How to Conquer the Dreaded First Nail Trim

By Jennifer Jensen

One of the first daunting tasks for a new parent is to give baby their first nail trim. Those small fingers and toes can
be quite scary to cut for the first time. The fear is that you could potentially harm your little one by cutting too close. But like most things you experience on your parenting journey, it becomes easier each time you do it. And the anxiety and fear start to dissipate.

Trimming baby’s nails is important because although they may be softer and more pliable than ours, they can also be very sharp. And those sharp little nails can lead to scratches.

“A newborn has little control over his flailing limbs and can easily end up scratching his own face or yours,” Dr. Luis Scaccabarrozzi, pediatrician at Kids Doc Pediatrics, says.

Parents may think a good solution is to use baby mittens or gloves, but Dr. Scaccabarrozzi recommends against using them. “Don’t forget that a baby’s hands are how they interact with their environment,” he says. Touch is key for babies and is how they develop their senses and recognize their mother, he adds.

Baby nails grow very quickly and may need a cut or trim twice a week during those first few weeks or months. Parents can wait a little longer for toenails.

You may want to wait a little bit before giving baby their first trim to allow the nails to harden a little, which will make them easier to cut, Scaccabarrozzi says. Most parents usually wait about three to four weeks after baby is born, but should keep an eye on their length, he adds.

The ideal time to cut baby’s nails is while they are asleep or right after a bath when the nails are the softest. Make sure to always use nail clippers designed specifically for babies. You can also use a special baby nail file instead of clippers. Cut fingernails along the curve and straight across. You can also use a file to smooth rough edges so they do not snag on clothing, Scaccabarrozzi says.

One way parents may try to keep their baby’s nails shorter is by biting or chewing them down. However, Scaccabarrozzi recommends against using this technique. “Some parents bite their baby’s nails into shape, but doing it this way could introduce germs from your mouth into any little cut your baby may have on her finger,” he adds. This could lead to an infection and it is difficult to be able to see what you are doing.

If you do end up nicking your little one’s finger, don’t freak out. Remember, babies are tough and resilient. Simply run it under cool water, then wrap a tissue around it and apply pressure to stop the bleeding, Scaccabarrozzi says.

“If you do nick a tiny fingertip, don’t be too hard on yourself — it happens to lots of parents,” he says. And the bleeding usually stops in a few minutes. Just be sure to not use any type of bandage or liquid bandage product, he adds. If the bleeding doesn’t stop, it is best to call your doctor.

Clippers 101

There are four different types of clippers for babies:


The First Years Deluxe Nail Clipper with Magnifier. This one has a built-in magnifying glass so you can really zoom in on baby’s little fingers and toes.


Piyo Piyo Baby Nail Scissors. These scissors have even handle loops so they work with both left- and right-handed users. And they have rounded tips, so you don’t have to worry about your little one getting hurt if they try to grab them.


BBLÜV Trimo Electric Nail Trimmer. This is a battery operated emery board that allows you to file your baby’s nails using a circular pad that spins.


Baby Blue Giraffe Baby Nail File. It is made of glass and is the perfect small size for infants. It can also be washed so it is easy to keep it clean.