Cutting Baby's Nails

Archived Q&A and Reviews


How to cut screaming 7-month-old's nails?

March 2004

Our 7.5-month-old daughter goes wild at the slightest suggestion that I am going to cut or file her fingernails. As soon as I gently hold onto one finger, she gets upset. She used to happily submit to nail trimming and filing; now she acts like I'm trying to chop off her fingers! I'm lucky if I can get one nail filed per day, and that's while she's arching and screaming. Meanwhile, she scratches herself and me. Has anyone found a solution to this problem? baby needs a manicure

I always cut my son's fingernails and toenails when he's asleep. :-) Holly

Due to my own paranoia about clipping baby's fingers, I almost always do it when he's sleeping. I've tried it a few times when he's awake, and although he doesn't hate it quite as much as your daughter seems to, the whole process is much less stressful if he doesn't know it's happening. I don't know if he'd sleep through filing, as I only clip. Good luck! Catherine

It is common practice for parents to cut their children's nails while they are sleeping. With my youngest who just turned 6, I still sometimes need to do this. If you do it this way, it only takes a minute. My younger two seem to think it just hurt! s so much to have their nails cut and my younger one sucks his thumb and likes to rub the hangnail on his upper lip! Go figure. But I do remember this advice about 13 years ago with my first. Good luck. Michelle

Here are my suggestions: Why clip? Gently put her nails in your mouth and bite the corner of the nail and slide the rest off. It is really easy. Sometimes I file the corners. I have never made my son's finger bleed or bit too short. I do his toes the same way. My mother and law says clippling nails make a child a thief! Wives tale for sure, but funny. Or...Try cutting her nails when she's napping or asleep. I hope this helps. Jenne

Hi, I had the same problem with my 3 very active baby boys. What worked best for me was to cut their nails while they were sleeping. It worked like a charm ev! ery time. My other suggestion would be to bite the nails in a very straight line but this isn't as effective because if you're not careful it can leave jagged edges and maybe lead to your child having a nail biting problem. Kimberli

I only ever cut my baby's nails while he is asleep. I try to keep nail clippers by my rocking chair so that when he falls asleep nursing I can cut them. Very easy! -hb

Cutting baby's nails has been really hard for us too! I found it was a three person job. One person to jump up and down to distract the baby. Another to hold baby and hands perfectly still. And a third to cut. However, the other day I put a ''Baby Einstein'' video on and succeeded pretty well at cutting my 14 month old's nails with little struggle. If there is a video your baby really likes ! you could try that. Lori

Ah, welcome to the first of many battles over control! I would try distracting your baby: - sit her on your lap and bounce her up and down and sing a silly song. As she is enjoying the play, cut a nail when you can. Something like: bounce bounce bounce (cut) bounce bounce bounce (cut)... - same idea with a Baby Bjorn. Sing songs and sway back and forth. Stand in front of a mirror, whatever she likes. Cut her nails when you can. - try blowing on her hand/fingers and see if she likes it. That may allow you to hold her hand still long enough to cut a nail. - have your partner distract her with funny faces or a toy while you cut. - put her in an exersaucer and play a video that she likes while you cut. - I never liked cutting my son's nails when he was napping, because I was worried I would wake him, but some people do this. It *does* get easier as they get older, but until then, you just have to do what you can. Try to do a couple fingers (or just one hand) and then call it quits for the time being. It may be that cutting her nails will be unpleasant for a while, but remember that nails are a breeding ground for germs and that cutting them will keep her and those around her healthier and scratch-free. Been There

Do it when she's sleeping. Sometimes I have also had success doing it while my son is paying attention to something else like Baby Mozart or my spouse reading a book etc. Good luck. juliette

I always clip my daughter's nails and toenails when she is asleep in the car seat. Even now, at 2 3/4. She hates me to cut her toenails, so I have to do her toenails when she's asleep. When I know she'll probably fall as! leep in the car, I take off her shoes and socks, so not to wake her. good luck Ali

when my kids were tiny like yours I stuck a couple sets of small nail clippers in my purse and diaper bag so that if the babies fell asleep in the stroller or car seat I could quickly trim the nails without disturbing them. They are 21 months and 3.5 yrs now and don't mind the trimmings at all. It helps to do your own nails first, they may eventually ask you for a trim. sonia

I trimmed off all my babies nails as needed with my own teeth. Usually they though it was funny, although one daughter was ''high needs'' and complained so I did it while she was sleeping. Karen

I think this is very typical. Did you try to cut her nails while she's sleeping? Wait for a period where she sleeps real! ly deeply, and it should be easy. My daughter (20 months) only very recently started to allow me to cut her fingernails when awake, and at most 3 at a time. After that she will pull her hands away or grab the scissors, and demand that I cut her tooth nails instead (as many as I want). Good luck, Julia

The only way that I can cut my baby's fingernails and toenails is when she is sitting in her car seat. While my spouse drives, I sit in back with her, wait until she's really relaxed or occupied, and then cut them. At least she's confined and can't wiggle away from me, and she's often so mellow in the car that she doesn't really notice. Kris

I can only think of two choices: 1. Slowly retrain her to allow you to trim her nails going one step at a time using positive reinforcment. or 2. Trim them while she's sleeping =) Amy

I bite my daughter's nails. Either when she is nursing or at random, surreptitious moments. Now, at 22 months she is interested in the clippers if her friend gets clipped first. fast on the draw

My son (20 months old) is just now becoming a little tolerant of the routine. But he still has his days when he's not in the mood and let's me know it. The best time to cut their nails is when they're asleep. anon

I had a similar problem and I found that two things worked: 1) cutting the nails while the baby slept, and 2) putting the clippers in my pocket and the baby in the baby bjorn, and cutting her nails while she was distracted watching buses pass on a busy street, etc. Our daughter is now nearly three and she happily puts out all ten fingers and toes for cutting, so I don't think we really need to teach our babies to tolerate it at an early age if they don't like it. anon

Perhaps the vibrations from the filing really bug her. Perhaps it is (to her) like scratching her nails on a chalk board. So try cutting her nails bit by bit and not filing at all. try doing it shile she is sleeping in your lap. My husband only likes to use clippers and I only like to use cuticle scissors. Our kids got used to both. Mom

How to make nail cutting less of a struggle? (11 mo-old)

March 2002

Does anyone have any clever tricks on how to make trimming my 11 month old daughter's nails less of a struggle? (While she's sleeping is not an option!)

What has helped with our girls is to let them participate. For us that means that we (the parents) will cut the nail _almost_ off, then the kid can grab that dangling nail and pull the last little bit off themselves. Gives them 20 things to do when we cut finger and toe nails and generally they now find it fun. Mike

Hi, I also have an 11 month old (son) and I've tried trimming his nails while he's sleeping... it's inconvenient for me to be bending over his crib. So we've recently been trimming them while he's sitting in his high chair, after he's eaten. I talk to him the whole time, in a very calm voice, and explain what I'm doing. He usually lets us do it this way. I have also done it just after nursing him... having a full belly seems to keep him calm and cooperative. Hope this helps! Laura

Why do you say ''while she's sleeping is not an option''? We always cut our baby's nails while he's sleeping. We sneak into his room at night and I shine a flashlight on his nails while my husband quickly clips them with small nailclippers. If he wakes up and starts thrashing, we wait for him to fall asleep again before finishing the job. Nomi

Like you, I couldn't imagine cutting nails while my child was sleeping. The risk of waking him seemed too great! However, he is mesmerized by kid videos (Baby Einstein variety) or frankly any kind of tv show. I use that opportunity to clip his nails. Whitney

I have found that if I let my son (almost one) watch Sesame Street he goes into a trance and that is when I cut his nails! amy

I got some great advice from my sister-in-law back when my son was a little baby. Her advice was to never clip his nails when he was asleep because if he didn't get used to it, then it would be a big nightmare to clip them when he was older. My son is around 3 now and he asks to have his nails clipped when they get too long, and he sits fairly still when I do it. When he was a baby I sometimes would try to get him focused on something else, like the moon, or a picture in a book, and even a video if I were desperate to get them clipped in a hurry and he was being too fidgety. It didn't take long for him to get used to the routine, and like I said, now he lets me know when they need to be clipped. Marianne

I sometimes nurse my daughter while I cut her nails. Occasionally she'll go for it. I also focus her attention on what I'm doing: ''Ooooh! Look! Let's get this nail, see?'' Or whatever. Usually she is impressed enough by the ''oooh!'' sound that she'll be still for a second to see what's so exciting:) Distraction works. You could try turning on the TV for a few minutes and see how that goes. Good luck! Laurel

We had success with using the nursery rhyme ''This little piggy went to market''. That is, ''this little piggy went to market'' -cut first nail- ''this little piggy stayed home''- cut second nail, etc. We tried to be very silly about it, and changed our intonation or the words to keep the focus. Also, try this after a bath, when the nails are soft, and everyone is relaxed. Anon.

I have always trimmed my kids nails while they are engrossed in some video. It seems to go fairly quickly for them this way. Jennifer

Hi - Well, if sleeping is not an option here is another. I also clip my 4 month old's nails when he is feeding (ie bottle). His little hands lightly grab the bottle so I just have my husband help me - one of us holds the bottle and the other clips his nails. He is so relaxed that he's not moving much so it works well. Hope this helps! Julie

Would she like it if it included painting her toenails with nailpolish? In order to get them polished in the color of her choice, she must submit to a ''pedicure'' too. It worked for my daughter (and still does at 2yrs 7 mos) but I don't remember at what age she found nail polish appealing. LSG

I dreaded cutting my 9 mo. baby's nails (it was so easy when she was tiny and slept through anything). I got two pieces of advice: cut them while side-lying nursing, cut them while the baby watches Teletubbies. The nursing one works for me. Kristine

I'm not sure at what age we started this, but as soon as I could no longer cut my son's nails while he was asleep, I started cutting my own nails first while he was watching. Then while he looked at a high interest book we cut his. He's almost 4 now and I no longer have to cut my nails every time I cut his, but the book is still part of the routine. We do it right after bath when the nails are soft. I keep my nails pretty short anyway, but if you like long manicured nails, you'd have to change your style to try this! Susan

When my daughter used to resist nail cutting I pulled out her favorite doll and would pretend to cut one of the dolls (making a fun nail cutting sound helped), and then would cut one of hers, then repeat with all the dolls and all of hers. Toes followed. Now she asks me to cut her nails when they are too long. Also, I would pull the tip of her finger back so that her wiggling wouldn't cause me to accidentally snip her finger. good luck Angela