By Raising Children Network
spacer spacer PInterest spacer
spacer Print spacer Email
Photo of Baby on mother's lap
Learning how to cut baby nails might take a while, and you might feel a bit uneasy at first. But you won’t hurt your baby, and keeping her nails short will stop her scratching herself – and you!

About your baby’s nails

Have you ever wondered why babies scratch themselves so much? It’s because they can’t really control what their arms and legs do until they’re about six weeks old. Intentional movement comes even later, at around 4-6 months.

Newborns’ nails are soft enough that they don’t need trimming often – they’re usually worn down by your baby’s clothing. As your baby gets old enough to interact with his environment, his daily activities will also help wear down his nails.

Your baby’s nails do grow quite fast, though, so you can gently trim fingernails and toenails as needed. You can also file them using an emery board. This means just rounding off the nails so they’re smooth.

It isn’t a good idea to bite baby nails yourself, because this can spread germs or infection.

How to cut your baby’s nails

Try to do this task when your newborn is asleep, very calm or drowsy. For older children, you can use a high chair or car seat where you can strap your child in. Plenty of light is important, so you can see well. Use special baby nail clippers, baby nail scissors or an emery board.

These tips can make things easier:

  • Work with someone else if it helps – one holds your baby as the other trims the nails.
  • Trim toenails straight across to prevent ingrown nails.
  • Talk calmly or sing to your baby as you trim the nails.
  • If your baby is older, you might be able to distract her with a toy or activity.
  • Involve your baby in the activity – making a game of it keeps things moving.
  • Praising your baby for helping you finish can help you both feel good about getting the job done.

If you accidentally cut your baby and his skin bleeds, gently press a soft cloth pad onto the cut until the bleeding stops. Don’t put on a dressing because your baby might suck it off.

If you’re worried about the cut, take your baby to see your GP.

You can cover your young baby’s hands with a pair of soft, cotton mittens. This will stop her scratching herself or irritating any dry skin condition he has.

Nail problems

It’s quite common for young babies to get a small infection (called paronychia) around a fingernail or toenail. This often clears up without needing treatment. But you might need to put a small amount of antiseptic cream or liquid on the nail.

Sometimes this infection can spread further into the skin of the finger or toe, causing the area to become swollen and red.

If you notice this, see your GP. Your baby might need an antibiotic to help clear the infection. If you do put on cream to treat the infection, make sure that you put mittens or socks on your baby afterwards. This means baby can’t put his hands or feet in his mouth.

  • Last updated or reviewed 26-10-2015