Image Credit: @momminalatte

Ready or not, you’re about to add another job title to your new parent resumé. This time you get to become your baby’s fave nail technician. If the thought gives you cold sweats and heart palpitations, then welcome to the club. So, here’s a quick guide to help you calm your nerves and make giving your tiny boss a mani/pedi less scary.

What You Need:

  • A little nail file/emery board

  • A little set of nail clippers

  • A little courage

Babies change daily, and those fingernails grow like a beast. Newborns lack muscle control, so if you don’t stay on top of keeping their nails trimmed, you might get scratched by those flailing hands with sharp little claws, or worse yet, they could end up hurting themselves.

When To Start Trimming Baby’s Nails (And How Often)

When you first welcome home your newbie, you may be able to ease into this part of your caretaking job by simply filing their nails, which are soft and pliable, every few days. However, some babies are born with shockingly long fingernails that need clipping right away. You might even have to give them a trim a few times each week. (!) But after that, the growth begins to slow down a bit, which means you may be able to cut back to a weekly clipping sesh. Thankfully, toenails don’t grow as quickly as fingernails, so you won't need to trim those piggies as often – more like twice a month.

You won’t know your sitch ‘til your little one arrives. But having the baby-sized supplies on hand, and learning some tips and tricks from the parent pros will have you ready to keep your kiddo well-groomed from tips to toes right from the start.

How To File Baby’s Nails
  • Use an emery board made for babies. It’s easier to handle and sized right for them.

  • Hold the finger or toe of your little one that you need to work on.

  • Gently buff the edges of the nail in short movements.

  • Round the nail (in alignment with the tip), smoothing the edges so the corners aren’t sharp.

  • If you use the emery board underneath the nail, be careful not to rub or scrape their tender skin.

How To Clip Baby’s Fingernails
  • Hold your baby’s palm and finger steady with your non-dominant hand.

  • Gently press and pull your baby’s finger pad away from the nail to create some space, which makes it easier for you to see what you’re working with.

  • With the clippers in your dominant hand, carefully cut their nails with short small clips.

  • File to smooth any sharp edges.

How To Clip Baby’s Little Piggies
  • Newborn babies' toenails are so soft they may curl over the end of the toe, making it hard to see which bit of the nail tip is attached to the skin, so just go slowly, clipping little bits at a time.

  • Different from the fingertips, cut toenails straight across.

  • Keep up with regular trimming to prevent the nails from curling over the tip of the toe.

  • File to smooth any sharp edges.

The Finishing Touch

When you’re finished filing and clipping fingernails or toenails, run your fingertip along the edge of each nail to double-check that it’s smooth, so you don’t hit a snag later.

What if I Nip the Skin?

If you nip your baby’s finger or toe, don’t panic. No matter how careful you are, nicking their delicate skin can happen. And it has happened to a lot of parents. If you do happen to cut LO’s skin, simply apply pressure with a clean cloth or gauze pad until the bleeding stops. Then gently clean it with mild soap and water. If the bleeding continues after a few minutes, or if you’re concerned, call your pediatrician for advice.

6 Helpful Parent Hacks

Now that you’ve got the basics down, here are some pro-parent tips you may find useful. Since all infants are different, and parenting styles differ, you may click with one tip more than another. We’re here to throw out some ideas others have succeeded with to expand your options and help you find tools and tactics that suit you and your baby best.

1. Ask for help:

You don’t want to be a bundle of nerves working on your bundle of joy. So, ask a friend or relative who has children to show you how it’s done. No shame in it. They were once in your shoes and can relate.

2. Work in pairs:

Whether it’s for moral support, to pat you on the back and tell you “Good job,” or to be an extra set of hands, recruit a partner. Besides changing diapers, trimming your tiny human’s nails may rank up there with one of the least-favorite parent duties, so having someone there to offer a helping hand (literally) can be a real comfort. Your assistant can hold one of your squirmy LO’s hands and distract them with a song or toy, while you work on the other.

3. Light the way:

Those nails are teensy. So, you need to be able to see them well, and get up close and personal. Some nail clippers like the Light Zoom Nail Clipper Set have a magnifying glass and light designed into them.

4. Best times of the day:

  • Some parents suggest trimming your cherub’s nails when they’re sleeping. This helps you avoid the wiggles that can happen when they’re alert, which makes holding a tiny finger or toe still, more challenging.

  • If your baby’s a light sleeper, or you want to give your mani/pedi when they’re awake, after a bath can be another ideal time. They’re more relaxed, (hopefully you too), and the nails are softer.

  • Keep a pair of clippers in your diaper bag so you can take advantage of times when LO is chill or napping, like when you’re out on a stroll, or in the car going to Grandma’s house.

5. Best techniques:

  • When clipping fingernails, some parents think in threes. Focusing on the whites of the nail tip, cut once straight across, then clip the two edges, and file to smooth it.

  • Figure out what’s most comfortable and easier for you to do the job – with baby in your lap, or laying them down on a soft surface, for example. If baby is sleeping, they’ll be lying in their bed, relaxed. But if the best chance for you to get this task done is while your little sidekick is awake, you can try sitting them up in your lap. Some parents like that this position gives you the same vantage point as when you cut your own nails. You can see the white tip of the nail better, how much you’re cutting, and it’s easier to push the fingertip pad out of the way.

  • Don’t rush. Even if baby complains or gets squirmy, try to chill. Stop and comfort LO. If you tense up, so might your mini. That’s when you risk either pinching baby’s skin or skipping a nail you’ll discover later (post-scratch), and then you have to tackle it again.

6. If at first you don’t succeed:

If baby is fussy, or the two of you just aren’t in sync during a nail trimming attempt, put some no-scratch mittens on their hands, or socks on their feet, and try again later.

We know what it’s like to be a first-timer. The good news is you’ll nail this task, get over the beginner heebee-jeebees, and feel like a pro in no time, ready to pass on advice to another new mom or dad. That is, until your baby genius launches into the next phase. Just breathe. You got this!