How to Cut Baby's Nails - Babylist
How to Cut Baby's Nails
September 11, 2020

How to Cut Baby's Nails

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How to Cut Baby's Nails

There are few things that spark more fear in the eyes of any new parent than the thought of taking sharp metal clippers to teeny, tiny baby nails. (We know—we’ve been there!) Cutting baby nails is no small feat, but with the right tools and a little practice, we promise the job isn’t quite as daunting as you may think.

We’re here to break down Baby Nail Clipping 101 step by step and show you the best products to keep your baby’s nails short and smooth—and keep you cool, calm and collected.

Step One: Tools of the Trade

There are a few types of baby nail clippers, each with their own set of pros and cons. Choosing what’s right for you is going to depend a lot on personal preferences. Since most baby nail clippers are fairly affordable, you may want to test out a few different types to see what’s most comfortable.

Basic clippers

Basic baby nail clippers are just what they sound like—standard adult nail clippers, but sized down for tiny fingers and toes. Many have a few extra safety and convenience features built in like ergonomic handles, magnifying glasses and LED lights. These types of features certainly aren’t necessary, but if they help you get the job done, then we’re totally here for them.

Our favorite basic clippers are from Safety First.

The First Years Deluxe clippers come with a four-times magnifying glass, and the Safety 1st Sleepy Baby clippers feature a built-in light at the tip. (The light comes in especially handy if you want to clip baby’s nails while they’re asleep.)

Electric trimmers

Next up: electric trimmers. These aren’t clippers, but are instead more like mini nail files on steroids. Instead of cutting, they (gently, we promise) file away at your little one’s nails. Many parents like electric trimmers because they remove the fear of accidentally cutting baby’s skin with metal clippers or scissors, but just keep in mind it may take you a bit longer this way. Our favorite is the BUZZ B by ZoLi.


Rounding out the options are baby nail scissors. This choice eliminates the sharp edges that clippers sometimes leave behind, and are rounded for maximum safety. Fridababy’s Easy Grip Nail Scissors are the best of the bunch thanks to the ergonomic handle (which can be used right- or left-handed) and rounded-tip blades that won’t poke.

Step Two: Cut to It

Once you’ve decided which nail clipper works best for you, it’s time to cut to the chase. (Sorry, we couldn’t help ourselves.) Start by taking a nice, deep breath. Cutting tiny nails can be stressful, but the calmer you are, the calmer your little one will be.

  • Get comfy and secure. You’ll want to position your baby in a way that gives you the most access to their nails while also keeping them safe. We like placing baby facing outward on our lap. (It’s also okay to wait until baby is asleep to trim nails, but just be sure you have a good hold on baby’s hand or foot in case they wake.)
  • Get a good grip. If you’re cutting fingernails, hold your little one’s palm in one hand and your clippers in the other. Babies, especially infants, tend to clench their fists a lot, so applying a little pressure at the top of the hand can help spread out your baby’s fingers and make your job a bit easier. If you’re cutting toenails, gripping your little one’s foot in the same way you would their hands will help you get better access to those tiny toenails.
  • Snip, snip. For fingernails, make two angled cuts—one on each side of each nail—then one cut straight across. For toenails, one cut straight across will get the job done.

Step Three: Smooth It Out

You’re almost there! To finish the job, you’ll want to make sure you haven’t left behind any jagged edges. (Which is pretty easy to do, considering how thin baby nails are.)

Some baby nail clippers come with a nail file, like the SnipperClipper set from FridaBaby. We especially love this file because of its unique S-curve, making it easier to file your baby’s nails without twisting your arm into an awkward angle.

If you just need a simple file option, we love this 3-pack from Angel Love. They’re safe to the touch but still get the job done and are sized down for tiny fingers and toes.

Cutting Older Babies’ and Toddler Nails

Trying to figure out how to cut your older baby’s nails or—gasp!—the nails of an always-on-the-move toddler? Distraction is the name of the game when it comes to nail clipping with the older set.

If you’re okay with screen time, now’s the time to break out a little Daniel Tiger (every toddler’s BFF) to hold your little one’s attention while you snip away. If TV isn’t your thing, we recommend a small interactive toy like Sassy’s Ring O’ Links rattle for older babies and Skip Hop’s Unicorn Phone for toddlers to distract them while you get to work.

What If You Cut Baby’s Finger?

First order of business: we’ve all been there, so don’t feel too terrible. And stay calm!

If it’s a large cut or won’t stop bleeding, you’ll want to contact your pediatrician or head to the ER. (But odds are it’s probably a small cut, so hopefully that won’t be necessary.) For minor cuts, apply pressure until the bleeding stops, then clean out the wound with soap and water. You can apply a small amount of antibacterial ointment after cleaning, but steer clear of a bandage as it’s a choking hazard.

This information is provided for educational and entertainment purposes only. We do not accept any responsibility for any liability, loss or risk, personal or otherwise, incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, from any information or advice contained here. Babylist may earn compensation from affiliate links in this content. Learn more about how we write Babylist content and the Babylist Health Advisory Board.