Is it finally time to trim your baby’s nails, but you’re feeling a bit unsure?
Trimming your baby’s nails is probably one of the scariest firsts you’ll experience as a new mother. Handling anything that could potentially cut your little one is no easy task, and the thought of accidentally drawing blood is daunting.
In this guide, we’ll share all the tips and tricks you need to cut your baby’s nails and keep them trim and tidy.
Why Should I Trim My Baby’s Nails?
Your baby’s nails may seem pliable and softer than yours, but they can cause significant damage. Those tiny claws are sharp! If you’ve ever handled a newborn with flailing arms or a 6-month-old trying to grab your lips, you know they hurt.
Unfortunately, young babies don’t have control of where their fingers land. This is due mainly to their lack of muscle control, which doesn’t fully develop until they’re older (1).
Sometimes their fingers end up in vulnerable places, such as their own eyes. For a while, my little one had nothing but tiny scratches near the eye. Even though I would trim her nails at least once a week, it just wasn’t enough.
Baby fingernails grow fast, and by fast, I mean lightning speed, or so it seems (2). Some moms report having to trim their baby’s nails every few days — I had to do the same.
How to Trim Your Baby’s Nails
There are several different tactics for trimming your little one’s nails. The method you use will depend on what makes you and your baby comfortable.
Some moms find it comforting to have their partner assist in the process — one holding the baby and the other trimming the nails. Others may feel it’s easier during feeding time or when their baby is fast asleep.
Before we get into the how-tos, these are some valuable tips we’ve learned through experience and years of helping others in their parenting journeys:
- Find a good position: Sit in the rocker, place your baby in your lap, or lay them on the bed when they’re sleeping. Find a place that works for you.
- Visibility: Don’t try to trim your baby’s nails in a dimly lit room, even if they’re sleeping. Sit by the window or beside a lamp — anything to give you enough light to navigate the process carefully.
- Hold your baby still: The more their hands move, the bigger the chance you’ll accidentally cut their finger. If your baby seems nervous, talk or sing while you work.
- Use an emery board: If there are any rough edges, use an emery board to smooth them out.
- Trim nails after a bath: They’ll be softer and easier to clip.
Clippers are the go-to method for many moms. Perhaps it’s because most of us use them on our own nails. But it’s probably also because they’re less likely to cut a finger off (3).
You can get mini-clippers that are smaller and specifically made for tiny fingernails. Some even have ergonomic handles, making them easier to hold with bigger hands.
A good example is this Safety 1st Steady Grip nail clipper.
However, many moms report that they prefer a wider baby nail clipper since it cuts nails from side to side in one action.
Not every mom is brave enough to use scissors — it does sound intimidating! But many swear by this method — especially when using baby nail scissors with blunt edges.
One of the upsides to scissors is the extra control they give you. You can easily see where you’re cutting.
If you think scissors are for you, we recommend these Simba baby nail scissors.
Using a file is probably the safest way to trim your baby’s nails — you’d have to file pretty hard to draw blood.
Experts recommend using a file or soft emery board if your baby is under one month old. At this age, their nails are soft, and there’s no immediate need for trimming. However, some moms report that a file was useless on their newborn’s soft nails.
But if filing the nails of a squirmy four or five-month-old is the easiest solution for you, take a look at this Baby emery board.
Trimming your baby’s nails is pretty much the same whether you’re using a clipper, scissors, or a file.
Here’s what you do:
- Get a good hold on the finger: Be firm yet gentle; the finger just needs to be kept still.
- Gently push back the fingertip: Use your finger and gently push the fingertip away from the nail (4). This creates some space for your chosen nail-trimming tool.
- Do short, little clips on fingernails: Make these clips just above the white nail line. Going any shorter is not recommended. If you’re using a file, gently file the nail to the same line.
- Clip straight across on toenails: For the toenails, follow the steps above. But when you clip or file, do it straight across to prevent ingrown toenails, not in a curve.
What Not to Do
Even though you have free rein when trimming your baby’s nails, there are two methods you should always avoid.
- Don’t bite your baby’s nails: Staring at your baby’s nails in need of a trim with no tool handy, you might get the urge to bite them off, but please don’t. By biting their nails, you introduce germs from your mouth, which can trigger a viral or bacterial infection. It’s also likely to leave sharp edges behind.
- Don’t tear the nails off: Even if it’s just a tiny section of the nail, don’t be tempted to pull it off — you could cause an ingrown nail by doing this. Ingrown nails are painful and can become infected.
Both methods could easily remove too much of the nail, causing injury to your baby’s finger or toe.
What Should I Do If I Cut the Skin?
Accidents happen. Baby nails are tiny, and babies are squirmy. If you accidentally cut your little one, don’t feel too bad — you’re not alone. We’ve all been there (multiple times!).
Here’s what to do:
- Stay calm: Don’t panic; there’s no need to rush to the emergency room.
- Rinse the finger: Take your baby to the bathroom and rinse the finger under cold, gentle running water. This will stop the bleeding.
- Wrap with a tissue: Wrap the finger with a tissue and apply a little pressure. The bleeding should stop within a few minutes. Remove the tissue after the bleeding stops.
- Don’t put a bandage on: There’s no need for a bandage, and it could become a choking hazard (5).