How to trim your baby’s nails

Should I trim my baby’s nails?

Yes. Your baby’s nails may be softer and more pliable than yours, but make no mistake — they’re sharp! A newborn has little control over his flailing limbs and can easily end up scratching his own face or yours.

Little fingernails grow so fast you may have to cut them several times a week. Toenails require less frequent trimming.

How do I trim my baby’s nails without cutting his fingertips?

The best time to do this is while he’s sleeping. (You may want to leave nail utensils in the car so you can do the job while your baby’s asleep in his car seat.) Another good time is right after a bath, when your baby’s nails are at their softest.

Make sure you have enough light to see what you’re doing. Use a pair of baby scissors or clippers made especially for the purpose. Press the finger pad away from the nail to avoid nicking the skin, and keep a firm hold on your baby’s hand as you clip.

Cut fingernails along the curve of the finger. Cut toenails straight across. Then use an emery board to smooth out any rough edges. In fact, if you’re patient and your baby’s nails aren’t too long, you can skip clipping them altogether and simply file them to the right length with an emery board.

If you decide to give your baby a manicure while he’s awake, get someone to help you hold him and keep him from wiggling too much while you work. Or have someone distract him so he’ll let you hold his hand still for the clipping and filing.

Some parents bite their baby’s nails into shape, but if you do, you run the risk of introducing germs from your mouth into any little cut your baby may have on his finger. You also won’t be able to see what you’re doing, and you’ll find that your baby’s finger is minute compared to your teeth! Still, some parents rely on this method.

If I do cut a fingertip, how do I stop the bleeding?

In the harrowing event that you do nick a tiny fingertip, don’t be too hard on yourself — it happens to lots of parents. Simply wrap a tissue around your baby’s finger and hold it with a little pressure. The bleeding usually stops within a couple of minutes.

Resist the temptation to try to put a bandage on your baby’s finger. It’s likely to come off when he puts his finger in his mouth, and he could end up choking on it.

If you want, you can use a liquid bandage product that’s approved for children. These are nontoxic, and they dry quickly and slough off with the dead skin cells when the wound has healed.

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