Are you looking for the best way to cut baby nails? When Pixie was a toddler I found myself facing a dilemma: my daughter would not allow me anywhere near her nails to trim them. In hindsight, the disproportionate level of stress this caused seems a little silly, but at the time it felt like a disaster – I couldn’t bear the thought of being that mum who cut her child with the clippers. But I did eventually find a way, so I thought I’d share my solution for how to cut baby nails safely, in case you too are struggling.

Initially I told myself it would just be a short phase and I’d cut them a few days later; then I realised the longer ones on her tiny toes were beginning to curl over and I had to find a way to trim my baby’s nails before they became a problem.

Of course, there’s such a thing as being ‘cruel to be kind’, and – yes – I could have chosen to overpower her and hold her down to get the job done.

But that felt so wrong – I didn’t want to be that mother either. This was becoming a genuine source of anxiety! 

Woman Screaming

Tips for Cutting Baby Nails

I sought help from friends and Google, and there was a lot of advice:

  • Bite them off;
  • Make it into a game: one of mine, one of teddy’s – one of hers;
  • When she’s in her highchair cut them under the tray so she can’t see;
  • Trim a couple each day until they’re all done;
  • Make it fun by giving her a ‘manicure’;
  • Do it when she’s asleep.

Over the course of several days I tried them all. Nothing worked.

I tried coaxing and bribing; I tried while she was napping (ruined that sleep, dammit); I tried when she was in actual bed at night – until I almost woke her up three times and lost my nerve.

Pixie is nothing if not stubborn. I was starting to panic.

In the event I did – of course – find an answer. And I want to share that with you today, in case you suffer the same fate with your contrary child.

Tips for the best way to cut baby nails. Image shows a baby wrapped in a pink blanket with bare feet poking out the end.

How to Cut Baby Nails With Zero Fuss

Pixie naps in her pushchair. Every. Single. Day. This is both a blessing and a curse:

  • I can be anywhere and need only stick her in the pushchair and take her for a walk: blessing.
  • I can be anywhere and if I don’t have her pushchair with me, she ain’t napping: curse.
  • It doesn’t matter where we are, if she’s napping, she’s portable: blessing.
  • If she falls asleep in the car, she is very definitely not portable: curse.

Turns out snoozing in the pushchair has another blessing too…

In desperation I took her nail clippers out of the house when we went for our daily walk to get her to nap.

Toddler sleeping in a pushchair.

Pixie fell asleep close to town and I debated stopping on the pavement to quickly deal with the matter at hand… And then I bottled it for fear of my daughter being removed from my care when the nice Doctors were called to take me away.

We continued our walk to our local Costa, and I continued to frantically think up a way to get the job done quickly, but without an audience.

When we arrived, we were (praise Mother Nature) still in the midst of the Magic Window – the divine zenith during which nothing, not even an earthquake, would rouse my sleeping beauty. Except for attempted nail cutting, of course. But – and this is critical part of the plan – the vibrations of the pushchair and the background hum of the cafe bought me some margin for error: I had ten precious minutes.

The Best Way to Cut Baby Nails Safely

I zipped into the baby change loo and painstakingly cut every one of her nails, as deftly and stealthily as possible (being very careful to avoid putting my bum too close to the hand dryer, lest its din ruin my good work).

It may be an unorthodox solution for successfully trimming baby nails, but parenting is hard and I take my wins where I can get them. If it works then go with it, right?

I continued to use that method until something changed and Pixie relented: shortly after I was able to cut all twenty of her nails, at home, with minimal fuss. She’s growing up. Sob.

A baby sleeping.

How to Trim Baby Nails With Minimal Fuss

For now, ie. as long as I can get away with it, we’re back to plain old orthodox at-home nail trimming. Here’s hoping Pixie’s fickle nature doesn’t extend to an irrational fear of the clippers – because if so, once the Magic Window ceases I will be in big trouble…

And I have a cold, creeping fear that the end of the nap is nigh – a day I dread almost as much as opening the kitchen cupboard after a bad night with Pixie to find we’re out of coffee.

An award-nominated blogger and author, Kate is a huge advocate of personal growth, focusing on journaling to increase positivity and facilitate mindful motherhood. With a wealth of experience in breastfeeding and CMPA, Kate is also an expert baby sleep chaser. Her writing has appeared on Mothercare, Huff Post, and BritMums.

8 Comments

  1. I wish I was liberated and frivolous Reply

    I feel the first paragraph of this piece is completely unrelated to the topic matter of the article, not only that, it is more than a little insulting to those of us who aren’t married with children, but what do I know; I’m just “moving from one selfish act to the next”.

    • Kate Tunstall Reply

      Oh dear… I merely meant selfish as in independent.

      As with the vast majority of my posts, this was written with tongue in cheek and a degree of cynicism.

      Apologies if I inadvertently caused offence. Thanks for your input! I hope I’ve not scared you away forever.

  2. Rebecca Taylor Reply

    Oh Kate. I can completely relate. Ernie has always been the same until the past two weeks. I’ve never cut them. I was always too terrified so hubby has always had to do it as he is much better at these things. It has always been a struggle though and I’ve always had to leave the room! Last week he let him do it without a fuss!
    It’s so bizarre how they just suddenly adapt. They certainly are growing up.
    I hope pixie continues to be okay with the clippers.
    Great article. Thank you for sharing xx

    • Kate Tunstall Reply

      I’m glad it’s not just me who has struggled – it was a genuine fear at one time! Thanks for reading, and I hope you’ll soon be able to cut Ernie’s nails yourself! Xx

  3. I have absolutely ALWAYS struggled with this.
    My 2 year old hates it, and screams..therefore wriggles so I can’t do it.
    And my 1 year old is the wriggliest human being ever, so I can’t do it! BUT he does often fall asleep in the pushchair, so I may have to give it a go!

    • Kate Tunstall Reply

      It’s awful isn’t it! I’m so relieved that Pixie is good about me doing it now, otherwise I’d still be going for coffee to do it!

      Best of luck!

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