Caring for Your Little One’s Natural Hair (New-born and Beyond)

I am passionate about natural hair and natural hair care. Although, I haven’t actively been taking care of my natural hair as well as I did in the past, I take care of my son’s hair and I plan on taking good care of my daughter’s hair as best as I can.. When we found out we were having a girl, I knew exactly what products (depending on her hair texture) and the routine I was going to adopt to care for her hair. When I told family and friends we were expecting a girl, I got hilarious comments like

“Her hair… she’s in trouble!”

Contrary to what my friends and family believe, I have no plans whatsoever to style my baby’s hair in the first year.

I get a lot of questions about caring for new-borns’, older babies’ and toddlers’ natural hair. So I thought it would be useful to write a detailed step-by-step healthy hair care article that if applied will ensure your baby’s hair  (boy or girl) is in the best position to flourish.

To ensure healthy and good growth of your baby’s hair, it is really important to start and stick to a regular hair care routine.

1) Washing your baby’s hair

DO NOT over wash her hair- this is so important, especially with new-borns. A new-born or younger baby is unlikely to have really dirty hair as she has probably not played in dirt. Yes, there will be the usual spit-up from time to time and food particles when you start weaning her but this can be easily rinsed out with water. If you must, only use conditioner. African hair doesn’t produce as much oil as Caucasian hair and over washing your baby’s hair can strip away natural oils that prevent dry, brittle and frizzy hair.

As your baby gets older, plays outdoors or in a daycare, you can wash your baby’s hair once every two weeks or even a month using a small amount of mild, sulphate-free, baby shampoo. Using your hand, gently massage the shampoo, allowing it to remove product build-up and dirt.

For younger babies, follow up shampooing with a moisturising conditioner, especially as baby gets older. At this point, her hair texture usually changes from the silky straight hair babies are born with to the more coarse thick African hair texture (this may not be true for every baby). After conditioning, you may want to apply a dab of any natural, moisturising oil like extra-virgin olive oil or coconut oil.

For Toddlers and beyond- when you start using protective styles, you need to wash your child’s hair with shampoo in between styling. Dirty hair and scalp will have product build-up and won’t accept products as readily as clean hair will.

If you don’t put your child’s hair into a protective style, wash and moisturise your child’s hair every week or two weeks, depending on how her hair feels.

Alternatively, there is the co-wash method- this means no shampoo is used on your child’s hair and cleansing is done using conditioner only. I used this method on my hair for a few months and I noticed a lot of length retention. My hair felt really moisturised and looked so much better. I am inclined to start my daughter off on the co-wash method and then as she gets older, introduce shampooing. If your child suffers from extremely dry hair, it may be worth considering this method.

2) Detangling your infant’s hair

As your baby gets older and her hair gets thicker and longer, it is important to only detangle her hair whilst it is wet. You also need to apply a generous amount of conditioner. Putting her hair in this condition before detangling is ideal as the water and conditioner provide lubrication and slip to her hair, which makes it super easy to detangle.

For younger babies, you don’t need to use a comb, just use your fingers to gently detangle any knots and tangles. After washing, conditioning and detangling your little one’s hair you can use a small amount of coconut oil to prevent your baby’s hair from drying out and style using your fingers.

For older babies and beyond, with longer hair, wet the hair and generously apply conditioner, then separate her hair into sections (4 is ideal). Detangling in sections make the process so much smoother and less stressful for you and your child. When you detangle in sections, it is easier to separate already detangled hair from hair that still needs to be detangled. You can twist or braid each section after detangling.

When detangling, do not begin from the middle or root of your baby’s hair – big mistake! Always start from the ends of her hair and gently work your way up, using a wide toothed comb or your fingers.

3) Moisturising your baby’s hair 

Moisturise, Moisturise, Moisturise! Seriously guys, I cannot overemphasise the importance of keeping our little one’s hair moisturised. Coily hair textures cannot absorb moisture or hold moisture in as readily as straight hair textures. So the coiler your little one’s hair is, the more time it will take for moisture to travel down her hair shaft. This leaves coily hair prone to dryness and breakage. Use a water based moisturiser as this will leave your little one’s hair moisturised without weighing it down. Any products with water/aqua as the first or second ingredient is considered to be water-based.  Water is the cheapest and best “moisturiser” for your little one’s hair. You can refresh your little one’s hair daily by spritzing her hair with water or using a water based moisturiser then seal in the moisture. Sealing is a very crucial step in the moisturising process, because it ensures that your child’s hair stays moisturised for as long as possible.  To seal in the moisture, you can use hair oils such as extra-virgn olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, grapeseed oil, Jamaican black castor oil, jojoba oil, shea butter or a butter-based product, which has butter as the very first ingredient.

Even when your child’s hair is in a protective style, a few spritz of water daily, followed by a small amount of oil or butter to seal in that moisture will help keep her hair moisturised and refreshed.

Finally, do not ignore the ends of her hair. The ends of your baby’s hair are the oldest hair she has so it’s the most fragile. Pay special attention to them and make sure to keep them extra moisturised.

4) Styling your baby’s hair 

Most mamas look forward to having a baby girl so they can dress them up in cute little outfits or give them the cutest hair styles. I know it is difficult to stop yourself from styling your baby’s hair but please resist the urge to do too much to your baby’s hair too soon – there is plenty of time for that later in her life. If you must style your baby’s hair, please be gentle when it comes to handling her hair! Your baby’s tender, soft scalp is still fragile and in the early stages of development. Her scalp and edges cannot withstand the stress that comes from too much pulling and combing.

For younger babies, their hair doesn’t need much styling. As a go to style, try finger coils – this doesn’t require any combs or hair accessories. Finger coils involve taking a small chunk of your baby’s hair and twirling it in your finger to make one large curl. Or you can just use headbands and headwraps to accessorise your little one’s hair without doing much to it (please make sure the headbands and headwraps are not tight).

Some hair accessories like rubber bands can cause damage on adult hair so imagine what damage it can do to your baby’s hair. So make sure whatever hair accessory you buy is tangle free (it is usually written on the packaging). Do not put your baby’s hair in tight ponytails because it will break the hair right at the hairline. It can take years for her hair to recover or sometimes it may never recover if the damage is severe.

As your baby gets older and her hair gets thicker and longer, daily manipulation (combing, styling and pulling) can put extra stress on her hair and this can limit hair growth. Protective styles offer low-maintenance, retains growth, saves time and offers versatility. Any hair style that can be left in for at least a week and keeps your child’s ends tucked away is considered a protective style. Even with protective styles, make sure her hair is not pulled too tight.

5) Products

When it comes to babies and hair care products, less is always more. After baby’s first hair wash and conditioning, just like I did with Micah, I don’t plan on using any products on her hair in the first 2/3 months. When I do start using products, I plan on avoiding products with parabens, sulfates and the likes. I will only use natural hair products, made for babies. I am going to avoid using products that I use on my own hair as many of the products are too heavy for her young tresses and can weigh it down putting undue stress on developing follicles.

An important part of taking care of your baby’s hair is choosing products that are specific to your baby’s hair type so I will not recommend any specific products. However, the four products you really need for your child’s hair care are

  • Shampoo – always use a sulphate free, moisture rich all natural shampoo
  • Conditioner –  always use moisture rich conditioner
  •  Moisturiser – should be water based
  •  Natural oil or  hair butter

Companies that make natural hair care products for babies and kids include auntie Jackie’s, cantu, shea moisture, mixed chicks and mahogany naturals.

6) Shedding “baby” hair and protecting your baby’s hair 

Some babies shed hair in the first year and this is completely normal. Sometimes, the new hair growth has a different texture, again this is completely normal. Just make sure you keep the new hair growth moisturised as well.

In addition to natural hair shedding, some hair loss is due to your baby’s sleeping position or your baby’s hair constantly rubbing against sheets, car seats, pram seats, baby rockers etc. While you can’t completely avoid hair loss, there are steps you can take to minimise hair loss and promote new hair growth.

  • Silk or satin sheets – for new-borns and younger babies, please avoid using a satin scarf or satin pillow as this may pose a choking hazard for them. Silk or satin silk crib sheets might help but I am not sure how practical they are. I will have to get back to you guys on this one. For Toddlers (babies older than a year) that are finally able to sleep with a pillow, you can use a satin pillowcase. A satin pillowcase works perfectly to reduce friction and creates a perfect moisture encouraging barrier between her hair and the cotton sheet. You can also use a satin sleep cap (use during nap times and bedtime) to help minimise hair breakage
  • Car seat and prams – I plan to use a satin scarf to cover her pram (where her head rests) and car seat to prevent chaffing.

7) To chop or not to chop 

This is entirely up to you as her mother. Whatever the case, I do not plan on cutting my baby girl’s hair. With Micah, I gave in and cut his hair when he was 10 months. I have cut it a lot since then. Some people cut the hair to even it out and again I do not plan to this. I believe that with proper hair care, the hair will eventually fill in. If bald spots bother you and you feel comfortable cutting your little one’s hair, that is your decision as a parent.

There are also tales of baby’s hair texture changing after a hair cut, I do not believe this. If your baby’s hair texture is going to change, it will change regardless of whether you cut her hair or not. A pair of scissors or clippers cannot change biology.

8) Cradle Cap

Many babies get cradle cap; it is very common and usually goes away on its own. If you suspect your baby has cradle cap, speak to your baby’s doctor to confirm and for the best solution to deal with it.

So that’s it really? Anyone have any tips to add?

Have a blessed day guys

17 Comments

  • Commy Posted May 11, 2016 1:19 pm

    Thanks Amaka for this ..God bless u..I used cantu products and everything butter for my toddler hair and her hair is soft and beautiful ….am praying and hoping that d little curi on her hair will last..lol

  • Gracie Posted May 11, 2016 1:27 pm

    Thanks alot for this informative write up. I am an expectant mother…..and i just started reading your blog today.

  • Makys Corner Posted May 11, 2016 4:47 pm

    Awesome, Congratulations!!! Wishing you the best… I hope you find the blog useful…x

  • Makys Corner Posted May 11, 2016 4:49 pm

    I love cantu products… some babies don’t experience a change in hair texture.. but even if it changes slightly, you are already on the right path so I am sure she will continue to have beautiful, soft tresses…x

  • Fri Posted May 11, 2016 5:44 pm

    So grateful for this. I have a 3 month old (today), and I’ve just been destroying her hair. She came with a thick set of hair, I’ve been shampooing daily, using a comb to detangle, and just using Vaseline to moisturize her hair. I feel guilty even writing it out, I should know better. Off to Amazon to order some baby hair products( didn’t know they had those, and I thought my products would be too much for her). Thank you, thank you forever grateful.

  • Lara Posted May 12, 2016 1:07 am

    Thanks for this wonderful right up , am also having a baby girl , do I start using one of this products on her hair when she’s a month old or earlier than that ? Am finding everything so useful on your blog . God bless you

  • Makys Corner Posted May 12, 2016 9:11 am

    hiya, congratulations!!! i think after her first hair wash you can wait a few weeks even a month before you start using products on her hair…x

  • Onyinye Posted May 13, 2016 3:02 pm

    Hi maky……. Loving dis article.. Its soo educative.. Bt i do have a question. My baby is 5 months old and her hair is soo thick and curly, its always diffucult to comb even after applying oil and moisturing it… She cries alot…. Is dere a remedy.. ❤❤👍

  • Makys Corner Posted May 13, 2016 8:53 pm

    hiya Onyinye, thank you for your feedback.
    when you comb your daughters hair has it been conditioned and detangled? also what kind of comb are you using?

  • Onyinye Posted May 14, 2016 1:31 pm

    I used water first then i appiled coconut oil and olive oil sometimes jojoba oil and i massage it into her hair with my finger and i leave it for a while before combing… I used a very big toothed comb( d normal big brown naija brush).. Bt i neva reali condition her hair after washing….. Pls which conditioner works best… .

  • Abimbola Posted May 14, 2016 10:53 pm

    Thanks for the write-up, it was very enlightening. Does this mean that it’s okay to pour just water on my 6 weeks old baby’s hair while bathing her or just wash the rest of her body while leaving the hair dry?

  • Esther Posted May 15, 2016 10:17 pm

    Thank you makyb. You are a blessing to womanhood, one would expect all women to know so much about caring for hair considering the fact that we spend so much time on our hair and then our babies hair suffer from all sorts……lol thank you for taking out time to write this article. God bless your home. x

  • zain Posted July 20, 2016 9:30 am

    i am in love with this site!

  • Vivian Nwadike-Efika Posted July 2, 2017 5:52 pm

    For my baby’s cradle cap, i used almond oil to massage her scalp and leave for 15 mins then wash it off… After the first 3 times her cradle cap dissappeared. Got this solution from the nhs website.

  • Linda Posted October 9, 2017 5:34 pm

    I have a 15 mth old, and she has low porosity hair. I use the LOC method (water, coconut oil, she’s moisture hair butter) which is not working. Her hair is very thick and short. It’s a number 3 or 4. I’ve bought all kinds of products, but haven’t found what works.
    PLEASE HELP!!!

  • PRISCILLAH MAKABE Posted October 11, 2017 2:05 pm

    woooooooow i have learnt a lot, my baby is 17 months old today and she is keeping natural hair. i find this helpful as she has long hair and i think i will start using the CO-WASH method and thanks for the tip the SATIN SCARF i will surely buy her that for her car seat.

  • Chelsea Posted October 23, 2017 3:13 pm

    Hello mummies…. Pls can I use Shea butter mixed with coconut oil and Castor oil to detangle my 4months baby’s hair? I don’t want to use any baby product yet just natural

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