Toddler Afro Puffs

I think that my daughter has THE SHORTEST hair in the history of African American toddler hair. Sometimes I walk through the stores and see these gorgeous little infants with these amazing afros of perfect Black hair and I wonder, “is it me – am I the problem?” However, I don’t really believe that I am, even if I’m behind the curve on managing, caring for and doing her hair. But sometimes it’s discouraging and makes me feel like I am inadequate in being her mother because I just don’t have a three year old with a huge head of hair. My friends and family reassure me that every hair is unique and that it all grows at a different rate and for the most part I know this, but I still feel doubt at times. With that in mind, Gracie’s third birthday just passed and we have a habit of taking our kids to get their pictures made around their birthdays. Since they are 20 days shy of being exactly two years apart, it is a good marker for me as to how much her hair has grown. So today I spent some time today looking at her hair over the past three years in those pictures decorating our hallways and was reassured that I am, in fact, doing alright but still need a lot of help and always will!

Tonight I attempted to pull all of her hair into afro puffs. I haven’t attempted this before because her hair, unless it is straightened with a pressing comb and flat iron, doesn’t seem to be long enough in order to go into the puffs. However, when Gracie was about a year old, I used to do around 16 tiny little puffs all over her head in order to help it grow. So if I can get those tiny puffs to go into a pull, I can do pretty much about anything.

So we sat down, her in her rocking chair, movie turned on and mommy behind, her gigantic tackle box of hair products in hand and I sprayed and combed and pulled and sprayed and pulled and banded and pulled and sprayed for a good hour and I was able to do it! It took 22 puffs, some tinier then others but we did it. Enjoy the pics of Gracie’s first (without straightening) full head ‘do!

The real dilemma now is find 22 matching barrettes to put in her hair for tomorrow!

The tackle box of Gracie's hair accessories!

The tackle box of Gracie's hair accessories!

Mommy did my hair!

Mommy did my hair!

Grow baby, grow!

Grow baby, grow!


26 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Susana
    Aug 11, 2009 @ 14:23:03

    NOPE, I am positive that my daughter has the shortest African hair ever!!! 😉 She just turned three, but she lived in an orphanage in Ethiopia for a year (until last May.) Last August she had lice and they shaved her head (I was very upset becuase she was the only girl to get shaved). Now 1 year later, her hair is 4 cm long when it is pulled straight.

    I cannot do ANYTHING with it because it is a mix of tight curls and loose ones.


  2. EricaThurman
    Aug 12, 2009 @ 00:10:02

    You may want to be really careful with that style. My mom used to do it on my hair and it resulted in some very painful knots on the nape of my neck that only subsided after she stopped styling my hair that way. Additionally, the tension caused by pulling the hair so tight may be counterproductive to growth. I have 3 kids (1 daughter, age 15). I don’t claim to be an expert but what worked best for my daughter is leaving it alone. Moisturizing her ‘fro, maybe adding a headband and letting her rock it that way until it got long enough to be put in 1 or 2 puffs. With the tiny puffs, you may damage her hair with the tension. Happy hair journey!


  3. EricaThurman
    Aug 12, 2009 @ 00:14:19

    I might add that I hope you’re not making comments about length around your daughter. Young Black girls have enough to worry about without feeling insecure about hair. The main goal is to have healthy hair. If you take care of it properly, it will grow. I see you have the Carol’s Daughter products in there, that’s a good start. Youtube also offers great tips for natural hair care.


  4. Randy Andy
    Aug 12, 2009 @ 07:29:43

    I think you are doing an awesome job!

    Gracie is a happy, healthy and beautiful little girl. She seems to like her hair like that and I know how much thought and work you put into doing what you think is right. You just keep rockin’ those puffs all you like baby!


  5. EricaThurman
    Aug 12, 2009 @ 16:19:20

    My comment wasn’t meant to imply that she wasn’t a happy/healthy child. Nor was it meant to negate the hard work put into her hair. It’s obvious you work hard on her hair. She can rock the puffs all she likes but if you wants to promote hair growth– tiny puffs won’t do that. I have decades of experience with Black hair. I have about 30 female cousins with various types of Black hair. Even though puffs are cute, the tension caused by pulling the hair is damaging. Any Black hair care site/blog will tell you the same thing. Contrary to popular belief, Black hair does not do well when it is combed, brushed or pulled often. My daughter and I don’t even use combs and brushes at all because they are so damaging to our hair (we detangle with our fingers). We also don’t use sodium lauryl sulfate shampoos anymore because they strip the hair of natural, necessary moisture. Black hair care is difficult—even for me and I’ve been Black all my life. My comments were just a suggestion.


  6. dirtpaws
    Aug 12, 2009 @ 16:33:47


    I am not sure that Andy was sending that comment to you. I think she was giving me a little support that she felt that I was doing a good job. Your suggestions are always welcome and I will take them into consideration. However, I get a lot of “you’re doing it wrong” then I get of “you’re doing it right.” I’m not coming into this without help and education. However, just so you know, I do let her hair go free and not pull it and you want to know what I have to deal with? Being stopped every time I go out with her with “suggestions” about how I can’t just let her hair go crazy. As a White mother of an African American child, it seems everyone has a suggestion for me. I just thought you should know how frustrating it is to get conflicting information no matter what I do. I guess it’s just assumed that I don’t know what I’m doing no matter what I do.


    • dmgaltieri
      Nov 08, 2009 @ 12:24:35

      OM goodness, is that the truth! I have had so many “suggestions” as a new white mom of two African American girls. I am really comfortable with hair, so am not afraid of handling hair trying new techniques… …what’s so crazy is how adamant the comments are and how contradictory they are…no doubt, black women’s hair is a charged subject…


  7. EricaThurman
    Aug 12, 2009 @ 18:57:39

    Trust me, I understand. The information is conflicting no matter who is giving or getting it. People tell me don’t comb while my hair is wet, then someone else says don’t comb while its dry. My daughter is 15 and we still have lots of trial and error. Don’t think that you’re doing anything wrong, we all have to just learn what works best for our individual children. My daughter and I have 2 different hair types, we use different products and have 2 different regimens. It can be very stressful sometimes and I imagine it is even more stressful with a smaller child. Also, keep in mind that Black mothers offer unsolicited advice to ANY mother, lol. It’s just in our nature but most mean well. My mother still swears I don’t know what I’m doing with my daughter’s hair– especially since we both recently cut out hair very low. I get a lot of heat from family members even though my daughter decided to cut her hair on her own (she actually went into the bathroom and did it herself after I cut mine off). But like I said, it’s obvious you care enough about your child to put so much effort into her hair, not all parents, Black or white can say the same. If you have any questions, feel free to shoot them at me. I’m don’t know it all but I might be able to help.


  8. EricaThurman
    Aug 12, 2009 @ 19:02:49

    By the way, this is the first blog written by a stay at home mom that has actually caught and kept my attention. I like that you’re honest about how you feel about the joys and stresses of raising children and the additional stresses related to transracial/interracial adoption.


    • dirtpaws
      Aug 12, 2009 @ 19:27:30

      Thanks so much for that. I think raising children in and of itself is stressful! I was adopted as well which is why I chose to adopt. I chose to adopt outside my race because I was raised in a family that didn’t like the line of ethnicity to be blurred. I wanted to adopt my daughter, her birth parents asked us to adopt her. We are a perfect family unit. And by family I mean us, her birth family and all extended in between. I love that we are finally in an age where families can and are made of every shape, size, color, and culture. Change? Yes we can.


  9. dirtpaws
    Aug 12, 2009 @ 19:24:24

    It is so nice to hear that you feel some of the same frustrations that I do. As a White mother of a Black child I have been accustom to people giving their opinions and sometimes it’s just exhausting! A woman who commented recently on my African American Toddler Hair Preparation blog post had some advice as to when to comb her hair and offered to me a great remedy to comb the hair wet. I have been using her mixture and have found that it has been very helpful when combing out her hair. But again, this is different advice then you are giving. Sometime I feel overwhelmed. If I had grown up with African American hair care being part of my life, I probably wouldn’t feel so lost. I love my daughter’s hair and I love the fact that I, as a White woman with no prior experience is able to immerse myself so completely in her culture. I have no complaints and I think that her hair is beautiful and amazing and I know that it takes a lot of work and that I am inexperienced. I welcome any suggestions and I thank you for taking the time to comment. It means you care, thank you.


  10. Chinwe
    Aug 21, 2009 @ 06:42:49

    This blog has been very helpful. I am an African and my 16mos old daughter’s hair is very short, coarse and sparsely distributed. One will assume I’ll know it all considering my ethnicity – wrong!!! I have found your suggestions very helpful. The common theme I’ve heard in all the blogs I’ve read is how wonderful Carol’s daughter’s products. Does anyone agree and if so, which ones should I get? I dont want to invest so much money in something that doesn’t work. Right now I’m using Johnson and Johnson products – thanks


    • dirtpaws
      Aug 21, 2009 @ 06:59:02


      I have been a loyal Carol’s Daughter user for about three years but based on a comment by Kinky Rhonnie a few weeks ago on this post here: I have started using her regime instead of Carol’s Daughter to test it out. First off, she uses all natural, all organic products. I am lucky enough to live in an area where the local beauty shops carry a great selection. Also, I use her suggestion when brushing out Gracie’s hair. Use a small mixture of oil (I have used Tui, Apricot, Lavener, etc) in the bottom of a spray bottle (maybe 1/2 cup worth) then add the same amount of a hair conditioner and then fill up the rest of the bottle with water. Spray to saturate the hair when brushing it out. It works really well and, as usual when I receive new advice, goes against what I’ve always been told about combing African American hair.

      I highly suggest reading her comments, towards the bottom of the blog post I listed above to get her full comment. I have also gone the route of Sulfur 8 (which I still use to stimulate growth) and pine tar (which I have stopped using.) Also, I alternate between pulling her hair into puffs and other styles and just allowing it to be free and in an afro. Either way, I think we are all learning because everyone’s hair is unique and different, regardless our ethnicity!

      What I have learned is to listen to what everyone has to say, give a try to their suggestions, although I can definitely see holding back on the Carol’s Daughter until you are sure because it is so expensive, and do what you feel is best.


  11. Glam
    Aug 29, 2009 @ 09:24:42

    First I wanna say that african american women do not always get it right either when it comes to our daughters hair either! If we did, we would have so many techniques and solutions as we do! Honestly what I find easiest is doing my 3 year olds hair as soon as she gets out of the tub. I usually use some type of HAIR FOOD grease in her hair and put the hair in as many little ponytails because they last the longest. I have also began putting a silk scarf on her head because it prevents breakage.

    My daughter has short hair as well, but it has been growing alot. I have also tried a brand called “BABY DONT BE BALD”. I believe this initially grew her hair. Also I have tried Hair Mayo too!

    Carols Daughter is a little expensive and with all of the cheap hair growth products on the market, why spend so much money on the same result?

    I think that the key to managing their short hair is to do it as often as possible and invest in small barretts and balls. The bigger ones just make it more noticeable!

    I admire your courage! And if you can you should watch Chris Rock’s movie Good Hair when it comes out!

    Good Luck!


  12. EricaThurman
    Aug 29, 2009 @ 23:45:28

    Carol’s Daughter is good but expensive. You can find cheaper products. Try your local TJ Maxx to find good deals on products like Carol’s Daughter. I got my CD products form TJ Maxx and paid $5 each. I use the Healthy Hair Butter, the Tui Oil, The Herbal Shampoo and their Shea Buttter lotion. We also tried the Carol’s Daughter Hair Milk which didn’t work too well for me (especially not for the cost (I actually paid full price for the Hair Milk– almost $20).


  13. Maria
    Oct 11, 2009 @ 19:33:51


    I was searching for a hair accessories organizer on Google and I came across your website/blog. Would you be able to tell me where you got your “tackle box” for your daughter’s hair accessories? That’s exactly what I need for my 3 year old. Your daughter and my daughter wear similar hairstyles. Having daughters with short hair definitely keeps us creative!


    • dirtpaws
      Oct 11, 2009 @ 19:41:10

      Hi Maria,

      I actually just went up to Walmart and grabbed a $15.00 tackle box from their sporting goods department near the fishing poles! Pretty cheap and everything is a LOT more organized. Hope this helps.



  14. Cassandra
    Oct 12, 2009 @ 19:13:10

    Well at 55, I have finally figured how to grow a healthy head of hair void of strong chemicals. My mother said that I invented the Afro. I had very little and those cute hair clips didn’t exist. Having lived through the “I wish my hair was long” phase, I would like to give some advice. Oh I forgot to say that my hair is so fine and tender that I coined the phrase that “if you looked at my hair to long it would break off”. I recommend not putting chemicals (ie relaxers) or heat in your baby’s hair. Find a mild conditioner – my 2 year old niece is using a detangler for babies. You should not pull the hair to tight, don’t use rubber bands, and use sheets with a high thread count, if not try satin pillowcases. I know these things because I lived. Children sheets are usually muslin sheet, course thread count pulls the hair out. When I was in middle school and I stopped wearing the plats my mother braided so neatly into each other, I could never grow hair at the back of my head. Later I realized it was the muslin sheets I was sleeping on, if she is willing to sleep in a satin bonnet, all the better. Cornrows without cheap extensions are a good way to encourage hair growth, also. The hair breaks daily from simple combing. It is funny this weekend I confessed out loud that I use to pretend I had long hair by wearing black tights on my head when I played alone as a child. About 4 years ago I decided to grow locs. For the first time in my life my hair is shoulder length. I wish your toddler much hair happiness.


    • dirtpaws
      Oct 12, 2009 @ 19:21:32


      Gracie does sleep on a satin pillowcase and I have no plans in relaxing her hair. I have been using a conditioner/oil/water mist for the days when I comb her hair and only plat or afro puff her hair on occasion. I usually just let her hair be free, conditioned and allow it to grow at it’s own pace. I appreciate you taking the time to comment and will definitely get her into a satin bonnet soon (so far she’s fussed with me each time I’ve tried – she’s 3) and will probably need someone to help me learn how to do cornrows when it gets a little bit longer. I’ve always used the rubber bands b/c her hair was never long enough for the cloth bands to hold – although it should be now. I guess my biggest problem is that I get a lot of comments as her mother because they assume that when I let her hair be free it is because I don’t know what I am doing. There is a lot of pressure on me and as you know, everyone has their opinion but unfortunately, the suggestions very from person to person. From what I’ve discovered it is best to listen to all advice, try everything for a few months and keep what works for her hair and keep on keepin’ on.


  15. Donna
    Nov 14, 2009 @ 03:23:45

    Please don’t obsess about your daughter’s hair. She is beautiful. Please just take care of it, and let her be who she is — long hair or short. Embrace her for whatever she looks like. Let her know how beautiful those gorgeous coils are on her head, even if they never grew another inch. She will already have hair issues (we black girls tend to anyway), so I beg you not to add to it by focusing so much attention to what you feel her hair should look like (aside from keeping it clean and healthy).

    And thank you for loving her. I can tell you are a good mom who wants to give her the world and not shortchange her anything. Thank you for that. Help her to love who she is.


    • dirtpaws
      Nov 14, 2009 @ 07:31:09

      I am not sure how to respond to this, Donna. I of course take care of her hair and I certainly do not spend time “obsessing” about her hair. Have you read the other comments on this post, or the numerous posts on my blog that have nothing to do with her hair? I know that Grace is gorgeous, her hair is beautiful and that we will handle it, short or long, no matter what.


  16. Bobbi
    Dec 06, 2009 @ 19:57:13

    You probably have suggestions all the time, because people know that you grew up differently than a child of color. There were routines behind our hair care.

    Doesn’t mean that you aren’t the best mother or that you won’t find your own solutions that your daughter can pass on to her children one day. My hair was just as your daughter’s… in all my pictures growing up. My mother would have my hair “pressed” for easter, and special holidays (heating a comb and running it through the hair with hair oil). I loved the way it looked, but actually didn’t miss it when my hair was naturally kinky.. My experience was that johnson and johnson, and “no more tangles” worked well and didn’t give me the ouch when she combed my hair. After shampooing, and towel drying my hair…She did comb my hair gently with a pick or wide tooth comb AFTER spritzing it with a detangler spray. She added a SMALL amount of coconut oil like “palmers” while the hair was moist and would braid it down or put it in pig tails. When it dried, it was soft (moist but not greasy)and smelled so nice. I remember that she kept the oil away from my face, so that I didn’t get acne or clogged pores as I got a little older.

    Also, her hair may grow slowly, but as long as you keep it moist and healthy that’s all that matters. Our hair appears even shorter because of the kink and tight curls, but was much longer when it was straightened (not that your daughter needs this, just FYI). She also avoided chemicals at all cost. Also, my hair is long today, texture has improved slightly from routine. I use pantene and infusium now, and they both work great on my hair (that’s still natural by the way). Sometimes all she may need is a ribbon tied around the edge of her hairline and loose afro to be too cute!

    Some great books… Natural hair care and braiding, and Twelve Steps For Growing Black Hair.


  17. Elle
    Apr 11, 2011 @ 16:12:59

    I’ve skimmed through the comments of this post and just wanted to let you know that I’ve had black/kinky hair all my life (I’m 27) and I am just learning, by trial and error (and the sometimes through the unsolicited advice of others) how to take care of my natural hair. In fact, you most likely have a much more solid routine for your daughter than I do for my own hair.
    I actually found this post because I’ve been frustrated with my own lack of hair growth and googled a ridiculously long sentence “hair won’t grow long [enough] for afro puff.”
    I hope all is well in her hair journey.


    • dirtpaws
      Apr 11, 2011 @ 16:16:23

      I have been getting her hair braided about once a month now and then unbraiding it and doing an afro and I am really impressed by the growth. I have also learned a bit of a different routine that I’m going to post soon with pics of how I do it so it’s easier to follow. I highly recommend the braiding if it is a style you like. Her hair has grown easily twice as much in the last six months. I am really loving her big afros!


      • dirtpaws
        Apr 11, 2011 @ 16:17:10

        Also, I only leave the braids (cornrows really) in about two weeks and then let the hair be free for about a week or so before I get it braided again.

  18. Lora Lynn
    Nov 26, 2011 @ 17:50:37

    Hi. I ran across this post while searching for some help with my own daughter’s hair. This comment may be a day late and a dollar short, but here it is: We adopted our daughter from Uganda earlier this year. I’ve made a lot of progress and learned a lot, but I just wanted to encourage you that you’re doing a great job. Don’t get discouraged by commenters, even well-meaning ones. Those puffs are cute and I know that your point was simply to show what your hard work had resulted in. I often feel the need to shout it from the rooftops when I spend an hour on my young one’s hair. So well done! It looks fab and you’re a good mama.


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