How to Cut a Preemie's Nails

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A premature baby is a baby born before 37 weeks gestation. Because the baby did not complete development and important growth in the womb, a preemie usually needs to continue developing in a neonatal intensive care unit of the hospital. Once your premature baby grows to full term, you may need to trim her tiny fingernails to prevent painful scratches.

Things You'll Need

  • Emery board or fine nail file
  • Infant nail clippers
  • Examine your preemie’s fingers and fingernails carefully to determine whether they need trimming. Remember, your infant’s skin is likely thinner, more fragile and could also appear shiny, as compared to a full term baby’s skin, according to “The Premature Baby Book.”

  • Wait to trim your baby’s fingernails until they grow out to the ends of the fingers. A preemie’s fingernails may take weeks or months to grow and probably won't need trimming until the baby reaches full maturity.

  • Hold your baby’s hand in your fingers and press gently on the underside of one finger to separate the skin from the fingernail, advises the University of Utah Health Care website. This gentle manipulation should separate the fragile skin from the fingernail, lessening the chance that you will accidently injure your infant.

  • File the baby’s fingernail gently with the emery board or nail file if the fingernail is just slightly jagged or long. If the baby’s fingernail is long enough to cut, position the infant nail clipper so the clipping blades are centered over the fingernail. When you are certain you have the clipper positioned correctly, snip the nail carefully. Continue working until you trim the entire fingernail evenly.

  • Repeat the same process with each fingernail to trim all your baby’s fingernails.

  • Clean up any uneven edges with the emery board or nail file. Avoid leaving sharp edges on the fingernails because baby may scratch her face.

Tips & Warnings

  • Choose a time when your baby is relaxed or sleeping to cut and file her nails.
  • If you are concerned about the fragility of your preemie’s fingernails, consult your baby’s care team for guidance in caring for her fingernails.

References

  • Photo Credit Photodisc/Digital Vision/Getty Images
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