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Clipped Baby's Finger when cutting nails? (Do this!)

Clipped Baby’s Finger When Cutting Nails? (Do This!)

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Nicole Nabatkhorian
Dr. Nicole Nabatkhorian

MD / PGY-2 Pediatrics

Disclosure: Some of our articles contain links to recommended products or services in which we may receive a commission if you make a purchase.

Many of us parents have clipped Baby’s finger when trimming their nails. Few things are more anxiety-inducing than trimming those little daggers while avoiding the baby’s delicate skin! Those tiny, fast-moving hands and surprisingly sharp, yet thin little nails are hard targets for parents. So, if you’re carefully trimming a baby’s nails and hear a scream, what do you do next?

If your baby’s finger is clipped while trimming the nails you should wash your hands, clean your baby’s finger with soap and water, apply firm pressure to the bleeding with a sterile cloth, wait for the bleeding to stop, and then apply a bandage. Bleeding that does not stop or later signs of infection means your baby will need to see a doctor.

The only care that little fingers and toes require is regular trimming with appropriate tools, but accidents can happen even when you’re being extra careful. There are a lot of tips and tricks when it comes to cutting baby’s nails and some safety precautions you can take to eliminate cuts and crying.

What to do if you accidentally cut your baby’s finger with the nail clipper

Ouch! There’s nothing more aggravating than cutting nails too short or worse cutting the delicate skin on the end of a finger while trimming them-especially for babies! The second you know you’ve trimmed more finger than fingernail you’re likely apologizing to baby while trying to stop the bleeding and the crying all at once (yes, that includes your tears too, mom and dad).

Despite your best intentions to trim baby’s nails carefully to prevent them from cutting or scratching themselves, let’s be honest, you may have cut the skin. Those little fingers are fast-moving targets, which don’t mix with sharp objects, like nail trimmers.


If you accidentally cut a baby’s finger while trimming, follow these first-aid steps to make that booboo all better:

  1. Wash your hands! Always use clean hands before administering first aid.
  2. Clean the baby’s hand with soap and warm water (nail trimmers may harbor lots of bacteria and germs).
  3. Apply firm yet gentle pressure to the wound with a clean cloth or gauze to stop the bleeding.
  4. Once the bleeding has subsided, which shouldn’t take more than a few minutes for a minor injury, you can wrap it up, if necessary.
  5. If the cut is minor and bleeding is controlled, don’t use a band-aid on the baby’s finger as they may put their finger in their mouth and accidentally swallow the band-aid.

If the cut doesn’t seem to be healing well or was fairly deep, keep an eye out for the following signs that you may need to put in a call or visit the pediatrician:

  • The cut becomes red or swollen
  • Red streaks form around the wound
  • Baby is running a fever (>38 degrees C or >101.3 F)
  • The wound has discharge or pus
  • Baby hasn’t had a tetanus shot yet

Remember, most of the time when this happens you’re likely feeling worse than baby is! As long as you clean and care for a cut properly, baby will be just fine. This is a great reason to always keep a well-stocked first-aid kit handy in the medicine cabinet.

Typically injury is minor although your baby will cry for awhile

Not sure what to keep in a first aid kit? Here are a few things that will help you be prepared for cuts and scrapes to big booboos:

  • Medical tape
  • Elastic bandages
  • Woven sticky bandages (Band-Aids)
  • Antibacterial spray or ointment
  • Hydrogen peroxide

Use extreme caution when applying a bandage to a baby’s finger. It’s very possible for a baby to suck or chew off a bandage and choke on it.

How to stop baby finger bleeding

A common worry is what to do when your clipped baby’s finger won’t stop bleeding. A baby finger bleeding from nail clipper slippage is normal! However, it should stop fairly quickly. It can take what feels like forever for a cut on the finger to stop bleeding-we’ve all been there, and babies are no different.

Try holding the finger above their head for several minutes and maintaining firm and gentle pressure while doing so. If bleeding doesn’t stop within 10 minutes then a call or visit to the pediatrician or clinic may be necessary.

How long does it take for a baby’s finger to heal?

Best practices suggest that if bleeding is not controlled within 10 minutes then a trip to the doctor may be necessary to properly care for the wound.

Clipped Baby's Finger While Trimming Them

What to do if you cut your baby’s nail too short

Perhaps just as painful or aggravating as cutting your finger while trying to cut your nails is cutting them too short! Ouch! The reason this is painful is that under your nails is the hyponychium, which is more precisely located under the distal end of your nail bed near your fingertip.

The hyponychium serves as a barrier to prevent germs and debris from making their way under your nail and it also contains white blood cells to help fight infections. Cutting your nails too short exposes this barrier and can make your fingertips sensitive, painful, or even irritated due to the nerve endings being exposed to pressure or sensations it’s normally protected from by the actual fingernail.

Just keep baby’s hands clean until the nails grow back and the redness is gone. If the area begins to look red, or inflamed, or is causing the baby excessive pain then head to the doctor’s office for a checkup to make sure infection is not a concern.

Should you worry about tetanus from nail clippers?

The CDC says that it’s actually pretty easy to contract tetanus-even from a seemingly harmless accident like getting a cut from your nail clippers. The average time from exposure to illness is anywhere from 3-21 days but averages about 10 days. Symptoms of a tetanus infection include:

  • Jaw cramping or “lockjaw”
  • Muscle spasms or involuntary muscle tightening
  • Painful muscles or stiffness
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Seizures (jerking or staring)
  • Headache
  • Fever and sweating
  • Changes in blood pressure and elevated heart rate

The best way to prevent tetanus infection is to stick to the recommended vaccine schedule, which would include a DTaP vaccine for children at 2, 4, 6, and 15 months of age, and again at 4-6 years old.

What if the nail looks infected?

It’s actually pretty common for babies to get minor infections around their fingernails. It’s called paronychia and can happen when bacteria or a fungus enters a broken cuticle or skin around the nail. It can happen to babies who suck their fingers a lot or if they get a small cut when you trim their nails.

These infections typically resolve on their own, but in severe cases, a doctor might need to drain an abscess or prescribe an ointment to help it heal.

Here are the best ways to trim a baby’s nails

The best way to cut baby’s nails is with a personal hygiene tool, preferably one made for babies, and not with your mouth to avoid spreading germs or causing jagged edges. Appropriate tools to use include:

  • Soft emery board
  • Baby nail clippers
  • Blunt-nosed toenail scissors (to avoid cutting the skin)

Baby nails tend to grow very fast, so you may need to trim them multiple times per week to avoid any scratches on your or baby. Steps to properly care for baby’s nails are as follows:

  1. Find a good position and angle to reach the baby’s fingernails
  2. Hold baby’s hand and fingers steady with one hand while you’re working
  3. Use designated baby nail kits, which will have appropriate tools for safety
  4. Cut nails straight across (decreases the risk of ingrown nails from forming)

Other tips for trimming baby’s nails:

  • Try an emery board, which may be the safest but will take more time
  • Don’t use a metal file, which may be too rough for the baby’s delicate skin
  • Use baby nail clippers because they have rounded edges to prevent accidents
  • Clip toenails straight across
  • Fingernails should be cut straight across and slightly rounded to prevent jagged edges
  • Clip nails while baby is asleep, distracted, or drowsy
  • Enlist another adult for help securing the baby

Many parents have accidentally clipped baby's finger while trimming their nails

If your baby is fidgeting and you’re not comfortable cutting your baby’s nails, you can put baby mittens or baby socks on their hands to prevent them from scratching their face to reduce the risk of cutting/injuring themselves.

It’s not rocket science, but it is something that causes a lot of anxiety for parents as they work to keep their baby’s nails short and hygienic. Using proper tools and techniques and following first aid steps if something does go wrong are the best ways to keep the baby’s hands healthy.

Joshua Bartlett
Joshua Bartlett

My name is Joshua Bartlett I run this blog with my wife Jarah. We have more than 11 years of parenting experience including three girls and one boy. I started this blog in late 2018 when I realized that I was dealing with baby-related issues on a constant basis…please read more about me here!