Tips on Trimming Baby Fingernails

Trimming your baby’s fingernails — what a terrifying prospect. It was such a frightening thing in my house that no one would do it when our daughter came home from the hospital. Weeks passed. Then, finally, my daughter’s nails grew so long, she was starting to scratch herself and I was forced into action. This is how I learned to cut her fingernails without hurting her.

Wait until you are breastfeeding

If you are breastfeeding, that can be an ideal time to trim your baby’s nails. The baby is relaxed and so are you. Usually. But this won’t work for dads or for moms who don’t breastfeed.

Wait till your baby is asleep

In the end, I had to give up breastfeeding so I tried to cut my daughter’s nails while she was asleep. Since she was a light sleeper, this wasn’t always possible. But, if the baby is asleep, they are not going to squirm or cry or jerk their fingers.

Hold your baby in your lap, his/her back to your chest.

I found holding my daughter like this allowed me to trim her nail at the same angle I used to trim my own nails. It felt more natural and if she started squirming or fussing it was easier to keep her still.

Exhale when you snip

It’s part relaxation, part concentration. Oddly, I learned this method when I was learning how to shoot a rifle. I don’t know the mechanics behind it, but your hand doesn’t tend to shake if you exhale while you are pressing the nail clippers

Have good lighting

You can’t have too much lighting for this! A baby’s fingers are so tiny it can be hard to see the ends of those teeny little nails. Good lighting is essential. I sat in my rocking chair and turned on the light I used when I would read to her. (You can’t start reading to a child too early either!)

Use a magnifying glass

Fortunately, my eyesight was very good. But have someone hold a magnifying glass for you if you have trouble seeing exactly where to cut. You won’t have to worry about doing that for too long. As their fingers get bigger it will get easier to see where you are cutting.

Invest in good quality baby nail clippers or safety scissors

This is NOT the place to skimp on quality! A good pair of clippers will cut cleanly the first time. And, you definitely want this job done right the FIRST time. Also, don’t assume that adult clippers will do the job. Your baby’s nails are much softer and tinier than an adults nails.

File your baby’s nails instead of clipping them.

If you just can’t bring yourself to clip your baby’s nails, they can be filed down. There are several different nail files available on Amazon, most of them are electric. I’ve never tried these so I can’t endorse how well they work but all the ones I’ve looked at have gotten very high marks in the review section.

If you DO nick your baby’s finger

Gently press a clean pick of gauze or tissue against the cut till it stops bleeding. (It shouldn’t take but a few moments.) Then you can usually leave it alone. If you want to put antibiotic ointment that’s fine. Just remember that babies tend to suck on their fingers. If you are worried, you can always put baby mittens on so they can’t ingest ointment.

After that, even though it only a minor nick, you can have a good cry. It’s ok. We’ve all been there. If anyone gives you grieve, they can trim the baby’s nails next time!

Take Away

There are a ton of YouTube video tutorials out there showing great techniques and I suggest you take time to look through them. Grandparents are another great resource. (Although my own mother refused. She said it had terrified her to trim my nails as an infant and she wasn’t going to go through it again. Thanks, mom.)

Ultimately you will find the method that works for you and your baby. I was fortunate that I never nicked my own daughter’s fingers but it was nerve wrecking each and every time I trimmed them. Even so, it was a precious time for me. I really focused on how tiny and perfect her little fingers were and how beautiful it was to watch her grasped my finger with hers.

Don’t look at this as a dreaded, torturous event. See it as a special time and cherish it because, before you know it, your child won’t need your help anymore.