I remember meeting little babies and thinking their parents were insane for putting tiny scratch mittens on their hands. The more practical parents who just used baby socks seemed more financially savvy, but no less silly. How much could those little babies really scratch themselves?
The answer, I learned after picking up a post-nap baby who looked like a Freddy Kreuger victim, was a lot.
Now, with a little more experience, I think the problem isn't so much scratchy nails as it is parents terrified of accidentally cutting their babies' fingers. Clippers seem too dangerous, so many parents opt for teeny tiny files, which might as well be cardboard. Teeny tiny baby scissors are cute, but similarly useless.
When scouring drugstores for a better baby file, I was both thrilled and a little embarrassed to learn that I'd been walking past great ones for years. Does everyone else know about buffer blocks? In general, they have four labeled sides, in decreasing coarseness: file, smooth, buff, and shine. A simple search for "buffer block" or "manicure block" will yield lots of options, but I am particularly happy with the Body Shop and Revlon versions (prices fluctuate, so use camelcamelcamel to price watch and stock up).
Once I started using these on my baby, his nails (and scratch-free visage) looked better than ever. So I decided to try the block on my own nails. Tiny revelation! The file easily sawed my nails to a rounded square. The smoothing edge worked like fine sandpaper. The really exciting part was the "shine" side, which left my nails looking like I'd painted a clear coat.
Like most parents, I eventually worked up the courage to just use the grown-up clippers on the baby. It helps to use good, sharp ones (Seki's are worth every extra penny). But for that first panicked year, the buffer block meant great nails for me and baby.