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How to cut your baby's nails

3-minute read

You may feel a little uneasy when you first cut your baby’s tiny nails. But as they grow, you will be able to take care of their nails with confidence.

Do I need to cut my baby's nails?

You may not need to cut your baby's nails for the first few months. Newborns' nails are very soft and will probably be worn down by their clothing.

However, babies can't control their arm or leg movements for the first 6 weeks. If their nails are sharp or jagged, they may scratch themselves. If you notice your baby's nails need to be smoothed, you may need to trim them.

Babies’ nails grow very fast, so keep an eye on them and trim them when necessary.

How do I cut my baby's nails?

The best time to cut your baby's nails is when they're asleep or very drowsy and calm. After a bath is a good time because their nails will be softer then.

Make sure you have plenty of light and that you hold your baby securely either in your arms or in a highchair. It can help if someone else holds the baby while you cut the nails.

You can use baby nail clippers or baby nail scissors with rounded ends. Pull the pad of the finger or toe gently away from the nail to avoid cutting the skin and then cut the nail straight across. Sometimes you may just need to use an emery board to smooth and round the nail.

Some babies might not like having their nails cut. You can soothe them by talking or singing to them, distracting them with a toy or making a game of it. Praise your baby when you have finished.

Things to avoid

It's not a good idea to bite your baby’s nails with your teeth because this can spread germs from your mouth and lead to an infection.

If you peel your baby’s nails, you can easily tear them back too far, which will hurt your baby.

Try not to shape the nail or cut down the sides of the nail. This can cause ingrown nails and infections.

What to do if something goes wrong

Even with the best of care, it's possible to accidentally nick the baby's finger or toe. If it's bleeding, gently press a soft, clean cloth over the cut until the bleeding stops. Don’t put on a dressing like a band-aid as the baby might suck on it and it could come off.

Sometimes young babies get an infection next to their fingernail or toenail. If this happens, you can use a little water-based antiseptic cream, lotion or a saline solution to keep the area clean. If you use cream or lotion, put a mitten on your baby's hand so they don't suck it.

If the infection spreads and the finger or toe becomes red and swollen, you will need to see a doctor since your baby may need an antibiotic.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: April 2020


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