It can be a scary proposition, but one you'll need to undertake sooner rather than later: cutting your baby's itty-bitty nails.

Just like the rest of her, your baby's nails have been growing since before she was born, so she may well be ready for a "manicure" in her first week of life (and every two or three days during the first three weeks until the nails harden and stop growing so fast!).

Wielding scissors anywhere near your little one's tiny fingers can be daunting, but it's an important task. Those overgrown newborn nails may be softer and more pliable than yours, but they can also be sharp enough for your baby to scratch herself,[1] especially around the face. So brace yourself and start clipping.

What is the best way to cut a baby's nails?

Use special baby scissors with rounded tips (so you don't accidentally poke her if she startles while you're working) or baby nail clippers designed for the purpose — some even have built-in magnifying glasses to help you get a good view. Here are some more tips:[2]

  • When clipping, hold your baby's finger, pressing the fingertip pad down and away from the nail.
  • Gently snip following the natural curve of the fingernail, taking care that you don't go too low and nip the quick.
  • When tending to her tiny toes, cut nails straight across. Keep in mind that toenails grow more slowly and therefore require less maintenance.

You may find it's easier to cut your baby's nails when she's sleeping. Keep a clipper in your diaper bag so you can seize scissoring opportunities whenever they arise — in the stroller, in the car (when someone else is driving!), during naptime, or at the grandparents' house. Or do the job when you have a helper available — one of you can hold the baby's hands still and distract her with a song while the other clips.

Is it okay to bite or peel baby's nails instead of using scissors?

While a relative or friend may suggest that you peel or (yikes) bite off the tips of baby's nails yourself, it's probably not the best idea, to say the least. Peeling may accidentally take off too much of the nail, while nibbling may transfer your germs to her skin.

Too squeamish to use baby nail scissors or clippers? Try genty filing with a baby-sized emery board instead.

What should I do if I cut my baby's finger while trimming her nails?

Though you'll feel awful, try not to worry if you do draw blood — it happens to every well-intentioned parent/manicurist! Just don't apply a bandage to the area (if it comes detached, it could be a choking hazard). Instead, apply gentle pressure with a clean, lint-free cloth or gauze pad, and the bleeding will soon stop.