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Other Baby Hygiene

Angela Oswalt, MSW

Besides normal bathing and diapering, other infant care includes trimming nails and brushing teeth and gums. A baby's fingernails and toenails grow quickly and need constant care. Trim the baby's fingernails up to twice a week and toenails up to twice a month. To prevent cutting or hurting the skin, only trim the baby's nails when they are sound asleep. Because the nails are so delicate, only use rounded nail scissors to trim each nail in one motion, being careful not to trim too close to the finger itself. Never trim a baby's nails by biting them off. This method puts the baby at a much higher risk of infection.

Good dental hygiene starts even before a baby's first teeth grow in. Wipe down the infant's gums with a gauze-wrapped finger after feedings to remove any food residue and to prevent plaque build-up. This method can be continued to be used as the first few teeth come in. However, when the baby's mouth begins to fill up with teeth, use a baby or toddler-sized toothbrush and a half pea sized bit of toothpaste to clean the teeth and tongue. Parents and caregivers can get toddlers interested in tooth brushing by modeling the positive habit in front of them and use this time as a special bonding time as well. Help toddlers not to be afraid of the dentist by talking them for a visit sometime between their first tooth and their third birthday, when they can go in for a fun, painless checkup.

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