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Nails, Nails, Everywhere!

Did you know that fingernails grow an estimated 0.1 mm each day and that they grow faster in young people, in males, and in the summertime? Well, neither did we, until we looked it up, but that is apparently the case, and it certainly doesn't surprise us. While that may not seem like much on the surface, let us assure you that it will keep you busy. Keeping up with your newborn’s nails as they continuously grow can be a very demanding task. As far as we’re concerned, the real purpose baby nails serve is to break you into parenthood. They will likely require trimming or filing at least once a week because long nails on the hands of newborns with little to no control of them predictably result in stray scratches. If you happen to fall behind on your nail clipping, your baby will inevitably remind you (and make you feel guilty) by scratching his face when his nails get too long (or if you leave sharp corners or points when clipping).

The Baby Manicure-Pedicure

A handful of parents are intimidated by the prospect of having to cut their baby’s nails and would probably opt for a professional manicure-pedicure if only they were generally available. No such luck. If you’re lucky, your hospital nurse will be able to help demonstrate the correct technique, but some hospitals actually discourage their personnel from doing so, we can only presume because any unintentional injury may be a liability problem. And while we aren’t exactly recommending it (or admitting to doing it ourselves), we’re well aware of the fact that some parents opt to bite or peel off their newborn’s nails rather than fiddle with clippers or scissors. Because clippers and scissors can trim nails in a more controlled fashion, you’ll be better off using one or the other (or both), or simply using a nail file to keep things under control.

For best results, trim or file your baby’s nails when she’s asleep and her hands are less of a moving target.

Push down on the fingertip skin so you can get the clipper or scissors around both sides of the nail and avoid cutting your baby’s finger (or toe).

Then, just as a professional manicurist would, finish off any sharp or rough edges with an emery board and…

Voila! Not so bad after all once you get the hang of it.

Laura A. Jana, MD, FAAP and Jennifer Shu, MD, FAAP
Last Updated
Heading Home With Your Newborn, 2nd Edition (Copyright © 2010 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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