How To Cut Baby’s Nails: The When, Why & How To Do It Safely

When you transform from childless adult to new parent, you enter a world brimming with fears you never even knew existed. One of the fears all new parents face – unless you have the hand-eye coordination of a heart surgeon – is cutting your baby’s nails.

Why? Because they’re nearly invisible, almost as thin as paper, and can cause as much damage as the claws of a wildcat if left untrimmed.

Parent cutting their baby's nails with a baby nail clipper

In all seriousness, though, don’t underestimate the damage that baby nails can do. Not keeping your newborn baby’s fingernails short can lead to them scratching their face and experiencing excruciating pain because of it.

Couple this with the fact that babies don’t have much control over their arms in the first few months in life, and you’ll see how easily dangerous of a situation this can become. As a matter of fact, your baby has very little control over anything their arms and legs do until they’re at least 6 weeks of age.

It’s imperative to keep your newborn’s nails short from infancy forward, and the first thing you need for doing just that are the right tools, a positive attitude and proper guidance to walk you through it step by step.

Here’s a detailed how-to guide for cutting those teeny-tiny nails, so you don’t have to do any guesswork.

When Should I Start Cutting My Baby’s Nails?

From day 1. Nails grow in the womb at around 11-12 weeks, which is why lots of babies are born with long nails. Depending on your baby, you may need to start cutting your little one’s nails the day they’re born, or at least pay attention and get tips from the children’s hospital nurse on what you need to do.

Leaving your baby with untrimmed nails can easily cause skin infections because of all the scratching, not to mention the scary dangers associated with eye scratching!

They might even hurt you – even though it’s unintentionally – while you’re holding or feeding them.

How Often Should I Cut My Baby’s Nails?

A baby’s fingernails and toenails grow very fast in the first few weeks of their life, which means you may be trimming your baby’s nails up to a couple times a week.

As for the toenails? You’ll have to trim them as well, just not as often, as the nails on their little feet tend to grow slower than the ones on their hands. Generally speaking, toenails should be trimmed a couple of times a month.

Tips To Help You Become A Baby Nail Cutting Pro

Sage advice on the perfect time to cut your newborn’s nails, because babies aren’t programmed to stay still just because you say so …

The following is a list that discusses some of the most effective tips that’ll help you become a baby nail cutting pro.

Sleep Time

When baby is asleep, they’ll resist a lot less.

If you’ve tried to cut their nails a couple of times while baby is in their crib, bassinet or sleeping next to you and it’s still not working to your advantage, try it while they’re fastened and sleeping in the car seat.

Baby’s body movement is limited while strapped in their car seat, so you may find it to be much easier.

Bath Time

Your little one’s nails get soft and easier to cut once they’ve been submerged in water for a few minutes.

Nursing

Baby’s one priority while nursing is to feed, which usually means that their hands are in a relaxed position.

Ask Your Pediatrician

If you’ve tried to cut the nails before but ended up accidentally cutting baby’s skin and are now totally freaked out at just the thought of having to give this another try, call in some backup by asking your pediatrician for help.

Most of them will do it for you if you want them to, and will lend you a helping hand in giving you the knowledge and confidence to do it yourself at home.

Give the Job to Someone Else

If all else fails and you’re ready to throw in the towel, ask Grandma or your spouse/partner in this parenting adventure to help out with this chore.

Or, you could just hire a sitter or nanny to take care of this for you.

Watch and learn from the expert until you’re comfortable trying it yourself. There might be a bit of a learning curve to it at first, but you know what they say: practice makes perfect!

What’s The Best Way To Cut My Baby’s Nails?

When it comes to cutting nails, this isn’t the time to reinvent the wheel. Stick to the tried and true method that’s been proven to work throughout all these years.

Step 1: Take a deep breath, you can do it! Stay calm and believe in yourself going into this. You’re much more likely to mess something up when you’re too stressed out about this.

Step 2: Choose a well-lit area, even if the nail clipper you’re using at the time has a built-in light or magnifier. Good, natural lighting goes a long way, and trust me when I say this, you need plenty of light to cut your baby’s nail accurately and not cause any injuries!

Step 3: With your non-dominant hand, hold your baby’s hand in your palm and hold their finger steady, applying slight pressure at the bed of the nail to ensure the finger will stay steady even if they try to pull away.

Step 4: With your dominant hand, hold the baby nail clippers or nail scissors and place so that it’s deep enough to trim the nail but not deep enough to cause bleeding.

Step 5: Trim your baby’s nails and the edges on both the fingers and toes!

What Should I Avoid Doing When Cutting My Baby’s Nails?

Now that you know all the steps there are to successfully cutting your baby’s nails, let’s go over some of the most important mistakes you should NOT be making!

Biting Off

I know, I know … it’s really tempting to gently bite off your newborn’s nails (as we’re all guilty of doing ours oftentimes), but that’s a terrible idea.

Yes, it might save you on quite a bit of time and a ton of effort, but you really run the risk of giving your baby a bacterial or viral infection because of all the germs you introduce in the process.

Any germs introduced from your mouth into any cut their finger might sustain, and it all goes downhill from there.

Plus, have you ever had a good look at your newborn baby’s fingers? See how tiny these things are compared to your teeth? How on earth will anyone be able to bite just the nail off to begin with and not bite into the flesh?

Tearing Off

Ever tried to tear off your own toenail or fingernail just because you felt confident enough that it’ll all go well? How’d that go? Most of the times, it doesn’t go as planned …

Don’t try tearing your baby’s toenail or fingernail off because it’s way too easy to tear it too short. Not only can this cause immense pain (and non-stop bleeding) to your baby, it can also lead to an ingrown toenail or fingernail that runs the risk of getting infected.

What Items Do I Need To Cut My Baby’s Nails?

To make all of this as much of a success as possible, and minimize (if not completely eliminate) the chances of screw ups that you unfortunately can’t un-do, here are the items you’ll need.

Baby Nail Clippers

Grab yourself some of the best baby nail clippers that money can buy – trust me, you’ll thank yourself for doing so later.

This is the easiest way to go about getting your baby’s nails trimmed. It’s what we’re all used to using when cutting our own nails, so we’re pretty accustomed to the process even if it’s the first time we’re trying this on a baby.

Nail Scissors

If for any reason you don’t want to use baby nail clippers, you can use a pair of nail scissors instead. Just make sure they’re baby nail scissors, since that makes the whole process much easier for you and minimizes finger cutting risks.

Some parents prefer using baby scissors instead of baby nail clippers because of the extra control they feel it gives them.

But, be aware that you’re more likely to cut your baby’s finger using a pair of nail scissors than you are using baby nail clippers. This is one of the main reasons why you might prefer clipping your baby’s nails.

What Should I Do If I Cut My Baby And They Bleed?

Rule number one: Don’t panic!

Panicking will only make you more stressed out than you already are, and less able to put 2 and 2 together to figure out what you need to do to stop the bleeding in sanitary conditions. Plus, if you freak out, you can expect your baby to do just the same.

Truth be told, most of us can say we’ve been there, done that. When trying this out without much prior experience, the majority of parents have cut too deep and caused their baby to bleed at least once.

If (or when) that happens with your baby, wash the cut with water and soap, and apply pressure on it with a clean cloth or gauze. The bleeding should stop after a couple of minutes. If the bleeding doesn’t stop by then, call your pediatrician and seek medical attention.

Whatever you do, avoid putting a bandage on your baby’s finger. I know that putting a bandage on the bleeding area sounds like the most logical thing to do, but it’s not a good idea. Your baby will put their finger in their mouth again, and they could choke on the bandage when it eventually comes off.

Rule number two? Don’t beat yourself up about it. Again, the majority of us have messed up like this at least once – it happens!

Wrapping It Up

Like everything in life, practice makes perfect.

Use your baby’s personality to your advantage. Take a few stabs (no pun intended) at different environments that work for you and baby and stick to the one where they feel most comfortable.

For example, if your baby isn’t a deep sleeper, then cutting their nails while asleep may not be the perfect fit since you risk waking them up and losing sleep yourself. In this case, try getting this done during bath time, or try distracting baby with their favorite show while strapping them in their bouncer or highchair.

Also accept the fact that there’s a learning curve to all of this, which is completely normal. The more wins you have, the more comfortable you’ll feel with the process.

Approach the inevitability of cutting baby’s nails as your forced introduction to parenthood. A few weeks or months from now, you’ll look back with a smirk thinking that it was ever a fear of yours to begin with.

And remember, the key is to make baby feel relaxed. After all, don’t you like to feel relaxed during your Mani-Pedi?

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