Babies wave their little hands around, often catching and grabbing whatever they touch. This can mean scratched faces and tears. Solutions range from covering baby’s hands with baby mittens or socks to trimming the offending nails themselves. Trimming a baby’s fingernails may seem like a straightforward project; however, the baby may have his own ideas.
Techniques vary from generation to generation and include using nail clippers (infant only), trimming with baby nail scissors, filing with an emery board, or even biting a baby’s nails. Most people agree that waiting until the infant is asleep is the safest way and best way to ensure having a cooperative customer.
It’s important to note that it is not recommended to trim a newborn’s nails. A newborn’s finger pads grow right into the tip of the fingernail. As the first few days pass, a parent will notice that skin and nail will harden and eventually separate. The best thing to protect baby’s precious face from scratches during this time is to keep infant mittens on the baby.
Until the baby is old enough for trimming, mittens can be purchased at stores like Carter’s in Landstown Commons on Princess Anne. Local pharmacies, like Barr’s Pharmacy in Virginia Beach; pharmacies within many of the local grocery stores, including Farm Fresh; as well as the chain pharmacies, like Walgreen’s, carry infant nail clippers, emery boards, and blunt, rounded scissors, which curve away from the skin.
The Wagi Baby Safety Nail Clipper is a good choice and reasonably priced. An emery board like the Kiss All Purpose File & Smoother Medium/Extra Fine Professional Nail File is easy to use for either the entire job or for smoothing any points or rough edges after clipping. Something like Tweezerman His Facial Hair Scissors should do the trick, if scissors are preferred.
How to trim a baby’s fingernails
- Choose a time when baby is relaxed, or even better, asleep.
- Trim after a bath for softest fingernails
- Enlist a calm helper, if available and needed
- Turn on the brightest light in the room and sit beneath it to trim
- Curl baby’s hand and fingers-to-be-trimmed around an adult finger for more control
- Hold baby’s finger between parent’s thumb and forefinger firmly, but not too tightly to avoid squirming.
- Roll pad of baby’s finger slightly to pull it away from the fingernail and help to avoid injury
- Take a breath before trimming each nail and remain calm to help reassure baby
- Trim on a curve for fingernails, straight across for toenails
- Take a break if it’s not going well
Trim fingernails at least once-a-week, and more when needed; trim toenails maybe once-a-month, as needed.
Sometimes, singing a song or reciting a nursery rhyme, or kissing each of a baby’s fingers as trimming is completed helps to keep things light and baby calm.
Hints and tips
If a parent chooses to use a professional emery board for either smoothing rough edges after a clipping, or for the entire project, it’s important to pay very close attention to keeping the emery board from harming and even blistering the pad of the baby’s finger. It’s not likely a baby would react until too late to the friction of having her finger pad filed.
Rocking curved scissors against the tip of baby’s finger helps to keep from trimming nails too closely.
Baby nail clippers can have a light and/or magnifying glass attached. These are helpful, but not necessary, and cannot replace careful attention and diligence.
Biting a baby’s nails is not recommended, as germs from a parent’s mouth can enter any cut present on the baby’s finger. However, some parents feel they have more control, being able to feel where the fingernail ends, though they can’t see what they’re doing. Washing a baby’s hands with soap and water and rinsing well will help to prevent infection.
It is vital to not clip, file, trim, or bite right up to the very sensitive “quick”, pink part of a baby’s fingernail. Leaving a thin slice of the white of the nail to protect that vulnerable finger pad is key. Baby’s nails grow very quickly, and it won’t really save time to trim nails down so far. It will injure the baby and lead to difficult future nail trimming sessions.
If a baby’s fingertip is nicked and bleeds, wrapping a tissue around the wound and putting gentle pressure on it for a few minutes should do the trick of stopping the bleeding. Kisses, gentle touches, and soothing words from a parent go a long way toward helping the healing, too – and help to calm a distraught parent as well.
Try, try again
If a trimming doesn’t go smoothly, a parent should do it piecemeal, trimming a fingernail or two at each diaper change, for example. Frequent trimming gets baby used to it and makes the task easier the older (and wigglier) baby gets.