How to Cut Baby Nails (Without Freaking Out)

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How to Cut Baby Nails

Before cutting your baby’s nails, be sure you have special baby nail clippers or baby nail scissors and a small emery board. Press your baby’s finger pad down, away from his fingernails. Hold your baby’s hand and quickly trim her nail along the natural curve. Trim toenails straight across. It can help to enlist the help of a second person to hold your baby and distract him.


Little baby fingernails unfortunately do not take care of themselves. Tiny babies are constantly scratching their little faces with their fingernails. And although their nails are soft and new, they can be quite jagged as well, which can result in them injuring their delicate skin.  

Unfortunately, figuring out how to cut baby nails – and then actually doing it – can be pretty stressful.

Like many aspects of parenting (see: using a nasal aspirator, detangling a screaming toddler’s hair, or giving a baby a bath), learning how to cut baby nails takes practice.

However, learning how to cut a baby’s nails properly, and using the right tools for the job, will result in a stress-free experience.

What You Will Need

How to Trim Baby Nails

How to Trim Baby Nails With Baby Nail Scissors or Baby Nail Clippers

  1. Pick the Best Time and Place: A drowsy or sleeping baby is the best customer, so pick a time when your baby is drowsy, relaxed or asleep. Clipping nails straight after baby’s bath will mean they are a little softer and easier to trim. Choose somewhere with enough light to see what you’re doing.
  2. Gather Your Equipment: Use special baby nail clippers or baby nail scissors with rounded tips, and ensure your trimmers are clean and in good condition. Keep a gauze pad or cloth nearby in case of accidents, and feel free to bring a toy or sensory bottle over to distract your baby.
  3. Position Your Baby: Sit baby on your lap facing outwards for the best nail trimming angle.
  4. Hold baby’s finger firmly but not too tight.
  5. Press fingertip pad away from the nail.
  6. Trim the nail following the natural curve, trimming above the white nail line. If you don’t clip the entire nail in one go, don’t pull the nail off, as this could hurt your baby.
  7. Work slowly and gently so you don’t cut too low on the nail
  8. You can use a baby emery board to smooth rough edges and round corners if needed

How to Trim Baby Nails With an Electric Baby Nail File or Emery Board

  1. Pick the Best Time and Place: A drowsy or sleeping baby is the best customer, so pick a time when your baby is drowsy, relaxed or asleep. 
  2. Gather Your Equipment: Use a baby-size emery board or electric nail file with the correctly-sized tip for your baby’s age.
  3. Position Your Baby: If your baby is awake, sit baby on your lap facing outwards for the best nail trimming angle.
  4. Hold baby’s finger firmly but not too tight.
  5. Press fingertip pad away from the nail.
  6. Gently file across the top of the nail, then smooth the corners. 

Tips for Trimming Baby Toenails

Baby toenails grow more slowly than fingernails and don’t need trimming quite as often.  Although toenails aren’t as soft as baby’s fingernails, the same basic principles apply.

  1. Ensure you and baby are in a comfortable position 
  2. Hold the pad of the toe away from the nail and gently trim straight across. This will help to prevent ingrown toenails.  

Real Parents Share their Best Tips for Trimming Baby Nails

FAQ About Cutting a Baby’s Fingernails

Do I Really Need to Cut My Baby’s Nails?

Yes. Baby fingernails can be sharp enough to cause significant injuries. Babies frequently scratch their own faces, and have been known to scratch their corneas as well. 

New babies don’t have good motor control – when they flail their hands and sharp fingernails around, they can hurt themselves and others. 

To prevent injury, you need to keep their nails trimmed.

What if You Cut Baby’s Skin While Cutting Nails?

This is a source of significant anxiety for most parents. If you go too low, don’t panic – it happens to the best of us.

Use a clean piece of gauze to hold the fingertip until it stops bleeding. Don’t put a bandage on it, as it’s a choking hazard, and don’t use any sort of baby lotion.

How Often Do I Need to Trim Baby Nails?

As often as needed, and it will really depend on your baby. As a general rule of thumb, check your baby’s nails several times per week, or once a week at minimum.

Fingernails grow faster than toenails, and need to be trimmed more often.  

Can I Nibble My Baby’s Fingernails Off?

This is not a great idea, for several reasons.

For one, it’s easy to remove too much nail using your teeth, which could cause a painful injury to your baby.  

Add to that, it’s a bit gross: human mouths are full of bacteria. Biting your baby’s nails off could inadvertently introduce an infection. 

How to Cut Baby Nails – My Best Tips!

  • A relaxed and happy parent is the best nail technician, so don’t try to do it when you’re stressed or rushed.
  • Buy proper baby nail tools – they have build in safety features and are size appropriate, which means you’re more likely to get the job done safely.
  • Sit baby on your lap facing outward, so her nails are on the same angle as your nails
  • Praise your baby for letting you trim his nails, and talk to him throughout the process to keep him engaged and happy.
  • Be consistent, so baby knows what to expect when the clippers come out.
  • Don’t lose hope. Baby cares require a gentle and confident approach and also takes practice. Having someone there to help you cut baby’s nails for the first time is a great way to improve your confidence.
  • Baby mittens are fine to use for newborns before you’re ready to trim your baby’s nails. And if you’re not ready to use clippers or scissors, an emery board works well in the beginning, too.

Final Thoughts

I hope you have enjoyed this article and I’ve managed to provide some practical advice on how to trim baby nails. Having neat and clean fingernails is important to prevent self-inflicted injuries for your little ones.

I remember being so surprised and upset when my first newborn delivered big red scratches across her face!  It took me a while to figure out that she actually did this to herself.  

Trimming baby nails is a simple way to protect your baby.  

I would love it if you could share your experience with cutting your baby’s nails in the comments below.  Did you find it hard? Or easy? Were your hands shaking? Do you prefer clippers, scissors or a nail file?

If you know a new mum who needs this advice in her life right now, please go ahead and share this article.  

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