How to trim your baby's nails

Published by Baby Bunting on Monday, January 28, 2019

Trimming a baby's nails for the first time can be an anxious moment. Their fingers are so small and precious that you might worry whether you're going to do them more harm than good. But don't stress: with a bit of patience and care you'll soon work out what works best for both of you

What you'll need

  • Good light
  • A nail file (emery board)
  • Baby nail clippers/scissors

1. Timing

As with most things regarding your baby, timing is everything. Pick a time when baby is ideally asleep, or at least very calm.

2. Pick a spot

Nail filing is delicate work, so a well-lit environment works best. Somewhere that you're seated is also perfect since you'll want to be comfortable and steady.

3. Assistance

It can help if you have help! If your baby is offering a bit of resistance, see whether you can get someone to hold them still or occupy them.

4. Hold firmly

Hold their fingers between your thumb and forefinger. Even if baby squirms and gets visibly uncomfortable, you will need to be quite firm.

5. Cut away from you

Hold your baby's fingers pointing away from you so you can see where you're cutting. Don't let the scissors or clippers obstruct your view.

6. Fingers and toes

File or cut fingernails with the curve of the fingertip. Toenails should be cut straight across. Any rough edges or points can be filed down afterwards, so don't worry about getting it perfect.

7. Calm and soothe

If your baby is awake, soothe them and keep them focused on your voice and face. Sing or talk to them to keep their mind off the job at hand.

What if I accidentally cut my baby's skin?

This is more likely to happen when you are starting out, but it's no great worry. Instead of dressing the finger with a bandage or plastic, run it under some cold water and hold a cloth or pad over the wound until it stops bleeding.

Any dressings can be accidentally swallowed by the baby, and liquid dressings can be sucked and ingested. With a bit of pressure on the area, the bleeding should stop naturally.

Tips

  • Very young babies need special attention paid to their nails. Since babies up to six weeks old can't control their movements, and up to about 4-6 months those movements lack specific intent, it's quite common for babies to scratch their faces
  • For the baby's first few weeks you might find it easier to use a nail file by itself, and only upgrading to clippers/scissors as they grow
  • Baby nails grow quite fast, so make sure you monitor their growth rate to keep track of how often they need a trim
  • A bath will help soften your baby's nails and make them easier to trim
  • Don't bite your baby's nails. This can spread germs to the baby's mouth
  • Remember to praise your baby when you're finished. This reinforces the positivity of the experience and rewards you both with lots of smiles
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