Easily trim your baby's fingernails and toenails

Published by 
Jess Miller
Last updated: 
February 16, 2017
baby child father fingers

There is no denying that your baby is the softest, cuddliest thing in existence. Well, except for one part that is.

Look at the tips of your baby’s fingers and tell me what you see.

Fingernails.

They look harmless enough…

But once they start to grow, your baby’s inner Edward Scissor Hands will make an appearance.

While your baby’s fingernails might look like this…

baby fingernails

Yep, it turns out you gave birth to a toothless T-rex. Now there’s a scary thought.

Baby face on dinosaur body with sharp claws

Those sharp claws can tear through flesh with the greatest of ease…

Okay, maybe I shouldn’t have binge watched all the Jarassic Park movies before I wrote this.

You get the point. Your baby’s fingernails and toe nails are sharp!

Now on it’s own this wouldn’t be an issue. But the thing to remember here is that your newborn baby cannot yet control his arms and legs.

Let’s face it, your baby will be spending a good amount of time in your personal space.

And these randomly flailing limbs, combined with your baby’s razor sharp nails, can easily scratch your face, neck or chest if you get too close – leaving you looking like a meth addict.

Or worse…

Your baby could scratch himself!

To avoid this, you are going to want to keep your baby nails short and smooth.

Cutting your baby’s nails for the first time can be a anxiety inducing experience.

But you have nothing to fear. If you do it right, trimming your baby’s nails is quick and easy.

And today, I am going to show you how to do just that.

Contents

  1. Before you cut your baby’s nails…
  2. Nail cutting basics
  3. How to cut your baby’s nails with a nail file
  4. How to cut your baby’s nails with nail clippers
  5. How to cut your baby’s nails with nail scissors
  6. Baby nail cutting FAQ

Before you begin trimming your baby’s nails…

Before you get started, there are a couple of things you can do to make trimming your baby’s finger nails a much easier job.

Getting your baby ready to for nail trimming time

Now I don’t know about you, but if there is one thing my baby loves to do; it’s wiggle and squirm. And that is doubly true when it’s time to trim his nails. He turns into the biggest wiggle monster around.

If your baby is the same then you might have to get a little creative to keep your baby still while you cut his nails. After all, you don’t want to slip and cut your baby’s delicate fingers.

Let’s take a look at three fantastic methods to keep your baby still, allowing you to quickly and easily cut his nails.

1. The Sleep Sneak Attack

baby laying on pink bed

It is always easier to be productive while your baby is asleep. The same is true of clipping your baby’s nails.

Wait until your baby is in a deep sleep. You will be able to recognize this because your baby’s limbs will dangle limply and his hands are open wide. In this state, your baby should hardly move if you touch him.1

While your baby is deeply snoozing hold his fingers with one hand while holding your clippers, scissors or nail file in the other.

It is important that you always hold the your baby where you are cutting, just in case your baby jerks in his sleep.

If this is your go to nail trimming method then two nail clippers are better than one. Keep a nail clipper at home and a second in your diaper bag. This way you will be able to trim your baby’s nails whenever he falls asleep – in the stroller, in his carseat or even at Grandmas house!

For my first baby, this was my nail clipping solution of choice. But my second baby was a light sleeper, and would wake up crying the moment I attempted to cut his nails. If your baby is also a light sleeper, there are two more tricks you can use to keep your baby behaved while you trim his nails

2. Look over there!

smilling toddler holding balloon

Babies are easily fixated on objects that capture their attention. And when this happens, you can use it to your advantage, trimming your baby’s nails while he is distracted.

Nail clipping is one of the rare times I let my baby watch TV, because when he watches the TV he remains dead still, allowing me to easily trim his fingernails. Once the deed is done, the TV goes off. If I am in a different room I just let him play with my iPad.

If you are anti-TV, there are other ways you can distract your baby. Another good distraction is food. Simply cut your baby’s fingernails during meal time, while baby is happily eating in his highchair or nursing. Alternatively, you can capture your baby’s attention with his favorite toy!

3. The submission hold

baby hoding persons fingers

This is the last technique to try when all other methods have failed. Because chances are, your baby isn’t going to like it.

Lay your baby on the floor and kneel beside him. Now you gently hold the arm or leg you are going to trim between your legs, to prevent it from moving. Then you trim away.

You can also bring in the reinforcements. Your husband can hold your baby still while cut your baby’s nails to length.

Remember, hold your baby firm, but not so firm it hurts! This isn’t WWE wrestling!

Baby nail cutting basics

Cutting baby fingernails with nail scissors

Before we look at using individual nail care tools, I'll quickly cover how to best approach cutting your baby's nails.

Light it up!

If you can’t see what you are doing, you risk cutting your baby’s fingers. It is for this reason that you should always cut your baby’s nails in a bright, well-lit area.

Make it fun!

Your baby is a curious critter. If it is your first time cutting your baby’s nails, your baby will likely be very interested in your nail clippers or scissors.

Show him how they work by opening and closing the nail clippers. You can even pretend to cut your own nails with them, with a big smile on your face.

Show your baby that nail clipping is nothing to be afraid of.

Take your time!

Yes, trimming your baby’s nails is yet another chore to add to your ever-growing list. And because of this, you might find yourself rushing so that you can move on to the next task.

But hastily cutting your baby’s nails can leave him with jagged edges that were sharper than before, or worse, you could cut his finger tip.

Take a deep breath and do it properly. Patience is the key to success.

Cutting baby finger nails

Cutting baby fingernails with nail scissors

Your baby's fingernails are the trickiest. Whether you use a miniature nail clipper or baby nail scissors, the correct technique and a steady hand is a must so that you don’t nick your baby’s finger tip.

And the trick is to push down on the finger pad, away from the nail as you cut.

Be sure to cut to the curve of the nail.

Whether you are using baby nail scissors or nail clippers, this will take practice. At first, you will likely need to have your partner hold your baby’s hand, to hold it steady for you. Then you simply press down on the nail pad with one hand and clip the nails with your other.

Cutting baby toenails

cutting baby toenails with nail scissors

Unlike fingernails, that can be cut curved, you want to cut your baby’s toenails straight across, leaving them with a flat finish.

Doing so will train the toenails to grow straight, reducing the chance of ingrown toenails. While ingrown toenails are less common on babies, you want practice good baby nail care from the beginning.

It is also important that you don’t cut your baby’s toenails too short. Doing so can also put your baby at risk of ingrown toenails. Try to cut your baby's toenails so that the nail is in line with the toe.

Your baby’s toenails will grow slower than his fingernails, so you will need to cut them less frequently.

1. How to cut your baby’s nails with a nail file

While your baby’s fingernails are still soft, it takes little effort to grind them down with a with a nail file.

The biggest advantage of a nail file it eliminates the risk of cutting your baby’s delicate little fingers. If you have anxiety about cutting your precious baby’s fingers, nail files are the best solution.

Step 1 – Grab your baby nail file

Grab a baby-friendly nail file. Because your baby’s fingers are petite, you will likely want to use a smaller sized emery board or glass nail file with a rounded edge.

My personal favorite is the Giraffe Baby Blue Nail File, which outperformed all the other baby nail files that we tested.

Note – Avoid metal nail files, these can split your baby’s delicate nails or leave a rough finish.

Step 2 – Hold your baby’s hand

Hold your nail file in your dominant hand while keeping your baby’s fingers steady with your free hand.

Step 3 - Start filing

Using even strokes, file your baby’s finger nails from the outwards in, from each side. Keep going until your baby’s fingernails are filed down.

How to cut your baby’s nails with a nail clipper

Baby nail clippers allow you to easily cut your baby’s nails to length. However, because you will need to make two or three cuts per nail, nail clippers do not cut as smoothly as other baby nail tools.

Step 1 – Grab your baby nail clippers

The right nail clippers for you will be easy to hold and the blades should be sharp enough that they slice right through your baby’s nail, rather than squash it.

Step 2 – Hold your baby’s hand

Hold your nail clippers in your dominant hand while keeping your baby’s fingers steady with your free hand.

Step 3 – clip it

Start cutting from one side of the nail. Clip the nail then reposition your clippers to remove the remaining nail. It may take two or even three clips before the whole nail is removed. Repeat for remaining nails

Pay special attention that you are not clipping the nails too short.

3. How to cut your baby’s nails with a nail scissors

Out of all the baby nail trimming tools, nail scissors allow you to be the most accurate, slicing off the whole nail in a single cut - leaving your baby’s nails smoothly finished.

You won’t need to file your baby’s nails after using a sharp pair of baby nail scissors. However, they do need a steady hand, since the exposed blade is a slicing risk.

Personally, I find nail scissors to be the best solution for cutting my baby’s nails since they give the most control.

Step 1 – Grab your baby nail scissors

Choose yourself a good pair of nail scissors. The blades should have rounded ends so you don’t stab your baby.

While it may be tempting to choose a cheap pair, buying premium pair of baby nail scissors will reward you with blades that stay sharp, which makes cutting your baby’s fingernails much easier, even when they harden.

My personal favorite are the Piyo Piyo baby nail scissors. Although if you have the extra cash to spare, the Swiss made Rubis Baby Nail Scissors are of such high quality they would last a lifetime and perfectly curved blades make precise cutting incredibly easy.

Step 2 – Hold your baby’s hand

Hold the nail scissors in your dominate hand. Hold your baby’s fingers steady with your free hand.

Step 3 – Snip it

Start cutting from one side of the nail, keep cutting until you remove the finger nail in a single piece. Repeat for the remaining nails.

Baby Nail Cutting FAQs

Before I wrap up the article, I will quickly cover some of the most common questions when it comes to cutting your baby's nails.

When can I start cutting my baby’s nails?

Some babies are actually born with long fingernails.2If this is the case you will need to trim your baby’s nails the moment you bring your new baby home from the hospital.

Even if your infant doesn’t yet have long fingernails, chances are he will soon. After all, your baby’s fingernails grow 0.1 mm each day.3 It might not seem like much, but it’s enough to require you cut your baby’s fingernails multiple times a week.

Many parents begin trimming your baby’s nails the moment they come home from the hospital.

If you don’t feel confident enough to cut your newborn baby’s nails just yet you can put mittens or socks over his hands, so that he doesn’t scratch himself. Alternatively you can keep your baby swaddled or wrapped up, stopping him from putting his long nails near his face.

How often should you cut your baby’s nails?

As often as you need to keep your baby from scratching himself and you. Fingernails will likely need to be cut multiple times a week while slower growing toenails might only need trimming once every two weeks.

If the nails can scratch you - cut or file them.

Can you peel your baby’s nails?

In the early days, your baby’s nails are soft. So soft that you can actually tear them with your fingers.

And if you have been speaking to grandma, she may have suggested that you peel or nibble your baby’s nails to keep them short.

To hit the point home she probably even said ”Back in my day, we didn’t have any of these fancy baby nail care products. And we didn’t need ‘em.”

But when you peel off your baby’s nail, you don’t have a lot of control over how the nail tears, and you can rip off too much of your baby’s nail.

And as for chewing on your baby’s fingernails, gross! Not only can you pass germs onto your baby’s fingers, but you also get a good mouthful of whatever gunk is hiding under your baby’s nails. And besides, you know that biting fingernails is a disgusting habit!

When it comes to trimming your baby’s nails, stick to baby nail care scissors, clippers or file.

How to soften your baby’s nails

baby holding finger

As I mentioned above, your baby’s finger nails start out incredibly soft. But over time they will harden, until they are eventually as tough as your own nails.

When this happens, you may have difficulty cutting your baby’s nails, especially if your nail clippers or scissors are blunt.

If you find yourself having difficulty cutting through your baby’s thick nails, give your baby a wash in the tub.

A quick soak in the bath is all it takes to soften up your baby’s nails. Just be sure to clip them straight after the bath, before they get a chance to dry and harden again.

What happens if I cut my baby’s finger tip?

Despite taking all the care in the world, accidents do happen. If you accidentally draw blood while giving your baby a manicure, then don’t stress. It happens to a lot of parents.

Simply rinse the cut under cool water. Then apply pressure to the cut with a clean cloth or gauze pad. Keep applying pressure until the bleeding stops, which typically only takes a few minutes.5

While it may be tempting, avoid putting a bandage on your baby’s finger once the cut has stopped bleeding. The reason for this is that when your baby sucks his fingers, the bandage can come loose – a choking hazard waiting to happen.

Same is true of liquid bandages. Your baby will just suck it off.

If your baby’s wound doesn’t stop bleeding, you should see your baby’s doctor.

And there you have it, all the different ways to keep your baby’s nails short.

Do you have any baby nail trimming wisdom you want to share? Let me know in the comments below!

Our Purpose

Simple: To write awesome guides. Kids don’t come with instructions. We are not afraid to dive right in and get messy. The result? The most detailed guides on the internet; from gear guides to parenting advice.
Copyright © 2022 parent.guide All Rights Reserved