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On Call: Cutting Little Nails

Q. Do you have any tips for trimming my baby's nails? They're so tiny, I'm worried that I'll slice her finger off instead!

A.
I can totally relate. On my first attempt to cut my first child's nails, I actually did cut her finger! Michaela was fine, but I was so traumatized that nail cutting became my husband's job for years. After watching him, and learning from moms in my practice, I got my nerve back. Some tricks I picked up:

File with an emery board instead of cutting if the nail isn't very long, or if it's more sharp than long.

Use a nail clipper designed for babies. The regular ones are harder to manage (and actually do look big enough to take off a baby's finger).

Do it upside down. With the nail up, facing you, you can't quite see what the bottom edge of the clipper is grabbing (that's how I cut my daughter's finger). Instead, flip her hand over so her nails are facing down. Then, with the hand that isn't holding the clipper, gently push the pad of each finger back as you trim. That way you can actually see where you're cutting.

Try a nibble instead. I got this one from moms in my practice. All you nail-biters can now put your skills to good use! (If you've heard that this could cause infection, know that the risk is tiny  -- even smaller than if you cut the skin with a clipper!  -- and worth it if nothing else works.)

Distract 'em. Put on a favorite show or video, hold your child on your lap, and cut away. She'll hardly even notice what you're doing.

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