How can I safely trim baby's tiny fingernails and toenails? Newborn Care

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trimming baby's nails
iStock.com/BelindaPretorius

It may seem like a simple everyday task, but taking a sharp object to your squirmy baby's teeny nails can certainly be intimidating. Thankfully, there are certain strategies to make the routine less worrisome. Here are some great tips from a pediatrician and from moms who've figured out how to clip baby's nails without tears.

Cut Nails After the Bath

"Use a scissor or nail clipper that is specifically designed for babies. It is easiest to cut the nails after the bath when they are a little softer. Hold your baby upright in your lap with their back up against your chest for stability. Hold your baby's hand stable with one of your hands, and then clip with your free hand. Place the cutting edge of the scissor or clipper under the nail gently, and cut the nail along the curve of the nail edge, making sure to not leave any sharp edges. For...

"Use a scissor or nail clipper that is specifically designed for babies. It is easiest to cut the nails after the bath when they are a little softer. Hold your baby upright in your lap with their back up against your chest for stability. Hold your baby's hand stable with one of your hands, and then clip with your free hand. Place the cutting edge of the scissor or clipper under the nail gently, and cut the nail along the curve of the nail edge, making sure to not leave any sharp edges. For toenails, you can repeat the same technique, but cut the nail straight across.

"Fingernails grow fast in newborns. They often need to be cut several times a week! Toenails need trimming a little less frequently." -- Dori Anchin, MD, pediatrician at Maria Fareri Children's Hospital, a member of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth), Valhalla, NY

Stick to Gentle & Small Movements

"Trim only the white part of the nails, sliding the clipper gently underneath the nail and making small clips." -- Hannah Chow, MD, FAAP, pediatrician and codirector of the Loyola Center for Health at North Riverside, IL

File Nails & Use Gloves

"Pediatricians usually ask parents to file nails in the first few months of life. The nails grow very quickly so they often need to be filed every few days. Parents can also put socks or gloves on the fingers and toes to protect the baby's face [from scratching]. There are also newborn onesies that have gloves attached." -- Robin Jacobson, MD, pediatrician at Hassenfeld Children's Hospital at NYU Langone, New York, NY

"Pediatricians usually ask parents to file nails in the first few months of life. The nails grow very quickly so they often need to be filed every few days. Parents can also put socks or gloves on the fingers and toes to protect the baby's face [from scratching]. There are also newborn onesies that have gloves attached." -- Robin Jacobson, MD, pediatrician at Hassenfeld Children's Hospital at NYU Langone, New York, NY

Stay Very Calm

"Being very, very calm is the key! Clipping the nails now makes the baby used to it so as time goes on and they get older, it's no big deal; they will sit down and not mind it."

Make Sure You Have Good Light

"I have found the best way is to use a headlamp or any good light to focus in on the nails and pull back the skin surrounding it to get the best cut. Or maybe try an electric nail trimmer made just for babies."

Use the Art of Distraction

"Start cutting the nails while nursing or bottle-feeding, as the baby is distracted. As they get older, use a different distraction, like a flashing toy, dancing toddler, or singing husband! Soon, they get used to it. My toddler now sits down to have her nails cut with no qualms."

Have an Emery Board On-Hand

"I used an emery board. I kept them stashed around the house and in my daughter's diaper bag. When she was sleeping or really calm, I'd work on filing her nails. It was really fast and easy since her nails were so tiny."

The advice on CafeMom aims to educate, inform, and provide a range of solutions to the issues moms care about. It is not a substitute for consultation with a medical professional or treatment for a specific condition. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem without consulting a qualified professional. Please contact your health-care provider with questions and concerns.