Trimming a baby’s nails can be nerve-racking for any new parent. Placing anything sharp near your little one can make any parent nervous and worse still is the thought of accidentally nicking your newborn’s skin. But, it’s a task best done sooner rather than later. With long nails, infants can easily scratch and cut themselves, particularly around the face.
“Often, infants are born with long nails--needing attention right away and regular trims once a week or more,” says Jennifer Shu, M.D., pediatrician and co-author of Heading Home With Your Newborn, to WebMD. So, if you haven’t gotten down to it, here are a few tips that can help you feel more at ease: 1. Do nail cutting when baby is asleep. Babies can get squirmy--they love to flail their arms and legs about, which makes cutting their nails difficult. When they're asleep, you have better control holding their fingers steady. You can also cut you baby’s nails half an hour after bathing when the nails are not too soft. If you’re not feeling too confident, have another person hold your baby while you trim. Make sure that there’s lots of light so you can see what you’re doing and lessen the chances of an accident.
2. Use nail cutters or nail scissors specifically for baby. Know your tools well. Get baby nail cutters or nail scissors that have rounded tips for safety. Some even come with a magnifying glass at the tip to help you see better. But if you’re still nervous, some new parents opt to trim down their baby’s nails with a nail filer instead for the first few nail cutting sessions. Apparently, there are parents who resort to biting their baby’s nails (they're probably thinking at least there are no no sharp edges). But you can be putting your baby at risk for germs and infections this way, says Dr. Shu.
3. Do it properly. First, find a comfortable position that allows you easy access to your baby’s hands and feet. Take the baby’s hand in yours and, with your fingers, press the pad of your child’s finger away from the nail. This will help you avoid nicking the skin. Make sure there’s no skin in the way before you start snipping.
For fingernails, cut by following the natural curve of the finger. Toenails need to be cut straight across to avoid ingrown nails, which can be painful. Try not to cut too short as trimming too close to the nail bed can also be painful for your baby. Make sure to avoid sharp edges by keeping the nail edges rounded. If you find sharp corners, you can trim them down with a nail file.
4. Don’t feel too guilty about nicks. Accidental nicks and cuts do happen when cutting a baby’s nails--yes, even to the most well-intentioned parent. So, don’t worry too much. Simply apply gentle pressure to the wound to stop the bleeding and treat with an antibiotic ointment if necessary. Don’t put a bandage though. Babies like to put their fingers in their mouth, which can dislodge the bandage, making it a choking hazard.
5. Don’t push it. If you notice midway through cutting your baby’s nails that he becomes too squirmy to handle, stop. You can always continue some other time when you’re both ready again. You can also keep a baby nail cutter in your diaper bag so you can trim whenever and wherever the opportunity arises.