Caring for your baby’s nails

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One of the questions that parents often ask is what do I do for my baby’s nails?

Hi, I’m Dr. Joe.

The simple answer to that question is pretty much the same principle as what you do for your own nails and that means you trim them when they need to be trimmed.

Now, I know that sounds a little bit circular but there’s no absolute time or length of nail that is the right time to do it. And with newborn babies and children as they grow, how frequently this needs to happen is a function of how quickly the nails grow and that’s going to be the same as it is with adults: different for different people.

So, point #1, and this is important, is the principle “you trim them when it’s necessary.” How can you best do that? You can get little baby clippers because the ones used for adults are probably going to be a little bit too big for baby’s fingers. The other option is to use an emery board or nail file. People will have their different preferences. I’m not sure if there’s a right or a wrong; it’s about whatever works for you.

I’ve been told that parents will sometimes try to bite the nails off rather than use a clipper. I really would not suggest or recommend that for a number of reasons, and you can get clippers and emery boards that will be fine.

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Same principle, again, with how the nails are cut: so, for fingernails, they should be more rounded, same as in adults, and for toenails, a little bit more straight across. So, arguably, the toenails are going to be a bit easier to do. You can just get an emery board and, literally, just file them down a little bit – that may be the simplest. But if you want to use little baby nail clippers, that is quite ok.

You don’t have to make them perfect. That’s the other thing as well.

How often do you need to do it?

It’s a little bit like, “how long is a piece of string?” You do it when it needs to be done.

Avoid trying to do anything much to the cuticle, because if you do get into tearing or damaging the skin then there is a risk – it’s a small risk, but it can get infected.

So, don’t make things harder than they need to be. I think if there is one really major message out of this video is that it doesn’t have to be complicated, you don’t need fancy or expensive equipment, you don’t need to go to great lengths, you basically just need to file or clip nails as needs be.

Again, parents will ask how long or short should nails be?

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Same as with most people: you want nails probably shorter rather than longer. I don’t think that the average baby needs to have long, glorious nails. Part of that is just for the obvious reason but also, longer nails, they’re more likely to possibly scratch themselves; not a major drama but why go there if you don’t need to.

Keep them reasonably short. Leave a little bit of white exposed at the end, and trim them when you need to.

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Date Created: June 30, 2014 Date Modified: November 14, 2018 Date Reviewed: June 17, 2014