“Teeny-tiny, sharp razor blades” are the exact words I used to describe my son’s tiny little fingernails because that is exactly how they felt every time it hit the skin. They may have been soft and a lot more pliable than adult nails but they were still sharp and rigged and can cause cuts and scratches on us as parents and on themselves. Babies’ fingernails grow so fast and need to be cut frequently to keep those sharp little daggers from causing injury to your baby’s delicate skin.
Starting to take care of your little ones nails regularly will promote good personal hygiene, and if your little one sees you taking care of your nails too, this will make the process of caring for their nails even easier. You will have to learn how to care for your baby’s nails and how to keep them short and clean.
After 3 years of trimming baby and toddler nails on very squirmy babies, I eventually became somewhat of an expert on getting those little razors under control.
How to care for long and sharp baby nails
My boys frequently had little cuts and scratches on their faces, arms, and even on their eyelids. Their nails would need to be trimmed at least once or twice a week, but trimming them seemed like a scary thing because I was always worried about cutting the skin. However, it had to be done.
Here are some tips on how to care for long and sharp baby nails:
- During their regular bath time, make sure to wash and properly clean your baby’s hands, feet, and nails. You can use a soft baby nail scrub to clean the nails well and remove all the dirt that may be hidden under the nails.
- The best time to clip baby’s nails is directly after their bath as this is the time when they are most relaxed, and their nails are soft from the bath.
- Feel free to follow the clipping with a little baby massage to keep your little one calm and relaxed. You can even massage and clip in sessions. Clip, calm baby with a little massage and maybe a favorite song, then clip again and so on.
- Using a baby nail clipper, baby nail scissors with a rounded and blunt tip, or an electric nail trimmer/file, trim your baby’s nails similarly to how you would trim your own nails.
- Gently push back the tip of the finger from the nail so you can easily access your baby’s nail with the nail clipper. Pulling back the fingertip will help to prevent cutting your baby’s finger with scissors or nail clippers.
- Do not cut the nails too short. For fingernails, stay just above the white of the nail and use short, small clips until the whole nail is clipped. For toenails cut the nail straight across and not around the same way you would the fingernails (both can be filed down after cutting using a baby nail file)
- Ensure you keep a firm hold on your little one’s hand or foot while trimming the nails, so they do not pull and to avoid cuts.
- You can use a nail file or electric baby nail file to smooth any rough edges left after cutting your baby’s nails.
- A nail file or electric baby nail file can also be used to shorten your baby’s nails. Just use the nail file to file the nails down as short as you need them to be. This method is the safest and will help to avoid cutting. However, this method does take much longer, so it is not really the best option if you are in a hurry. The best nail file to use is a soft sandpaper nail file or fine crystal nail file. (Avoid using metal files or other rough files as these could be too rough for your little one’s delicate skin)
- Do NOT use adult-sized nail cutters or scissors as this can cause injury to your baby.
- Try distracting your little one with a favorite toy to keep them calm and relaxed. Talk about what you are doing step by step. Hearing your calm, soothing voice throughout the process will help to keep your little one calm and relaxed, making the process easier.
- Newborn babies tend to clench their little hands into a fist when they are awake and alert, so keeping them distracted or cutting while they feed or sleep could make the task much easier.
- If your baby tenses up, then let them relax a little while. Sing a song, read a story, even play some calming music while you clip to help keep your little one calm through the process.
- If you have an extra wriggly baby, you can try cutting their nails while they are feeding or sleeping. If you clip your little one’s nails while they sleep you might get lucky, and they won’t wake up or wiggle at all until you are done (ensure you have enough light to clip without cutting if clipping their nails while they sleep)
- Cut baby’s fingernails around the curve of their little nails, leaving a little space between the fingertip and nail. Do not cut the sides of the toenail as this may cause your baby to get ingrown nails, which are painful and can get infected if not treated.
- Trim your baby’s fingernails regularly to prevent them from getting too long and prevent your baby from scratching themselves. Toenails do not need to be trimmed as frequently as fingernails as they do not grow as fast.
Some parents choose to bite their baby’s nails off. This is not recommended as it can cause an infection, introduce germs, leave your baby’s nails rigged and sharp, which can still end in cuts and scratches on their skin, and it also has a high probability of spreading a herpes simplex infection. It is also easy to tear into your baby’s soft, delicate skin easily.
Do not tear your baby’s nails as this can end up causing injuring to the soft skin under the nails. It can also be imprecise, so it is possible that the nail may end up tearing to the skin, which will end up causing more harm to your little one’s nails.
What to do if you accidentally cut your baby’s finger
In the worse case, while trimming your baby’s nails, you may end up cutting your baby’s finger. Don’t worry! If you are using the correct baby nail cutting tools, then the injury will be minor and not really anything to worry about.
If this does happen, take a clean, damp piece of cotton wool, cloth or sterile gauze. Rinse the cut with cool running water. Apply a little pressure to the cut with the cotton, gauze or cloth. Hold it in place for a few seconds to stop the bleeding. The bleeding will usually stop very quickly, and if you are concerned you can add a little bit of antibiotic cream
Do not apply a Band-Aid, bandages, or similar things, as these can pose a choking hazard for your baby and are also unnecessary as the bleeding is usually superficial and will stop quickly.
What to do if baby’s nails are still sharp or you can’t trim them
Sometimes we are just not able to work up the courage needed to trim those tiny little razors. Don’t be ashamed, it sometimes happens when you are unsure and too worried to hurt your baby.
If this is the case here are some alternatives to trimming your baby’s nails yourself:
- Ask for help. Don’t be ashamed to ask a more experienced parent for help when it comes to trimming your baby’s nails. If you are unsure and afraid you may hurt your little one, ask another parent who has been through it to help you trim your little one’s nails.
- Put on a pair of baby mittens if you are unable to get your bay’s nails trimmed, are worried about doing it yourself, and are not able to find anyone to help at the moment. Use the mittens until you can work up the courage to cut your baby’s nails yourself or until you can get someone to assist you.
Best tools to use for taking care of baby’s nails
- Electric baby nail file or trimmer. An electric baby Nail File is a great tool for trimming baby’s nails as it prevents cuts to the skin and helps make the job quick and easy because it is electric and usually runs on batteries. An electric trimmer/file with a light is great to use while your baby naps or sleeps. An electric baby nail file is suitable for Newborn to toddler Nail Care.
- Baby Safety Scissors – baby nail safety scissors are specially designed to curve around your little ones tiny little fingers to make cutting them easier, and they have a blunt tip to prevent any sharp edges from hurting your baby.
- Baby Nail Kit with multiple tools. A baby Manicure and Pedicure kit usually contain Baby Nail Clippers, baby nail scissors, Baby Nail File & baby Tweezers. These sets will contain everything you need for keeping your baby’s sharp nails clean and short they are usually suitable for Newborns, Infants, and Toddlers
- The Snipper Clipper Set by Frida baby is another good nail care set. It is a nail care set suitable for newborns upwards. It contains a baby nail clipper and a baby nail file perfect for trimming your little one’s tiny nails and smoothing the sharp jagged edges safely.
Trimming your baby’s sharp little nails might seem like a daunting and scary thing to do, but remember, we have all been there, and once you have done it once, the next time will be easier, and it will get easier every time.
Keep in mind that keeping your baby’s nails clean, short, and filed will help to prevent all those little cuts they may end up causing themselves and their delicate skin if their nails are left to grow. This will help you to get down to it and start taking care of your little one’s nails.
Article checked by:
Dr Binu George – Consultant General Pediatric
(MBBS, FRCPCH, Dual CCST (UK), Paediatric Neurodisability)
Head Of Department, Child Development Department at
NMC Royal Hospital, Khalifa City, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates