Nail Care For Newborns

Even though everything’s so tiny and still in development on a newborn’s body, they still need to be groomed regardless of how little work it may seem. 

And whether you’re wondering whether to cut your baby’s nails or not, at least in the beginning, the answer is a definitive ‘yes’. Even though baby’s nails are more pliable and softer than adult ones, they can still be sharp and hurt the delicate surface of your little one’s skin. Another thing is that baby fingernails actually grow pretty fast, which means you’ll have to cut them sometimes even a couple of times a week. This is more relevant for hand fingernails though, while the toenails require a little bit more time to grow. 

We know that you certainly don’t want too many sharp objects around your little one, but let’s get things straight: taking care of the baby’s finger and toenails is serious business, and you will need to do it at some point. Pediatricians warn that babies can grow sharp nails if they’re left too long untrimmed. This is especially true and important for the first months of their life when they still don’t have much control of their arm and its movements, and can therefore easily hurt themselves, sometimes even scratching themselves to the point of drawing blood. Also, longer nails means that more dirt is able to stay in them and nobody wants that ending up on a baby skin’s scratch, which is another reason why cutting the nails of babies is important. 

Trimming your baby’s nails may not be the first thing anyone will tell you about having a baby, and yes, although it may seem like a piece of cake, at one point you see that these are very tiny nails and very tiny fingers we’re talking about and you may actually realize that you don’t really have an idea how to do the whole grooming thing. But, there’s no reason to panic in instances like these. This is where we jump in the scene with a tight-packed set of advice and tricks on all the essentials of nail care for newborns - from how to file baby nails and how to cut baby nails without clippers to tips for cutting toddlers’ nails - we’ll make sure it’s all taken care of so the next time you find yourself in front of those tiny, but powerful little scratchy buggers, you will know how to deal with them in the best way possible. 

When and How Often to Cut Baby’s Nails

Newborns usually have soft nails that can grow at a very fast rate and can also get quite sharp and rough around the edges. That’s why it’s best to keep an eye on your baby’s nails from the start and begin cutting them as soon as you notice that they begin to grow and start to get sharper edges. 

As for the frequency of the trimming, it depends on the organism of your baby, but, as we said earlier, they do tend to grow very fast, which means probably around 1-3 times a week. Toenails, however, can be trimmed less frequently, around a couple of times a month, since they grow at a slower rate. 

How to Cut Your Baby’s Nails

Okay, so there are several effective ways to cut babies’ nails. Depending on your preference, or your baby’s preference (which method makes them remain most calm, for example) you can choose and try out one (or more) of the ones we’re going to explain below. 

Use Clippers

This is one of the commonest ways of trimming baby nails, the clippers are considered very practical and also easy to carry around, while also pretty intuitive for the parents since they’re used to cut their nails with adult clippers as well. Baby clippers should be used for infants which are more than one month old. The good thing about this item is that it allows you to see where you’re cutting and actually see what you’re doing, while also cutting the nail appropriately, following both the line of the clipper and the nail itself. A possible downside is that sometimes you can cut more than you intend to and also catch a little bit of the finger along the way, which is not something you want to do for sure. That’s why in an attempt to avoid all of this if you opt out for using clippers, get the small ones, also called mini-clippers. There’s also another type of baby clippers that cut only from side to side, which is said to protect the baby’s fingers from being easily pinched while trimming. 

Use Scissors

This is another common option, similar to the clippers one, used by lots of moms throughout the world. Some parents prefer them much more over the clippers because they think they give them more control during cutting, but it also has to do a lot with the intuitive experience of cutting your own nails with it. And even though some parents may be terrified by the presence of scissors around their baby, there are special ones designed precisely for this occasion that have a blunt edge. 

How to File Baby Nails

This option is best suited for parents who don’t want any sharp, metallic structures around their baby’s fingers, which makes it a great way to cut baby nails without clippers or scissors. It’s also one of the best ways to cut your baby’s nails and also avoid drawing blood in the process. You can easily opt for a soft emery board, for a gentle trim of your little one’s nails, which is especially convenient for newborns younger than one month, although it can be used for older babies as well - in fact, it’s very convenient for cutting toddlers’ nails as well. With the filing boards, there’s no chance really that you’re gonna clip the skin around the nail. A possible downside may be that sometimes the filing may not work if the baby’s nails are too soft. Nevertheless, this is a rather risk-and-blood free trimming method that’s also very inexpensive.  

A slightly fancier version (and with that also more expensive) would be the electric files. These are convenient for parents for whom the regular files don’t really work and they want to try something new, but who are also afraid of cutting their little one and are adamant that they’re not going to be using clippers or scissors for trimming. There aren’t any known safety concerns surrounding them, and their effectivity is not that different than the regular ones. Some of them are gadgets in their own right and provide a magnifier or a light source to make the whole thing easier. Their biggest flaw is that they’re kinda expensive, though. 

Other Tips and Tricks on Baby Nail Care

When the baby is very, very small, you can actually peel off the ends of their nails with your own fingers. But this can be done very early on and it can’t continue for much longer, considering how the nails gradually become stronger and harder. Which marks the time when you will have to opt for the options mentioned above. 

What a lot of parents also do, while wait for their baby to grow a little bit so they can start cutting their nails, is that they put stuff on their child’s hands or dress them with something that covers the hands as well, or something that restricts more movement as well. Some parents put socks or mittens on their baby’s hands, and some dress them in long-sleeved onesies that have fold-over cuffs. But, this also shouldn’t be a replacement for trimming; because after a while, it will become imperative to cut your baby’s nails, especially when they begin to walk, grab more stuff and just simply explore the world around them. If you leave them untrimmed for too long your run the risk of baby skin infections stemming from scratches, but you also risk hurting yourself (like, for example, when the baby puts a firm grasp on you). 

Another thing that’s a good idea to consider when cutting baby’s nails is to ask somebody around you for help. Trimming becomes much easier when you’ve got yourself another adult by your side holding the baby steady.

What you definitely shouldn’t do when it comes to baby nail care is biting off their nails that are to be trimmed. Biting off is not really a good idea considering how you may very well transfer lots of germs from your own mouth to the baby’s finger, especially if it already has a cut on it. You also can’t really see much while you’re doing it, which doesn’t really make it effective. 
Same goes for tearing off the nails. A big no-no. This makes it easy for you to tear the nails too short, and this may lead to ingrown nails. Ingrown nails are more prone to infections and can also be painful, and that’s another pressure of discomfort and pain we wouldn’t want to make the baby grow through. 

If I do cut a fingertip, how do I stop the bleeding?
If you do nick a tiny fingertip, don't be too hard on yourself – it happens to lots of parents. Simply rinse the cut under cool water, then wrap a tissue around your baby's finger and hold it with a little pressure. The bleeding usually stops in a couple of minutes.

Resist the temptation to try to put a bandage on your baby's finger. It's likely to come off when he puts his finger in his mouth, and he could end up choking on it.

Also, doctors don't recommend using a liquid bandage product for babies or toddlers because they'll probably suck it off. If your child has a wound that doesn't stop bleeding, it's a good idea to see your child's doctor.

What if I Accidentally Cut My Baby and it Bleeds? 

This happens. If you happen to accidentally nick a little bit of the tiny baby finger, it’s not that big of a deal, because lots of parents have done the same as well. It’s just impossible to do a perfect clipping at once and on the first take. When this happens it’s best to put the finger under cool or cold water and afterward wrap a tissue or a small cloth around it, while also applying a little pressure. This should stop the bleeding in no more than a couple of minutes. Putting a bandage is not recommended for little babies because they often put their fingers in their mouths and there’s a significant risk of choking from it. The same goes for using a liquid bandage - again, it’s very likely that they’ll suck it off. If you notice that the wound doesn’t stop bleeding, take your baby to the doctor and check up on it just to make sure there’s nothing more serious going on.