Paint Baby’s Toenails: A Realistic Tutorial

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Recently, we had the supremely talented Garrett Beatty of Nuro Photography come to our home for a fall photo shoot – our very first professional family photos. (This is not a testimonial, but I’m just saying, this guy is AMAZING.) I thought this would be a great opportunity to paint 10-month-old Sofia’s toenails a bright color, envisioning a closeup shot of sweet, chubby baby toes. I had painted her nails once before, a pale, sheer, almost invisible pink, so I already knew this would be no easy task. Naturally, I turned to the Internet for help, realizing a bright coral would be much more problem-prone than sheer pink. And I have to tell you, the Internet really let me down. Tutorials for baby nail polish application? Barely there. I did find one article in eHow. It included this quote:

“Softly hold baby’s foot in your non-painting hand…Take brush that you prepared and gracefully dab each of the five toe nails. Bend your head down and gently blow on the toes to dry them a bit.”

Gracefully? Those that know me know that there are very few things I do gracefully. Walk down a hallway? Nope. Eat a sandwich? No way. Dance? Definitely not. Is it likely I’m going to GRACEFULLY dab near-permanent color onto the toenails of my squirming little darling? Not at all. Not going to happen.

Since I wasn’t finding much help at eHow, I decided to create my own, more realistic guide, complete with three different approaches. Maybe it will help someone out there.

Approach 1
1. Collect all your materials ahead of time:
*Baby (preferably yours)
*Nail polish – if Baby is a toe-nibbler, take the extra time to find a non- toxic version like Piggy Paint (Sofia isn’t, so I just used my own nail polish)
*Nail drying spray
*Towel or sheet that you don’t mind destroying
*Q-tips
2. Place Baby on towel or sheet.
3. Capture Baby before she reaches for the lamp’s power cord. Replace Baby on towel or sheet.
4. Reposition wiggly Baby on her back, legs toward you, with a fascinating toy in her hands. Wrap your legs gently around her legs so her hands can’t reach her toes.
5. Open bottle of nail polish. Wipe most of the polish off, since those toenails are TINY.
6. Grip Baby’s foot, angling toes toward you. Use your thumb and finger to immobilize the toe you’re aiming for, while your other fingers and your palm wrap around the foot.
7. One toe at a time, carefully but quickly dab polish onto the nail. That toy won’t hold Baby’s attention for long.
8. Sadly observe that the polish smeared from nail to skin, as Baby’s nails are actually smaller than the brush. Remind yourself that she’s having a bath tonight and it should be easy to wipe the nail polish off her damp skin. Use a Q-tip to get off what you can. [I don’t recommend using nail polish remover on a baby’s skin if you can help it…smearing nail polish on is probably bad enough without compounding the problem.]
9. Quickly apply the nail drying spray.
10.Repeat steps 5-7 with the second foot.
11. Realize, aghast, that Baby has somehow managed to smudge polish off three nails from the first foot and onto…oh no!…the carpet, despite all your precautions.

Approach 2
1. Collect materials:
*Baby with partially painted, somewhat smudged toenails
*Nail polish (see above)
*Nail drying spray
*Q-tips
*Cuddly blankie
*Rocking chair
*Feeding mechanism (bottle, breast, etc.)
*Crib
2. Put Baby to sleep using blankie, chair, and feeding.
3. Open nail polish, wiping almost all of the polish off the brush and leaving only a tiny corner of the brush wet.
4. Grip Baby’s foot, angling toes toward you. Use your thumb and finger to immobilize the toe you’re aiming for, while your other fingers and your palm wrap around the foot. [This is still necessary. Babies don’t stop moving just because they’re asleep.]
5. Quickly and carefully dab nail polish onto the smudged nails.
6. Apply the nail drying spray.
7. Hold your breath as sleeping Baby twitches and jerks foot away from the spray.
8. Repeat steps 3-7 with second foot.
9. Place baby in crib. Observe smudges that have already, as if by malevolent magic, appeared on tiny toes.
10. Repeat steps 3-7 with both feet. Tiptoe away, satisfied that you’ve achieved near-perfection.
11. Return when Baby wakes. Examine toes and wail when you discover that three toes on right foot and two toes on left foot have had polish smudged completely off. Consider writing angry letter to nail drying spray manufacturers.

Approach 3
1. Collect materials:
*Hungry, wide-awake baby with several smudged toenails
*High chair
*Finger food
*Nail polish
*Nail drying spray
*Q-tips
2. Place Baby securely in chair. Apply finger food to chair’s tray.
3. Open nail polish, wiping almost all of the polish off the brush and leaving only a tiny corner of the brush wet.
4. Awkwardly hunch forward so as to be level with Baby’s feet. Grab a foot, angling toes toward you. Use your thumb and finger to immobilize the toe you’re aiming for, while your other fingers and your palm wrap around the foot.
5. Quickly and carefully dab nail polish onto the smudged nails.
6. Apply the nail drying spray.
7. Release foot. Yelp with dismay as Baby stretches, pressing toes onto underside of high chair’s tray.
8. Despite burgeoning conviction of doom, repeat steps 3-6 with second foot.
9. Once again, realize that toes have already become smudged. As color still remains, decide that you don’t really want that close-up shot of baby nails after all, and that this is good enough. Glumly eat your own lunch while Baby gleefully kicks freed toes against high chair tray.

And that’s all I’ve got. I think I understand why no one else has ventured to write a paint-Baby’s-nails tutorial…and why eHow’s article isn’t illustrated. It’s because this is an impossible task. I take it all back – ignore the steps above. Refrain from painting your infant’s toenails. Your longsuffering Baby will thank you.

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