Advice from Canpol's experienced mothers.

Clipping baby's nails

Clipping nails is quite a challenge to every mum, regardless of the baby's age. At the beginning it is much more difficult, as nails are thin and sharp as paper and they bend all ways. Fortunately, they become harder in time, while we become more skilful and confident.

How and how often should you clip nails?

Fingernails should be clipped round, and toenails straight, to prevent growing in. Remember not to remove skin around the baby's nail.
Toenails grow rather slowly, and it is sufficient to clip them once a week or a fortnight. Fingernails, on the other hand, grow quite quickly. For my daughter I clip them 1 - 2 times a week. Remember, however, you do not need to adhere to a strict schedule. It is the best to clip nails when they are long, as their growth is an individual thing.

Scissors, clipper or file?

Scissors, a nail clipper or a nail file? For the youngest babies I recommend special scissors with rounded tips and not very thick blades. They are much safer than normal scissors for adults. Toddlers can have their nails clipped with a nail clipper. A file is the best for uneven ends.

When should you begin to clip nails?

There is no simple answer to that question, but one thing is certain - you should not hurry with it. In newborns the nail is very often connected to the finger tip by a very fine membrane. A nail is very thin, soft, and you can easily hurt the baby while clipping it. Doctors suggest the first clipping should take place after 2 - 3 weeks from the birth, when the nail hardens a bit. During that time the nails continue to grow, of course, so you can put scratch mittens on baby's hands, to prevent him from scratching his face or head. Opinions about scratch mittens, however, are divided. Wearing the gloves night and day, especially in the summer, is very uncomfortable for the baby. Furthermore, we deprive him of a natural calmer, i.e., possibility to suck his hand or finger, and a newborn maintains habits from his foetal life, thus he likes to suck his fingers. You must therefore consider pros and cons, and select what you think best for your baby. You must also remember not to clip nails at a hospital, as even in case of the smallest cut, the risk of catching some infection is much higher.

The best time for clipping nails?

In infants, it is the best to clip nails while they are asleep. Then a baby is quiet and does not wriggle, and thus you will not harm him.
The older the child, the more difficult it is, as he is not always willing and it is not so easy to make him have his nails cut. Certainly, you need to find the right moment. If clipping nails interferes with his favourite activity, like playing, I can guarantee it will end up in a struggle, crying or unevenly cut nails. It is best to wait until the baby is calm, i.e., immediately after waking up, or focused on something. A good method is to cut nails "with a cartoon". For us that method worked perfectly. My daughter, focused on her favourite hero, gave me each finger without any problem.
It is very important not to force the baby, so he is not discouraged. If you do not succeed today, try on the next day. Having "long" nails for one more day will not harm the baby.
In time, my daughter ceased to treat clipping nails as something bad. I tried to explain to her that clipping nails was nothing terrible. I tried to clip my own nails in her presence, to get her used to the idea. In time, she started to treat that activity as something normal and now there are no problems at all. Hearing "Nail clipping time" she sits obediently on my knees and one by one we clip finger and toenails.

Useful advice

If the nails split or break, apply baby oil or olive oil, having strengthening properties. Irregularities and brittle nails may be a sign of a disease or deficiency of some minerals. Thus it is worth mentioning to the paediatrician during a visit.

Joanna

Mum of 6 year old Alicja and 2 year old Ewa, 6 years of professional experience

Marta PiÄ…tkowska

Midwife
- consulting

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