In my time within the natural hair kids space I’ve received tons and tons of questions. Surprisingly enough, a lot of those questions involve how to properly take care of an African American baby’s hair. The reason why getting these questions is so surprising is because from when your child is a newborn to around four or five months of age, taking care of an African American child’s hair should be a breeze!
I think parents of African American children put so much pressure on themselves to start their child’s natural hair journey off right. Nowadays you’re inundated with so much information regarding natural hair; it’s hard to know when and where to begin. The reality is, whether your child is born with a full head of hair or a few random strands – in the beginning – you really don’t have to do too much to it at all.
Babies have very sensitive scalps and their skulls are soft and still developing. Pulling or tugging on the hair and using heavy products just isn’t a good idea. You’ll have plenty of time for that; and you’ll be wishing for the days when a little baby shampoo and a drop of oil were all you needed to set your child up for maximum hair growth. (Because that is really all you need.)
Here are a few more do’s and don’ts regarding African American baby hair care.
Don’t use the same products that you use on your hair on your baby’s. Most products that are formulated for adults have chemicals in them that are way too harsh for a baby’s head of hair. Using adult products (even certain mild ones) on your baby’s hair can cause your baby’s scalp to become irritated and could even cause rashes and excessive dryness.
Do use a mild sulfate free baby shampoo on your baby’s hair. Cara B. is a great line that’s formulated with African American babies in mind.
Do keep your baby’s hair and scalp clean, but don’t over wash. Given that newborns and infants have sensitive skin, you’ll only need to bathe them a couple (no more than a few) times per week. As far as their hair is concerned, you’ll probably only need to wash it once per week. Over washing can cause dryness which isn’t good if you want your baby’s hair to grow.
Do be gentle. As I mentioned before, your baby’s hair and scalp are still super soft and sensitive. Use shampoos sparingly and lather it in gently. Rinse with lukewarm water; and if your baby’s hair is long enough to need detangling, use a wide toothed comb and detangle gently starting from the ends.
Do use a little oil after washing, but don’t overdo it. Extra virgin olive oil is great for babies as it’s relatively light and works wonders at sealing in moisture. A dime size amount should be more than enough for a newborn or infant with a TWA (teeny weeny afro). Use a soft baby brush to distribute the oil evenly.
Do be on the lookout for your baby’s hair to make “the change”. During the first few months, your baby’s hair still has the residuals of all of those good “juices and berries” that were in your belly. It will be soft, shiny, and seem easy to manage; but after a few washings, your baby’s true hair texture may begin to reveal itself. It may be drier and retain moisture less easily. Don’t panic; but you do need to take action. You may simply want to consider going ahead and adding a moisturizer to your baby’s hair care routine. Soon the real fun with your child’s hair will begin. 🙂
Do resist the urge to “style” your baby’s hair daily. I know how stinkin’ cute they are, but barrettes, and hair clips should be saved for special occasions only. At this time in your baby’s life (from newborn to around six months) it’s your best bet to just leave your child’s hair alone and just let it “do what it’s going to do”. Over manipulation and the use of heavy barrettes can snap your baby’s hair off right at the hairline.
If you feel like you need to add a girly touch to your baby’s tiny fro, use a satin lined headband making sure that it’s not too tight, and that’s it’s removed once your event or picture taking is over.
Don’t panic if your child has a spot in the back that just “won’t grow”. It’s actually more common for newborns and infants to have a bald spot in the back then you think. Babies sleep on their backs a lot, and that friction can do a number on the back of a baby’s hair. Once your baby starts spending more time on their belly, chances are that that spot will fill in beautifully – without you having to do too much to it at all.
If the bald spot is something that really concerns you, consider having your baby sleep on a satin baby blanket.