Trimming a baby’s nails can be nerve-wracking. (Photo: Getty Images)
When my daughter was a newborn, I accidentally nicked the tip of her thumb while cutting her nails. More than two years later, I’m still haunted by it.
Most parents know that trimming an infant’s nails — especially the first few times — can be a tense task. “Babies’ nails are soft and small so it’s difficult to trim them especially when your infant is moving around,” Joyce Teng, MD, PhD, director of pediatric dermatology at Stanford University School of Medicine, tells Yahoo Parenting. “Parents are so afraid to cut their baby. It’s nerve-wracking.“
But it’s important to trim your baby’s nails at least once a week. “Baby’s nails grow super fast — they have an incredible ability to regenerate,” Teng explains. “If we don’t trim their nails, they could injure themselves by scratching their face.” In other cases, left untrimmed, their soft nail plates can tear, allowing germs to enter which increases the risk of infection, or babies can develop ingrown nails. Here’s how to trim safely.
Choose your tools and timing wisely
Use tools that are specifically designed for babies’ little nails such as Piyo Piyo scissors, which have a rounded tip to prevent nicks. A good clipper is also easy to grip so it won’t easily slip and some come with a small light or a magnifying glass for better vision. Teng also recommends cutting nails when your baby is relatively calm, such as when she’s drowsy, to lesson the chances that she’ll jerk away unexpectedly. If you trim while your baby is fully awake, ask your partner to stabilize your infant.
Treat fingernails and toenails differently
When clipping toenails, cut straight across rather than dig into the corners. If you cut a corner too deep, it can cause an ingrown toenail, which is pretty painful, says Teng. Note that babies’ toenails grow much slower than their fingernails and only need trimming once or twice a month. For fingernails, push the fingertip back to free the edges of the nail before clipping so you don’t accidentally cut the skin. Then cut section by section — from the left corner, to the top of the nail (straight across), to the right corner. You can also file down the sides with a baby-size emery board.
Clean a cut safely
If you nick the skin while trimming your infant’s nails, put pressure on the area to stop the bleeding and don’t panic, says Teng. “Your baby will cry for a few minutes, but they rebound very quickly. Most of the time, the injury is minor.” Clean the cut with soap and water, then apply a dab of ointment such as Vaseline — to help the area heal completely. However, don’t use a bandage to cover a cut — babies constantly put their hands in their mouths and the bandage could be a choking hazard.
Don’t take matters into your own hands
It may seem easier and safer to nibble on your baby’s nails instead of using scissors or clippers, but doing so can cause your little one to develop a finger infection.