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How to Cut Your Baby's Nails Painlessly and Easily

Katlyn Joy | 6, August 2013


Newborns are so sweet and adorable but one of the first spots you'll check out on your own is those ten fingers and toes. Some children are even born needing a trim. Newborn nails grow quickly and you may need to trim them every few days until they get older and the nails harden and grow at a more normal, and slowed rate.

However, few things are as tiny and yet intimidating as clipping baby nails. Those every wriggling fingers and the paper-thin nails are far too easy to cut too short or accidentally nip the skin of the fingers.

Equipment You'll Need

  • A pair of baby nail clippers. Adult ones are far too big and won't do the job at all. Don't even attempt it.
  • A pair of rounded baby nail scissors. Some parents prefer scissors over clippers, so get both to try them out.
  • An emery board to smooth rough edges.
  • A gauze pad to absorb any blood from accidents.
  • Antibiotic cream for any owies that may occur.

The Basic Method

To do a good job, you need to get a firm hold on the finger pad and push down the finger tip under the nail back towards the hand to keep the skin out of the way of the clippers or scissors.

Follow the natural curve of the nails and take your time. Don't nip the edges too close or too far down. Rushing make accidents all the more easy to occur.

When clipping toenails, cut straight across to avoid ingrown toenails. Toenails however, will not grow nearly as fast as the fingernails.

If you are especially squeamish or if you have difficulty with the process in the first few weeks when nails are growing especially fast, you can put a pair of mittens on the baby. It's important you do one or the other because as soft and flexible as the nails are, they grow so fast and they will scratch baby's face.

Tips for Making the Job Easier

1. Cut baby's nails while baby is sleeping. This is by far the most common advice given by pediatricians to nervous parents. The reason is you won't have to worry about wiggling fingers if the baby is so asleep you can lift baby's limp hand. If baby wakes, don't worry. Just complete the job on the next nap.

2. Distract baby with a favorite movie or television program. Some babies can be kept busy by a smiling, singing or colorful kids' character or program. This may feel like the old "using the TV as a babysitter" complaint, but in this case, it's completely justified and allowed.

3. If baby is a great traveler, then consider trying to do it while on a car ride. Just let another adult drive and sit in back beside the baby and snip away.

4. After baby has nursed, and is blissfully full try cutting the nails. Many babies get especially relaxed so give this time a shot.

5. If baby can be occupied in a high chair while strapped in, try this. Baby is busy either eating or perhaps playing so you might be able to get away with it.

6. Be your baby's entertainment while you clip away. Sing a song, use a silly voice, just do whatever inane thing it takes to capture your child's attention.

7. Get a partner. Have your spouse, or your mom or whomever, hold baby's hand still while you work on the nails. Sometimes as a mom, you know you just need three hands.

Doctors advise against biting baby's nails or peeling them. While it may seem easy enough, it's also easy to go too far and hurt baby or infect baby with your germs.

If you do happen to clip too close and draw blood, don't panic or turn yourself in for accidental abuse. It is inevitable. Just dab the blood with gauze, comfort baby, dry the tears (yours and baby's) and apply some antibiotic ointment. Only use a tiny amount as you know baby's fingers always find their way into baby's mouth.

Katlyn Joy is a mother to 7 children, and a freelance writer. She earned her Master of Arts in Creative Writing and Poetry, and a Bachelor of Arts in English and was previously an adviser to new mothers on breastfeeding through a maternity home program. She currently resides in Colorado with her family.

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