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Trimming your baby’s nail

By Chioma Obinna

There is so much shouting from the sittingroom. What is it all about?  Mummy! Mummy! Mummy! Why can’t one have peace in this house?   David’s mother shouted back.


No mummy, baby has put her finger into Desire’s eyes.  The shouting continues. There were tears in David’s eyes. It appears serious. Let’s get you to the hospital.

Few minutes later we are sitting in front of the doctor. He was concerned about Desire. I was told baby put her fingers into your eyes. Let me see baby’s nails. They are overgrown. That is not safe and could be dangerous even for the baby’s own safety. You should trim the nails.

I expressed my fear about cutting the nails and wounding my baby. No. Although cutting your baby’s nails can be a bit unnerving, keeping them short and clean to avoid scratches is best.  It will also prevent infections.

Newborns tend to have soft, flexible and fast-growing nails that can easily become long and ragged.  Babies’ fingernails grow so quickly that you may have to trim them more than once a week. Toenails grow more slowly so you may only need to trim a couple of times a month. It’s normal for newborn babies’ toenails to curl over, following the contour of the toe, partly because they are so soft and thin at first.

The nails soon harden and develop a firmer, free edge. Do not trim too low. If you do, the finger tip will bleed, and this creates a risk of infection.

How to trim

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 nails are so soft the surplus comes away easily. You could try using baby nail scissors, or baby nail clippers, which have specially rounded ends or try filing with a nail file or emery board. Filing is safest it in the early weeks before the nails harden. An emery board is useful after cutting.

Use baby nail scissors or clippers carefully. Press the finger pad away from the nail to avoid nicking the skin, and keep a firm hold as you cut or clip.

If you accidentally nick the skin, gently hold a piece of clean, damp cotton wool on the cut and apply a little pressure. Don’t use a plaster.

Trimming may be easier if there’s another adult to gently hold the baby still. You may also want to try cutting when baby is feeding or sleeping.

Trim around the nail curve. Trim toe nails straight across, but don’t cut too short. Never cut down the side of the toenail as this may cause ingrown nails. Don’t probe into the sides as this could cause infection.

It’s not a good idea to bite your baby’s nails to keep them shorter. It could introduce germs from your mouth into any tiny cut in the finger. 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.


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