When is the right time to braid your baby's hair?

Baby braids

Many things come with caring for your baby, and the baby's hair is one of them. As your baby develops a thick head of hair, figuring out exactly what to do with it can be hard. You don't want to let it grow to be wild and out of control, but you also don't want to damage their fragile scalps.

Common go-to hairstyles for many black baby hair are braids. They are a great style that will keep your child's hair tamed for some time.

However, before doing so, is it even safe? To better understand your baby's hair, and find the answer to that question, keep reading.

Triangle braids on toddler using Cantu for kids products

Baby Hair Growth

Baby braids

Perhaps you were hoping your baby would come out with a head full of coils and curls, but you got the opposite. Some newborns will indeed come out with a full head of hair, some will have a head of patches, and others will have none. The reason for this is not specific and may have to do with your hormones during pregnancy, or simply genetics.

There is absolutely nothing to worry about because your baby has a whole growing phase to go through, which will completely transform their newborn locks of hair.

baby hair shedding

If your baby was gifted with a full head of hair, don't get too attached. Babies will shed a lot of their hair within their first six months, and this is known as the exogen phase of the hair growth cycle. It is normal, and it's nothing to be concerned about. 

Following the shedding stage will be a surge of hair growth known as the anagen phase. During this time, you may notice that your baby's hair that is now growing in has changed in texture, color, and density. That's because their newborn's hair texture has transitioned, and what you see now is likely their true hair type and color.

Baby nova braids | protective style | toddler braids

Baby braids

The anagen phase can be quickly abundant for some and could take quite a while for others to see their baby's hair truly grow in. For some babies, their hair can grow in full by six months, but it may take a few years for others. It all depends on genetics and hormones, so it is best to be patient during this process.

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Shea Moisture Raw Shea Butter Baby Head-to-Toe Wash & Shampoo, 13 Oz 

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When Is It Safe to Start Braiding Baby Hair?

Natural kids | braid tutorial | quick and easy

Getting our hair braided can be a rite of passage for many African American children. Not only is it good bonding time with your child, but it is also a way of providing some ease in your life. Sometimes, having to deal with all the things that come with children on top of everyday tasks can be overwhelming.

Baby braids

Being able to put some quick and easy plaits on your child's head is a quick fix. It saves the parents time by being able to utilize this protective style on their little ones and saves their little ones from putting their hair through too much trauma while participating in day-to-day activities.

So, the big question is at what age is it safe to start braiding a black baby hair? There are many adorable baby braided hairstyles, but of course, you don't want to put your baby's health at risk just to bring yourself some time and ease. To give you a breakdown on whether braids for your baby hair is right for you or not, we'll explore the opinion of both hairstylists and Trichologists.

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Hairstylist's Opinion On Baby Braided Hairstyles

Knotless box braids + feed in braids on my toddler | kid-friendly braids and beads

Whether or not to braid a baby's hair may vary from stylist to stylist. Some will say that as long as their baby is comfortable with their hair being braided, then it is safe to proceed.

You never want to put your child in an uncomfortable situation just for a hairstyle. If they are crying, or showing signs of discomfort, it is safe to assume that maybe you should wait to try the style once they hit the toddler stage. However, if your baby seems to be taking the braiding process well, there's no reason not to proceed.

Baby braids

Some stylists suggest that you wait until your baby is old enough to show interest in having a baby braided hairstyles. Once they show interest, that is a signal that they may process the style better.

Additionally, many stylists will only work on three-year-old children and up. This is because the baby's scalps are too tender to achieve any style with. They will more than likely cry with all of the tugging that goes into braided styles.

Also, a three-year-old is more capable of sitting through the style by themselves. Not only might they not cry as easily, but they won't have to be held up as a younger baby would. It is difficult, and nearly impossible, to expect a baby younger than that to have the same composure as that of a three-year-old. 

Consider waiting until your baby gets a bit older to move forward with baby braids to make it easier on the stylist and your baby.

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Trichologist's Opinion On Baby Braids

A Trichologist is a doctor that carefully studies the hair and scalp. They can diagnose conditions such as:

  • Hair loss
  • Scalp diseases
  • Oily scalp
  • Dry scalp
  • Hair breakage 

After carefully accessing your condition, a trichologist can treat your hair and scalp problems accordingly. Since Trichologists know most about the hair and scalp, we recommend getting their opinion on treating your baby's hair is also recommended.

Although caring for your baby's hair may be taxing, Trichologist Dr. Kari Williams opinion is not to overly manipulate your baby's hair until they've gotten a bit older.

Black baby hair growth

A baby under three years of age has a more sensitive scalp that is vulnerable to damage. During this time, they are at a pivotal point for their hair growth. 

You don't want to put too much tension on their hair at such a young age, or it could damage their scalp and hair follicles. This may completely ruin their ability to grow hair in certain spots of their head altogether. Besides that, trying to braid your baby's head will probably be very uncomfortable for them.

Opposed to braiding or styling your baby's hair at all, Trichologists suggest allowing them to wear their hair as freely as possible. This gives their scalp and hair follicles the ability to breathe and flourish on their own. Of course, keep your baby's hair moisturized and detangled, but other than that, let it be.

Baby braids

 

Hairstylist Advice vs. Trichologist Recommendation

When comparing the suggestions from both hairstylists and Trichologists, they have given many of the same points. Resist the urge to braid your baby's hair until they are old enough to handle it.

Putting their hair and scalp through heavy manipulation for an easy style will do more harm than good. Yes, it may keep their hair off your to-do list for a couple of days, but the damage may lead to irreversible side effects. However, we suggest doing your research and speaking with a professional yourself to decide the best course of action for you and your child.

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Pantene Sulfate-Free Deep Hydrating Co-Wash with Argan Oil 

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Are Hair Accessories Safe For Babies?

This is another common question for mothers looking for ways to style their baby hair. The answer is yes, but with caution!

The risks

  • Tying hair ties too tightly can result in breakage and damage to your baby's hair follicles.
  • Hair ties can be a choking hazard. If you tie your baby's hair too loosely, they could take the ties and choke on them. If you use things such as barrettes, or anything decorative to secure your baby's hair, they can pull those off too and choke.
  • Babies are curious and will put anything in their mouths. If they don't choke on it, then they could swallow it instead. Most of the time, it is harmless and will pass through their intestines. However, if the tie is too rough, it could damage their esophagus, and if it's too big, it could block the intestines.

To avoid these risks, we recommend that you avoid small hair ties at all. Also, being cautious of the decorative pieces you put in their hair, and how secure they are to their hair is essential.

If you must use hair ties, consider scrunchies with a soft fabric, and don't tie it too tightly around your baby's hair. A great alternative could be to put a cute headband around your baby's free-flowing afro. This will cut down on the risk factors while providing an attractive style.

Hair Care Tips for Black Baby Hair

The Wash Day

Black baby hair care

Black baby hair does not maintain moisture as easily as other babies. For their hair, it's best to wash your child's hair no more than once a week. As they get older, depending on how easily their hair gets product build-up, you may want to introduce co-washing half-way through the week.

Co-washing is a gentler cleansing option and will not strip their hair completely. You can buy an actual co-wash, or choose to use a cleansing conditioner. This allows you to cleanse your baby's hair without losing too much moisture. Also, doing gentle scalp massages with your hands while washing will help with stimulating their follicles for hair growth.

  • Shea Moisture Raw Shea Butter Baby Head-to-Toe Wash & Shampoo
  • Shea Moisture Mango & Carrot KIDS, Extra-Nourishing, Shampoo, and Conditioner, Orange Blossom Extract
  • Shea Moisture Kids Curl & Shine 2-in-1 Shampoo & Conditioner
  • Gold Series from Pantene Sulfate-Free Deep Hydrating Co-Wash with Argan Oil for Curly, Coily Hair

Skip the Tools

Combs and brushes are okay to an extent, but it would be best to stick to using your hands to gently detangle and comb through your baby hair. If you do have to use combs, make sure they're wide-toothed or soft bristle brushes.

Molylove Baby Hair Brush

Molylove Baby Hair Brush 

Wide Tooth Detangling Comb

Wide Tooth Detangling Comb 

Stick to Natural Moisturizers

Black baby hair natural products

Your baby's hair is gentle and more fragile than yours; therefore, it is essential to take into account that the products you use on their hair may have to be different than the ones you use on your hair. To protect your baby hair, we recommend that you utilize all-natural products. Of course, there are hair moisturizers marketed to babies and toddlers, but using natural products with natural ingredients helps protect your little one's vulnerable hair and scalp.

Here a few black baby hair products to try:

  • Sweet Almond Oil
  • Avocado Oil
  • Castor Oil
  • Shea Butter
  • Mango Butter

Be Gentle with Fabrics

Since your baby's hair is more prone to breakage, being aware of the materials you put on your baby's hair is crucial to pay attention to. Some fabrics will rub on your baby's hair and cause unnecessary breakage.

  • Kids Satin Bonnet Sleeping Cap
  • Newest Baby Headbands Circle Turban Knotted Bows Soft Silk Nylon Headwraps
  • Satin Lined Winter Hats Toddlers

Age Appropriate Hairstyles

Although, leaving your child's hair loose is the most recommended style, there are several other black baby hairstyles you can try.

  • Twist your baby's hair as opposed to cornrowing/ plaiting it.
  • Afro puffs
  • Buns
  • Push it back with a cute headband.
  • Add a bow to your baby's afro.

Whichever style you choose, don't leave it up for more than a week. You may experience more tangling by not regularly taking it down to style.

Every baby is different, and we understand that caring for their hair can prove to be challenging at times. Overall, just make sure that you are listening to your baby and their hair needs – you'll be fine!

To learn more about common hair and scalp conditions, your baby may experience, read Baby Hair: Four Conditions You Should Know About.

Traneah Ford

By Traneah Ford

Traneah is a content writer based in St.louis, MO. She also writes for the Arkansawyer newspaper, a campus-based newspaper for The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. Bio