mother or father who adopted an African American baby? Not knowing what to do or where to begin with your child’s hair can be overwhelming, and I’m here to help. Now let me be clear (*disclaimer*), as a mother of four children, I’m speaking from my own experience as an African American woman and from what I know to be true or common when it comes to African American hair. Your experiences may not be the same as mine, so please feel free to make adjustments as you see fit.
Hair Textures & When to Wash
No two heads of hair are alike, and this is especially true for African American hair. That is why it is vital that you learn about the different hair textures that we have so you’ll know how to care for your babies hair. At birth your baby may have fine, soft, straight, or curly hair. However, around four or five months, your baby’s hair will go through “the change” where that fine baby hair changes into thick, coarse, soft or curly or wavy hair. Or it can be a combination of any of those textures. Because of our textured hair, it tends to be drier and can easily break off. So it is a must that you handle your babies hair with gentle care
While it is very common for other cultures to wash their hair once a day to remove excess oil from their hair, African American hair needs those natural oils. Frequently washing African American hair strips it of its natural oils and can leave our hair dry, brittle, and frizzy. When it comes to your baby, washing their hair once a week with a mild baby shampoo is perfectly fine. Because they have such sensitive scalps and a soft spot on their head, you should not wash their hair every day. Unless of course they have some kind of medical condition and are under doctors orders. Also, when washing your babies hair, there is no need to work up a lather when using shampoo. Just gently distribute the shampoo through their hair enough to clean it and rinse with lukewarm water.
After their hair is washed, add a small amount of baby oil to their hair and gently massage it in. Then you can comb it with a wide tooth comb (the teeth in baby combs are too small and tend to snag in curly, textured hair and can be painful to the baby) or brush with a fine bristled baby brush. Other oils that are mild and safe to use on your babies hair are extra virgin olive oil, jojoba oil, or organic coconut oil.
As mentioned earlier, you may notice around four or five months that your babies hair texture is changing. Their hair may become thicker and longer with tighter coils or curls, which will require more care and attention. It is important to keep their hair detangled and moisturized as it will become even more prone to dryness. Continue to use a mild baby shampoo, but this is also a good time to use a mild conditioner as well. It is also a good time to use cream based products to keep their hair moisturized. Oil alone will not moisturize their hair. See the link at the end of the blog for suggestions of products to use on your baby’s hair after the texture change.
How to Detangle
Once your babies hair texture has changed, it is best to detangle your babies hair after it’s been washed or when it’s slightly damp. NEVER comb or detangle your babies hair while it’s dry. You will encounter a lot of tangles and knots that can snag in the comb. Again, this will hurt your babies sensitive scalp. To detangle, start at the ends and gently work your way up. If you notice knots or tangles, try to detangle with your fingers first with a little oil on our fingers. If it’s not time to wash their hair, you can take a wet washcloth (a soft one) and ring out the extra water and gently rub it over your babies hair just to dampen it. Then add a little oil (jojoba, coconut, or baby oil) and gently massage it through their hair and proceed to combing and detangling.
My daughters Taylor, age 2 and Talya, age 5 months wearing ponytails and curly afros.
Nothing makes new mothers happier than to be able to put pretty bows, headbands, and barrettes in their little girl’s hair, especially when they have enough hair to put into ponytails, plaits or braids. For some babies, it is a necessity to style their hair to cut back on tangles and the matting of the hair. This is especially true with African American babies. Depending on the length, a few ponytails with cloth rubber bands should suffice. If you have to force your babies hair into a ponytail with a lot of pulling, don’t do it. Leave their hair alone. Try to stay away from styles that require a lot of pulling of the hair, and avoid tight ponytails and braids. Two of my children were born with a ton of hair, and it only got longer and longer as they got older, so I had no choice but to put their hair in ponytails, plaits or braids to keep it from tangling or matting.
As time goes on, you will develop a hair care routine for your baby, and you will learn what works and what doesn’t for their hair. It’s nice to have a guide of what to expect as you experience your babies hair changes and growth. Did you find this information helpful? Did I miss anything? Please leave a comment and let me know!
For additional information on what products to use on your babies hair – African American or bi-racial, check out this website: