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Should you paint your baby’s fingernails?

Monica Beyer is a mom of four and has been writing professionally since 2000, when her first book, Baby Talk, was published. Her main area of interest is attachment parenting and all that goes with it, including breastfeeding, co-sleepin...

Fashionable fingers and toes for Baby

If you have a baby, you may be thinking about painting her (or his) nails. Is it a good idea, or should you wait until your baby is older?

Fashionable fingers and toes for Baby

If you have a baby, you may be thinking about painting her (or his) nails. Is it a good idea, or should you wait until your baby is older?

Baby girl with painted toenails

Painting your baby’s nails may sound really cute and appealing, but have you considered exactly what you’ll be putting on your child’s fingernails? Fingernail polish is pretty, but it’s also generally full of chemicals. If you’re thinking about painting your tot’s fingers or toes, you might want to consider a few things first.

Avoid the chemicals

Many popular brands of nail polish have really cleaned up their act, and quite a few are labeled as being 3-free. What does this mean? Polishes that are 3-free are free from dibutyl phthalate (DBP), formaldehyde or toluene. Many of the more expensive brands, such as Butter London and Zoya, are free from these chemicals, but even inexpensive brands, such as Sinful Colors and Wet ‘n’ Wild are [3-free] as well.

However, this isn’t good enough for all moms, who really want to reduce the amount of chemicals their baby comes into contact with. Brands like Piggy Paint (Piggy Paint, $9/bottle) produce nail polish that is non-toxic and low odor, which really helps reassure moms about the chemicals on their baby’s hands and feet. This is what prompts Aubrey, a mom of two, to avoid regular polish. “It's very obvious when you can put regular nail polish on a Styrofoam plate and it eats right through it,” she told us. “The Piggy Paint is water-based, as opposed to solvent-based, and sits on top of the Styrofoam. Anything that eats through three plates cannot be good for my little girl to put in her mouth.”

You can also consult the Environmental Working Group’s online database for chemical content in nail polish (and the rest of your cosmetics while you’re at it). The lower the number is, the more benign the ingredients, and it can be helpful as you explore nail polish for you and your little one.

Other considerations

If you want to keep nail polish away from your baby’s mouth, try painting her toes only. Of course, this doesn’t mean that her toenails will never come into contact with her mouth, but it's less likely she'll chew on her toes than on her fingers. You could wait until your baby was a bit older, too, and not putting her hands and feet in her mouth all the time, but even toddlers are known to stick their hands in their mouths.

You will also need to think about your own nail polish habits. If your nails are painted, do you want to run the risk of a fleck of polish coming off in your babe’s tender mouth as she chews on your finger? Some moms even avoid painting their nails altogether when their baby is small, or they decide to choose a non-toxic variety the first six months or so of their baby's life. The odor of the paint itself is another thing to consider. When you paint your own nails, make sure the area is well ventilated and your baby is in another part of the house.

Polish isn’t reserved just for girls, either, and often moms of twins will “color code” their baby's toenails in the early days to help tell their twins apart. Whether you choose a non-toxic variety or carefully choose a regular polish, these tips will help guide you as you brush polish on your baby’s fingernails or toenails. And no matter your choice, your baby will be as cute as can be.

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