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How to Clip Your Baby's Fingernails: Are You Doing It Right?

Meagan is a mother to two young children, a freelance writer, and a waitress. She has spent countless hours trying to stretch a dollar.

Trimming your baby's nails won't be nearly as stressful once you learn how to do it correctly.

Trimming your baby's nails won't be nearly as stressful once you learn how to do it correctly.

We watch in amazement as our newborns wrap their tiny fingers around our much bigger ones, and we never imagine that those same little fingers could be a potential danger. But when not cared for properly, their fingernails do pose a threat. It’s okay to be nervous—most new parents are—but the tips and tricks below can help calm those fears, and teach you how to trim your infant's fingernails correctly.

When Should I Start Cutting My Newborn's Fingernails?

It’s important to start clipping your infant's fingernails as soon as they are long enough to scratch your baby’s delicate skin. Many parents put it off because they’re afraid they might hurt their child, but waiting could hurt them more. Besides the risk of scratching themselves, not cutting their nails could lead to a very painful ingrown fingernail.

How Often Should I Trim My Baby’s Fingernails?

How often you have to trim your infant's nails depends on how quickly they grow. Most parents have to trim their child’s nails every 1-2 weeks, but a newborn's nails may grow more quickly. You shouldn’t have to cut their toenails unless they become problematic, because they do not grow as fast.


How to Cut Your Newborn's Fingernails

The most common way to trim fingernails is with nail clippers, and they make clippers especially for babies. It’s recommended to use a pair of clippers designed especially for infants because they're less dangerous. Using a pair made for adults could result in a nasty cut.

How To Cut Your Infant's Nails

  1. Hold your child’s finger firmly in your hand. Ask someone for help if you cannot hold the hand and work the clippers effectively by yourself.
  2. Gently pull the finger pad away from the top of the nail.
  3. Position the clippers so that you’re only cutting a tiny amount of the nail, and make sure you won’t pinch any skin in the process.
  4. Clip the nail.
  5. Repeat steps until nails are short enough to not scratch your baby.

If the thought of clipping your infant's nails makes you uncomfortable, you can file them down instead. This method is safer. but takes a little longer so a younger child may get impatient. Use an emery board to gently file while being careful to avoid the delicate skin under the nail. Do not use a metal nail file because they're too harsh for a newborn's fingernails.

Tips for Clipping an Infant's Fingernails

Relax: if you’re tense, your baby will be too, and when a baby is tense they tend to clench their fists. This will make cutting their nails much more difficult.

Sleeping: if you can, try to clip their nails while they are asleep. This way you can manipulate their fingers more easily.

Bath time: after a bath is the best time to clip their nails because they will be at their softest and most pliable.


What Should I Do if I Cut My Baby’s Finger When Clipping Their Nails?

Listen, it happens, and it won’t be the end of the world, but you should take some precautions after you cut your baby’s finger. Apply pressure to the nick until you notice the bleeding has stopped. Neosporin or another ointment can help it from becoming infected but you should avoid band-aids because of the potential choking hazard.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2018 Meagan Ireland


Larry W Fish from Raleigh on April 28, 2018:

I haven't clipped my baby's fingernails in nearly 45 years. I can't even remember back that far. I hope they were clipped right.