Clipping Baby’s Nails

So, this isn't exactly birth related, but it is one of those things that new parents find frustrating and I thought I could offer some help.  Parents are often scared of cutting skin and making their baby bleed, which can be a bit of a shock to a new parent.  Some parents resort to biting their baby's nails, and, although this can be easy - it is also easy to bite too far down.  Additionally, when you're putting baby's fingers in your mouth, you're adding moisture to the area, and the combination of moisture and getting the teeth underneath the free edge (that part of the nail that extends over the nail bed) can cause the nails to lift, which is not a good thing.

Many times, the baby grooming kits or the first aid kits come with emery boards and these are a big no no in my eyes.  An emery board is the cardboard-style nail file.  They tend to have a gritty sand-paper like feeling and if they get wet, they're ruined.  The rough filing side is actually a little more corse than what I typically prefer, and it tends to rip at the nail rather than smooth the nail down.  Likewise, a baby's nails are so thin and delicate, it is hard to even file them with a good grooming file (like a 100/80 grit).  Emery boards, contrary to what most believe, are a one-time use nail tool.  They cannot be washed, let alone sterilized, and should be thrown away with each use.  Nail fungus is not fun to mess with, so if you want to go the file route, grab a washable file.  They work better, and they last a really long time.  Just don't go the metal route, because these rip at the nails, too.

I, personally, don't go nuts about clipping nails.  They are there for protection and tend to wear down rather easily.  However, as a baby starts moving their hands they end up scratching themselves (or others), and this is no fun either.  You can keep socks over them for a little while, but they do tend to fall off, so getting the skill down is valuable.

OK, OK, so, enough of all that technical nonsense.  How do you easily clip a baby's nails?  You need to hold their hands and feet firmly.  You CAN can do this without hurting them!  Maybe, as a nail tech, I'm used to this, so it doesn't bother me, but you'll be comfortable with it after the first few times.  Just like polishing someone's nails, you have to make sure you're in control of not getting polish anywhere, or clipping their skin and harming them.   I once painted Disney characters on a toddler... she was probably one of my easiest clients ever... but I also knew I had to hold her hand firmly, and I did so in the most gentle way and she loved it.

You can clip their nails while they're sleeping, but sometimes this does wake baby up - and for a baby that may not sleep like you would prefer, you might not want to take the chance.  You can also clip their nails while you're nursing, but this takes a little finesse to keep both hands free to clip, and the nipple comfortably inside their mouth.

First, you're going to want to hold baby over your shoulder and bend their legs at the knee while holding their foot somewhere near their butt - you want to hold back away from the toes so that you're not pulling the skin on their toes (which can cause you to clip too far back) then clip the toenails.  This makes them feel secure up against you, they might suck on your shoulder or arm while you're doing this, staying content, but most importantly, it prevents them from kicking like crazy - thus, no worries on clipping their skin.  Of course, don't pull on their limbs and only clip the free edge - the part that looks like a whitish color.  Having their feet still makes this much easier. 

Next, keep your baby over your shoulder, and gently put their hand behind their back - yes, this is similar to how someone would place someone in hand cuffs - but, just do this slowly and gently and you will not hurt them.  Again, hold back on the finger so their finger wraps a little around yours and you're not pulling the skin.  Sometimes, we tend to want to hold really close to the end of the finger to pull the skin back so that we don't cut their skin, but this can cause you to clip too much of the nail, and pull the nail bed away from the nail - which hurts them... and may hurt them worse than accidentally clipping a small bit of skin).  Now, you can clip the free edge of the finger nails without them grabbing and waving their arms.

If there are any sharp edges after the clipping, just gently file or let them wear on their own.