Taking in a New Foster Baby and Learning How to Care for an African American Baby’s Hair
The phone rang while I was waiting to get my daughter’s birth certificate straightened out. There had been an error when her birth certificate was filed originally at the time of her adoption. We never received a copy of the certificate but needed it to be able to obtain a passport for my daughter to go out of country with us. I was laughing because it was an error on DSS’ part and we were a little perturbed with having to go back to Raleigh for a second time to try fixing the problem. So, while standing in line at the Vital Records office, I look down to see it is a call coming in from DSS. I joked with the employee at the vital records office saying, “They probably have another child for us to take in.”
Joke was on me. The following week, I was supposed to be leaving to visit family in Arkansas followed by an extremely busy summer of trips and activities. My husband is a youth pastor, so our summers are full to the brim. My husband and I had already said we wouldn’t take any new foster children because it was going to be so busy. The social worker, just like every other time said, “We REALLY need placement for a baby boy!!”
I called my husband and then called the social worker back. We gave in (and, boy, are we glad we did). They asked me if they could bring the baby to me right then, I was an hour from home and had to drive right past the DSS office (that is 20 minutes from home), so we worked it out where I would pick him up on my way through. We had nothing. NOTHING for this baby. Everything was so hectic that I had not even asked details about this baby. We just said yes. The social worker greeted me with a teeny tiny baby. I fell in love right away. He was so tiny and needed so much love. I knew I had plenty of love to give him.
I remember looking at the social worker while she asked if I had any questions about him. Nothing came to mind… except, “I have never had an African American baby before, what do I do as far as his bathing and hair?”. With the social worker being African American, I remember her grabbing my arm and in such a southern voice, with a chuckle, she said, “Girl, he is just like your white babies… just brown.” I explained that I was not concerned about his coloring, I just didn’t know if there was a difference in bathing him. I knew that African American skin and hair was a whole different ball game and I knew nothing about it.
When my daughter (who is Hispanic) came to us, I realized quickly that there was a difference in her skin and hair compared to ours. Each race has a little different care needed for hair and skin care. This baby had different needs than she had but I had no knowledge! I reached out to friends and searched online to make sure I was doing everything right. Everyone seems to have different views on how to care for an African American newborn’s hair and skin. I will tell you some of the facts that we have found on our journey of caring for the sweetest (SERIOUSLY the sweetest) baby boy.
Less is More!
Bathing every other day or even every three days was something I quickly realized was NOT going to work. His skin doesn’t replenish the oils as quickly as a Caucasian baby would. We moved to once, sometimes twice a week for bathing and once a week for washing his hair unless he has a serious reason for needing to be cleaned more often. Over-washing causes the hair to be frizzy, brittle, and dry! The dryness will cause the hair to not grow or break off.
Use Products Made for Babies
Most products contain a whole lot of chemicals in them. Especially for a baby, those chemicals are far more potent. The chemicals can cause long term effects but also pose a risk for allergic reactions and skin rashes. We found a company called Young King Hair Care. The owners were tired of searching for products that would work well with their son’s hair. They came up with the products that are now sold by Young King Hair Care.
The Royal Treatment Set has the perfect grouping of products that you will need to take care of your child’s hair. We use baby shampoo and then these products from Young King. In this set, you will receive Kid’s Leave in Conditioner, Kid’s Curling Cream, and Kid’s Essential Oils.
Don’t forget to add the Young King Toiletry Bag and Young King Hair Sponge. The bag is plenty big to hold all three products, hair sponge and even a comb and baby shampoo. This makes it easy to keep up with all the hair products and have them easily accessible for bath time.
Moisturize, Moisturize, MOISTURIZE!
The biggest key to an African American baby’s hair is always to keep it moisturized. We found that massaging a little Young King’s Essential Oil in his hair every day as a baby kept his hair soft and moisturized. Then, we follow that up with the leave in conditioner.
Getting the Tangles Out
I told you what I use for conditioning but let me tell you, a little more specifically, how I apply the products. Some say to use a wide toothed comb, I have found that, for our foster baby, the comb pulls a little too much. I found that putting a little bit of Young King’s Leave in Conditioner on my finger tips and then combing through his wet hair with my fingers works much better. He seems to tolerate it more since he has the comfort of feeling my hands on his head during the “brushing”.
Once I get most of the tangles out, I apply the Young King’s Essential Oils. While I run my hands through it, I can also twirl the curls back into form using the Young King’s Curling Cream (the most form they can have for a baby). This also gives me the chance to get moisturizer from the root to the end of the hair all while styling.
Prepare for the Difference
When a baby is first born, the texture of their hair will be much different than what it will be as they get older. This happens because the baby has been inside the womb for 9 months with no outside contributors to affect his or her hair. The vitamins and nutrients that are passed to the baby while in utero, keeps the hair extremely fine and soft. As the baby grows, their hair will get closer and closer to the texture it will be as they get older. This texture will change but how drastic of a change depends on how on top of it you are as a parent with keeping your child’s hair moisturized. So, be sure to stay on top of it. As you start seeing dryness, increase the efforts to moisturize.
Added Support with Silk Sheets
If you notice that your child’s hair is a little more on the frizzy side or having breakage, consider having your child sleep on silk sheets. Silk is more flame retardant than cotton because it is an animal protein. It can still catch fire but tends to be naturally less flame retardant. So, it can be a win for multiple reasons, but can be a little pricey to buy pure silk sheets.
Avoid Over Styling
Yes, babies look absolutely adorable in bows, just be careful. Remember that your child’s hair can be damaged very easily. We all know that babies like to pull at anything and everything because they enjoy exploring (or because they are pitching a fit). If you have something like a barrette or bow attached to the hair, the hair can easily break at the root, leaving bald spots! Try a loose-fitting satin headband if you want to add a touch of style and a pop of color to their sweet little face for photos or special events.
More than anything, the health of your child is far more important than their looks. Always be sure that whatever route you choose when caring for their hair, their health is kept as the main priority. You can always ask your child’s pediatrician for advice on how to best care for their hair or if you have hair products that you are unsure of using on your baby’s hair.