Friday, September 2, 2016

Nail care/cutting your infant's nails

I have had multiple parents actually offer me bribes to cut their infant's sharp little nails.
Sorry folks. Guess what? I hate it just as much as anyone else. Nail clipping (as well as splinter removal) are not among my many talents.

I will tell you a secret. In my family the task of nail clipping belonged completely to my husband Sandy. Our kids referred to it as "snip snip." Daddy cut  their nails when they were babies and continued his job as they got older, clipping nails and applying polish on request to his daughters' fingers and toes. If he accidentally cut them and drew blood at any point, I have blocked that out of my memory and in any case, they survived.

Babies have sharp nails that grow quickly. It is not uncommon for them leave scratch marks on themselves if you don't keep those nails short. Some babies actually manage to scratch their eyes, leaving little red marks in the sclera. I know some parents who put little mittens on the hands, but really, as tempting as it  is to keep those on, it is not a realistic long term solution. Here are a few tips related to nail cutting. Keep in mind that babies nails tend to be much thinner than adult nails.

Use special tools for the job; there are baby nail clippers and nail scissors available. Some clippers even come with a magnifying glass attached. The special kid scissors have rounded tips that can help avoid injury if your baby moves suddenly. Dr Anne liked the Piyo brand for her twins. She says that she is still using them.
If you can get away with just a file, good for you, but most of the time the nails need some more trimming than that. Adult clippers and scissors are often quite a bit sharper and therefore not as safe.  

Some folks do the nails right after a bath when they tend to be softer. Some people actually nibble the nails down. Most medical sources will warn you that this is tremendously unhygienic. True enough, but grandmothers have done that for generations and I haven't ever heard any issues.

Many  folks cut the baby’s nails when the infants are in a deep sleep cycle. You can identify this sleep stage because the baby is completely limp and relaxed, the hands are usually unclenched. If you choose this option consider keeping a little pair of nail clippers with you in your diaper bag as you go on outings. If your baby is asleep in the car seat, you can seize the moment. Doctor Schwanke says that the most important thing to do with any nail clipping is to push down on the finger pad to make sure you get a little space between the nail and the finger.

At some point, as your child gets a bit older, it is reasonable to  simply want and expect cooperation. You may have to work towards this goal.

When we got our puppy many years ago, we were advised to handle her all over so that she didn't have any areas that were "off limits". I would do that with your baby. Get in the habit of doing a gentle, relaxing little hand and foot massage that includes all the fingers and toes so that they get used to you handling the nails. Do a little rhyme or song as you do it. Think "my little piggy". Of course you are only clipping the nails some of the time, but they may stay more relaxed when it is actually nail clipping time. Who doesn't enjoy a little hand or foot rub!

If you do accidentally cut a finger or toe, just hold pressure for a few minutes. You can apply a dab of Neosporin if it seems like more than just a superficial little nick. Hopefully the little cut doesn't need more than a few minutes of pressure but if you need to apply pressure for a bit longer, you can put a band aid on a finger or toe and then put a sock over the hand or foot so that your baby doesn't pull  it off. Band Aids can be choking hazards so you need to be wary.

Toe nails should be cut straight across, fingernails can be rounded a bit. If your child does develop an ingrown nail, try to soak it or apply a warm compress. Apply Neosporin a few times a day. Infections on fingers and toes can actually get pretty nasty, so if it doesn't look like it is improving or there are any red streaks running down the finger or toe, it needs same day medical attention.

For your older children it is lovely to have the treat of a manicure or pedicure at a local salon, but do your due diligence and make sure the you use a place that sterilizes the equipment. Fungal infections acquired from a dirty salon can be a nightmare to get rid of.  It is also worth checking online for a list of non toxic nail polish brands. Three very common ingredients found in many nail polishes are Toluene, Dibutly Phthalate ( DBP) and Formaldehyde. These are carcinogenic and should be avoided. Formaldehyde Resin and Camphor are two other ingredients to avoid. It is worth checking online for a list of non toxic nail polish brands. With more awareness these days, safer nail polish is becoming more widely available.

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