The contribution of adolescents' childbearing to total fertility rates in many sub-Saharan African countries is higher than in other parts of the world. In this paper, data collected from 897 female adolescents aged 15–19 years are analysed to investigate patterns and determinants of entry into motherhood in two informal settlements in Nairobi, Kenya, using Kaplan–Meier estimates and Cox regression models. About 15% of these adolescents have had a child. The findings show that marriage, being out of school and having negative models in peer, family and school contexts are associated with early childbearing among females aged 15–17 years. For adolescents aged 18–19 years, school attendance considerably delays entry into motherhood while marriage hastens its timing. Furthermore, older adolescents with high levels of social controls (parental monitoring or perceived peer orientation to or approval of prosocial behaviours) and individual controls (high religiosity and positive orientation to schooling) are likely to delay childbearing. Programmes aiming to reduce risky sexual behaviours that could lead to childbearing among adolescents should be introduced very early, and before the onset of sexual activity. Also, the findings underscore the need to identify and address the risky factors and reinforce the protective ones in order to improve sexual and reproductive health outcomes of adolescent girls in Nairobi slum settlements.