About baby nails
You don’t need to cut baby nails very often.
In newborns, nails are soft and wear down by themselves through contact with your baby’s clothing. Older babies wear down their nails while playing and interacting with their surroundings.
Baby nails do grow quite fast, though, so you can cut fingernails and toenails as needed. You can use special baby nail scissors or nail clippers. You can also file nails using an emery board. This means rounding off the nails so they’re smooth.
How to cut baby nails
Try to cut your baby’s nails when your baby is asleep, drowsy or very calm. For older children, you can use a highchair or car seat where you can strap in your child.
These tips for cutting nails can make things easier:
- Make sure you have plenty of light, so you can see well.
- Work with someone else if it helps – one holds your baby as the other cuts the nails.
- Gently pull your baby’s finger pad away from the nail to avoid cutting the skin.
- Cut toenails straight across to prevent ingrown nails.
And here are tips to keep your baby happy and comfortable as you cut their nails:
- Talk calmly or sing to your baby.
- Try distracting your baby with a toy or activity. This often works well with older babies.
- Involve your baby in the activity by making a game of it.
- Praise your baby for helping you finish. This can help you both feel good about getting the job done.
If you accidentally cut your baby’s skin and it 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.
Young babies tend to scratch themselves accidentally because they don’t have a lot of control over their hands and legs. You can stop babies from scratching by covering their hands with a pair of soft cotton mittens or socks. But make sure your baby has some mitten-free time to explore and play with their hands.
Baby 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 will prevent your baby from putting their hands or feet directly into their mouth.