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Trimming Your Baby's Nails

Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
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Trimming your little one's nails can be a bit scary, especially at first. But keeping nails short is important to your baby's safety. Because they lack muscle control, infants can easily scratch and cut their own delicate skin while happily waving their hands and feet.

Babies' nails tend to grow quickly from infancy to toddlerhood, so they might need to be trimmed as often as once or twice a week. Some newborns need their nails trimmed even more often during the first few weeks of life.

Find a good position that gives you easy access to your baby's hands. This may mean placing your baby in your lap, sitting with your little one in a rocker, or even waiting until your baby's asleep. When possible, it can be easier to trim a baby's nails with a partner — one person holds the baby to keep the little one from squirming and the other trims the nails.

Make sure you are in an area with good lighting so that you can see what you're doing. Then:

  • Hold your baby's palm and finger steady with one hand and cut with the other.
  • Cut your baby's nails with baby nail scissors, which have rounded tips for safety, or baby clippers. Many baby nail-care kits also come with nail files or emery boards, but if you cut your baby's nails short enough and make sure to keep the nail edges rounded instead of jagged, you may not need to use these.

    However, if you're worried about using baby nail scissors or clippers and your baby will stay still long enough to cooperate, you can use an emery board to file the nails down without the risk of any nicks.
  • If you accidentally draw blood (which is easy to do with fussy, fidgeting babies), don't worry. Using a sterile gauze pad, gently apply pressure to stop the bleeding. But don't put a bandage around the tiny cut — babies love to put their fingers in their mouths, which can loosen the bandage and make it a choking risk.

Remember to keep your child's nails trimmed as they start interacting and playing with other kids who could be scratched, especially in childcare settings.

Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
Date reviewed: June 2022