Babies are born with nails that are thin and soft, but they are, however, capable of scratching. Scratches are an inevitable occurrence as babies touch their faces, both while they are awake and exploring and while they are asleep and moving their hands. In some cases, the scratching is exacerbated by eczema or dry skin. The best way to prevent scratching is to keep a baby's nails trimmed, but there are other precautions you can take.
Cutting Baby's Nails
Wait for your baby to feed or to be in a deep, limp-limbed sleep to make trimming his nails easier. At these times, he will be less likely to squirm and get nicked by the clippers.
Press baby's fingertip pad away from the nail gently to allow easier access to the nail tip.
Trim each nail with baby nail clippers. Cut with the natural curve of the nail and avoid cutting down into the quick. Do not trim down the sides of nails, as this may lead to infection. Babys' nails grow quickly and may need to be trimmed twice a week.
Other Prevention Options
Put cotton baby mittens on your baby's hands while he is sleeping and more likely to scratch. Do not leave the mittens on all day, however, because babies need to be able to explore and touch things to learn about their environment.
Swaddle your baby in a thin blanket so he is unable to reach his face with his hands. Do not allow the blanket to cover his face or neck. Keep the blanket loose around the hip area, and, if your baby appears flushed, remove the blanket to prevent overheating. Do not swaddle after 2 months because your baby will be able to roll and should only sleep on his back while swaddled.
Wash your baby's face daily, using warm water and fragrance-free soaps. Moisturize as well if his skin seems dry.
File nails with an emery board rather than clipping, or use the board to clean up jagged nail edges.
Items you will need
- Baby nail clippers
- Cotton mittens
- Thin blanket
- Emery board
- If the scratching is excessive and is accompanied by a rash, have your pediatrician check your baby for eczema.
- If you do nick your baby's finger while trimming his nails, dab antibiotic ointment on the cut and apply pressure with a tissue.
- The BabyCentre advises using mittens rather than trimming nails for the first month.
- HealthyChildren.org: Swaddling: Is it Safe?
- BabyCenter: Is It Normal for My Baby to Scratch Himself With His Fingernails?
- Today's Parent: When Will My Newborn Stop Scratching His Head?
- BabyCentre: How to Trim Your Baby's Nails
- NHS Choices: Eczema: 7 Tips to Stop the Itch
- Ask Dr. Sears: Cutting Baby's Fingernails
- HealthyChildren.org: Nails, Nails, Everywhere!
- HealthyChildren.org: How Your Newborn Looks
- Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images