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Baby hygiene: How to care for your baby's nails

Baby Health / Oct 11, 2022 / Vetted by J Rajesh, MBBS, MD (Ped.)
How to care for your baby's nails

Baby nail care is extremely important. Babies’ nails are super delicate, and it is normal for new moms to be afraid of cutting nails of newborn baby as they might have a fear of hurting them. However, your baby's nails need to be trimmed regularly as babies may scratch themselves if their fingernails aren’t cut.

You can use a baby nail clipper or baby nail scissors with rounded tips to cut your baby’s nails. However, the safest way to shorten your baby's nails is to use an emery board to file the nails gently. When your baby is older, the emery board can be used to file and neaten the jagged edges of the nails after cutting.

Fingernails tend to grow rather rapidly in babies, so they may need to be trimmed more than once a week. However, toenails take time to grow and need not be shortened that often.

Learn how to care for your newborn's eyes & ears, here.

How to cut the baby's nails?

The best time to cut your baby’s nails is when your newborn is drowsy, sleeping, or very calm. Another good time is soon after the baby’s bath when he/she is relaxed and the nails are softer.

The ideal set-up to cut the nails of older children and toddlers is by strapping them securely in a high chair or car seat. Here are a few tips to cut baby nails:

  • Ensure that the room is well-lit for clear visibility.
  • Ask someone to hold the baby while you trim their nails.
  • Use one hand to hold your baby’s finger and another hand to cut the nail.
  • To avoid cutting the skin, pull the baby's finger pad away gently and cut the nail along the natural curve of the finger.
  • To prevent ingrown nails, trim the toenails straight across.
  • To keep your baby happy while you cut the nails, talk or sing to your baby or divert his/her attention to a toy or activity. You can also engage your baby in the nail-trimming activity by making a game of it.
  • If you accidentally cut your baby's skin while clipping the nail and it starts to bleed, apply gentle pressure using a sterile gauze pad to make the bleeding stop.
  • Avoid putting a bandage on the tiny cut as babies like to put their fingers in their mouth and might suck the bandage off and choke on it.
  • If you feel your baby has an infection at the finger or toenail, you may apply antiseptic cream or lotion on it, but make sure you put a mitten on your baby’s hands, so your baby does not eat the medicine.
  • If there is swelling or reddening of the finger, consult your doctor.
  • If your baby becomes uneasy while cutting nails, give him/her some time to relax and try again in some time.

What should be avoided?

Cutting nails of newborn baby can be scary, but it can be comfortable and even easy with a few precautions. It is advised not to nibble off the ends of your newborn baby's nails as this can transfer germs from your mouth to the nail and cause an infection.

Peeling your baby's nails is also not a good idea as you may tear the nail back too far, thus hurting your baby. Cutting the sides of the nails should also be avoided as it can lead to ingrown nails and infections.

Contemplating how to keep up with your little ones dental & oral hygiene? Read on, here

What to do if you are afraid to cut your baby's nails?

  • Seek help from an experienced person: You can request a more experienced person, like your baby's grandparent, a nanny or a regular babysitter, to show you how it is done.
  • Use mittens: If the nails are too sharp and you cannot find the courage to clip them yourself right away and don't have anyone to do it for you, it is best to put mittens on your baby's hands. This will prevent the baby from accidentally scratching their skin, especially while sleeping.

At first, you may feel it is difficult to figure out how to cut baby nails and may even be afraid that you will hurt them, but don’t worry, with proper precautions and practice, you will be able to cut your baby’s nails like a pro!

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References:

  1. RaisingChildren. Trimming baby nails. 
  2. KidsHealth.org. Trimming Your Baby's Nails. 
  3. Pregnancybirthbaby.org. How to cut your baby's nails.
  4. Healthywomen.org. Successfully Clipping Your Baby's Nails.

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