How to Trim Your Newborn’s Nails

The How to Trim Your Newborn’s Nails booklet features illustrations and simple text that explains the right way to cut a baby’s nails. Parents will learn how to clip their newborn’s fingernails and toenails with safety tips and the best way to help them develop healthy habits when caring for their new baby.

Your baby’s nails grow quickly. They’re quick to trim, but you want to get it right. Check out our illustrated guide for the best way to cut a baby’s nails.

No one likes to do it but clipping your baby’s nails is an important part of keeping your baby healthy.

Are you scared of clipping your baby’s teeny-tiny nails? Even though your baby’s nails are softer and more pliable than yours, they still can cause scratches and need trimming regularly.

A baby’s fingernails grow fast, so you may have to trim them weekly or even more frequently. Toenails don’t need cutting quite as often.

Here’s how to do it safely and easily:


What is the best way to cut a baby’s nails?

Use special baby scissors with rounded tips (so you don’t accidentally poke her if she startles while you’re working) or a clipper designed for the purpose — some even have built-in magnifying glasses to help you get a good view.

  • When clipping, hold your baby’s finger, pressing the fingertip pad down and away from the nail.
  • Gently snip following the natural curve of the fingernail, taking care that you don’t go too low and nip the quick.
  • When tending her tiny toes, cut nails straight across. Keep in mind that toenails grow more slowly and therefore require less maintenance.

Many parents find it’s easiest to pare nails when the baby is sleeping. Keep a clipper in your diaper bag so you can seize scissoring opportunities whenever they arise — in the stroller, in the car (when someone else is driving!) or at Grandma’s house. Or do the job when you have a helper available — one of you can hold the baby’s hands still (and distract her with a song) while the other clips.

Is it OK to nibble a baby’s nail instead of using scissors?

And while Grandma may suggest you peel or nibble off the tips of baby’s nails, it’s probably not the best idea. Peeling may accidentally take off too much of the nail, while nibbling may transfer your germs to her skin.

Too squeamish to use baby nail scissors or clippers? Try a baby-sized emery board instead.

What should I do if I cut my baby’s finger while trimming her nails?

Though you’ll feel awful, try not to worry if you do draw blood — it happens to every well-intentioned parent/manicurist! Just don’t apply a bandage to the area (if it comes detached, it could pose a choking hazard). Instead, apply gentle pressure with a clean, lint-free cloth or gauze pad, and the bleeding will soon stop.

How To Cut Baby Nails When They Wont Let You

It can be a scary proposition, but one you’ll need to undertake sooner rather than later: Clipping your baby’s itty-bitty nails.

Just like the rest of her, your baby’s nails have been growing since before she was born so she may well be ready for a manicure in her first week of life (and every two or three days during the first three weeks until the nails harden and stop growing so fast!).

Wielding scissors anywhere near your darling’s tiny fingers can be daunting, but it’s an important task. Those overgrown nails may be softer and more pliable than yours, but they can also be sharp enough for your baby to scratch herself, especially around the face. So brace yourself and get trimming.

File them down
Filing your baby’s nails with an emery board is the least difficult, safest way to do it, but it takes more time. And you must be careful not to file the tender skin under the nail bed. Don’t use a metal nail file, which may be too rough for the baby’s skin.

Use a baby nail clipper
Clip your baby’s nails as you would your own, gently pushing back the fingertip from the nail to allow space for the clipper. This helps prevent clipping your baby’s finger. Short little clips above the white nail line will help prevent clipping too close. For toenails, clip straight across. Keep a firm hold on your child’s hand (or foot) as you clip. You can also use scissor-shaped clippers or manicure scissors. Smooth rough edges with an emery board.

Clip while baby sleeps
Wait until your baby is sleeping to clip her nails. If you’re lucky, she will sleep right through it. And she won’t wiggle and squirm. Even if you’re clipping while the baby sleeps, make sure you have adequate light for the task.

Distract and relax
If you choose to trim your baby’s nails while she’s awake, try to distract her. When newborns are alert, they tend to clench their fists, tightening the gap between the fingertip and nail, which makes the process more difficult. Make sure you and your baby are as relaxed as possible. A good time is right after the baby’s bath, when she’s relaxed and her nails are soft. If your baby tenses up, take a break and give her a chance to calm down. Singing a favourite song may help.

If you still don’t have the courage (or the time) to clip your little one’s nails, here are some alternatives:

Seek help
Ask a more seasoned parent to show you how they do it. Maybe this is a task for a grandparent or favourite aunt or uncle. A regular sitter or nanny also may be willing to do it. If you decide to do it yourself, you may want to ask your partner or a friend to hold your baby and keep her from wiggling too much while you work or to distract her while you do the clipping.

Put on the mittens
If baby’s nails seem particularly sharp and you just can’t clip them right now, put mittens on your baby’s hands to prevent scratching, especially while she sleeps.

Some parents bite their baby’s nails, but this is not recommended because it can introduce germs and leave baby’s nails ragged, plus it’s easy to bite into baby’s soft flesh.

If the worst happens and you do nick a finger or toe, don’t fret. Just rinse the cut with cool water and cover the cut with sterile gauze or cloth. Apply a little pressure and hold it briefly. The bleeding usually stops quickly. You can apply some antibiotic cream, but avoid bandages, which could cause your baby to choke.

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