The finger and toenails of babies grow quickly, or appear to grow past the end of their fingers and toes faster than those of older children and adults. As infants have little control over their muscles, self-inflicted scratches are common from their own nails as a result of their arms and legs waving about. It is important to prevent scratches by keeping their nails short.
The most convenient time to cut the nails of a baby is while they are asleep. Gently unwrap their hands from the bedding and use baby nail scissors or clippers. They are designed for this task, as they have rounded rather than pointed tips to prevent accidental damage to the tender skin of an infant. Make each cut a small one, to lessen the possibility of cutting off too much and making the fingertips painful.
Trim the nails a suitable length, then tidy up any ragged edges by gently filing the edges with a nail file. It is preferable to use a flexible emery board rather than a metal nail file as emery boards are gentle on soft baby nails.
Repeat this on the toenails by removing socks and bedclothes one foot at a time, to prevent them getting cold from suddenly removing their clothing while they are asleep. Toenails appear to grow less than fingernails, so they may not need to be so aggressively trimmed. However, it is helpful to do both feet and hands each time.
Once you have mastered nail trimming on an infant while they are asleep you can undertake this while they are awake - provided they are not fussing or unwell as this tends to make the process distressing for both the baby and you. Make sure they are safely wrapped, warm and comfortable, and sitting or lying in your lap so that they feel secure. If you have an obliging partner or friend, they could either cut the nails or provide the comforting lap, to assist the process. You could try to do this while they are in a baby car seat either in the house or the car, so they can feel secure or in a familiar place and position.
It is helpful to cut infants nails at least once each week, so that both you and they get used to it. This way it becomes part of a routine activity undertaken perhaps before a bath on weekend evenings.
If you accidentally draw blood when trimming nails, provided you have been trimming small amounts with each cut, the damage should not be major. Gently clean the area with a clean piece of gauze or tissue and apply gentle pressure with the gauze to help to stop the bleeding. Do not apply a sticking plaster as the finger or toe may end up in their mouth, and the plaster may cause them to choke. Cover the entire hand or foot with a glove or sock that may be removed and washed once the bleeding has stopped.
Baby manicure sets, containing curved tip scissors, baby nail clippers and small emery boards are an ideal baby gift for someone who has recently had a baby. They are available from your community pharmacy. The pharmacist will also be able to advise you about how to cut and care for your baby’s nails, and help you with the first manicure should you be uncertain if you can safely cut your baby’s nails.