This is a question I get asked at least once a week, particularly from friends and family with little ones or newborns who are starting to resemble talons at the end of their feet. It’s also something I’ll be able to put into good practice over the next few months myself, so what better time to revise than the present?
Newborn bubs tend to have nice soft, flexible and quite fast-growing toenails which can easily become long and razor sharp. There is always a parental concern that with long nails, your baby will rake their fingers and toes across their face or legs during sleep or playtime and cause some damage. This is a very real concern for most patients and so I always advise that it’s best to keep the bub’s nails clean and short to prevent this.
Babies’ nails grow very quickly and you might have the need to trim them more than once a week. The toenails have a tendency to grow more slowly, so you may not need to trim them nearly as often as the fingers. It’s also completely normal for newborn babies’ toenails to curl over, following the contour of the toe, partly because they are initially so soft and thin.
Your baby’s nails will soon harden and develop a firmer, free edge. In the meantime, it can be difficult to tell which bit of the nail growth is still attached to the cuticle or nail bed. Trimming too low will see the tip of your baby’s finger bleed, and create a risk of infection. So if possible, try to find a way of shortening the nails that you feel comfortable and confident with. This may be after bathing or during sleep. If it works, do it!
How do I trim my baby’s nails without nicking his fingers?
The easiest way to keep your baby’s nails short in the early days may be to just peel the ends off with your fingers. The fingernails are so soft that the surplus will come away easily. Or you could try using special baby nail scissors, or nail clippers, which have specially rounded ends. Filing the nails is probably the safest way to do it in the early weeks before the nails harden.
If you want to trim your baby’s nails using baby nail scissors or clippers, you need to do this very carefully. Press the finger or pad away from the nail to avoid nicking skin, and keep a firm hold as you cut or clip.
If you accidentally nick the skin, try not to worry. Gently hold a piece of clean, damp cotton wool on the cut with some pressure and the bleeding will stop fairly quickly. Don’t use a plaster, as your baby may choke on it. Trimming your baby’s nails may also be a two-person job, particularly if you have a very active baby who likes to wriggle and kick. You’ll find it also easier if there’s another adult to help. One of you could gently hold the baby to minimise too much wiggle while the other trims the nails.
You may also want to try cutting your baby’s nails when they’re a little less excitable, during sleep or whilst feeding are great opportunities to try this.
When you’re shortening your baby’s toenails, trim them straight across, and never cut down the side of the toenail, as this may cause ingrown nails. Don’t probe into the sides of his nails as this could cause an infection.
People often suggest biting finger and toenails to help keep them short. It’s not ideal as it could introduce germs from your mouth into any tiny cut your baby may have, and cause an infection. You also won’t be able to see what you’re doing, and you’ll find that your baby’s finger is tiny compared to your teeth!
Until next time,