Infant Care How To Cut Your Baby’s Nails

Everything parents need to know about trimming infant nails, including how to use baby nail clippers and when to start cutting baby's nails.

Mom Cutting A Baby's Toenails

For many parents, one of the scariest parts of early infant health care is the idea of trimming their teeny, tiny nails. The thought of accidentally cutting or damaging their delicate skin is cringe worthy, especially when you take into account that most babies don’t stay still long enough for a complete nail trimming to take place. However, learning how to cut baby nails isn’t as stressful as it initially seems, especially if you have the right tools and know the facts on how to properly trim his or her tender toenails and fingernails. 

Why Should You Cut Your Baby’s Nails?

Infant nails are pliable and tender, but they’re also extremely sharp. Newborns have little control over their flailing, squirming arms and legs, so there’s a large chance the baby could accidentally scratch his or her face (and yours) if the nails are too long.

When To Start Cutting Your Infant’s Nails

Because an infant’s nails start growing before birth, it’s possible that your little one may need his or her first mani/pedi within a week of being born. If you notice that your baby’s nails extend beyond the tips of the fingers and/or toes, it’s time to schedule your first baby nail trim in order to prevent the newborn from accidentally scratching herself or himself. If the nails don’t extend beyond the tips of the toes or fingers, you may be able to wait up to two weeks before finally taking the nail cutting plunge. 

How Often Should I Cut My Baby’s Nails?

Infants experience serious nail growth during the first few weeks of life, and parents may have to trim infant fingernails as often as twice a week during the first month they're home from the hospital. However, this can be reduced to once per week and may be decreased to twice per month, depending on how quickly the baby’s nails begin to harden and slow in growth. 

Infant toenails typically grow a lot slower and can be cut once or twice per month, depending on their growth rate. 

What To Use To Trim Your Infant’s Nails

Because infant nails are tiny and your baby’s hands and feet are much more fragile than yours, it’s important to use baby nail clippers or baby nail scissors designed especially for infant use. Most are rounded to help prevent injury, and some even have built-in magnifying glasses so parents can get an up close and personal view of the delicate work at hand. 

Though some parents insist that peeling infant nails or nibbling on the nails is the best way to keep them short, pediatricians recommend that parents avoid these infant nail trimming methods. Peeling the nails can cause nail damage and uneven edges that can lead to the baby accidentally scratching his or her face, while nibbling the nails is considered unsanitary and can lead to bacterial infections.

How To Cut Your Baby’s Nails

When cutting your baby’s fingernails, gently hold your baby’s finger to keep it as steady as possible. Press the fingertip pad down and away from the nail, and then press on the nail clippers, being sure not to cut too short and that that you follow the natural curve of the nail.

When cutting your baby’s toenails, gently hold his or her toe, press the toe pad down and away from the nail, and then press on the nail clippers, being sure not to cut the nails too short. It’s important that you cut the toenails straight across rather than in a curved shape, which helps prevent ingrown toenails. 

It’s often difficult to cut your infant’s nails while he or she is awake and squirming, so many parents aim to trim the nails while their baby is sleeping. It helps to keep an extra pair of baby nail clippers stashed in your diaper bag so you can get in a few snips whenever a quiet occasion arises. If cutting your baby's nails while he or she is sleeping isn't possible, ask someone (your partner, family member or friend) to help hold the baby still and keep him or her distracted.

READ ALSO: How To Use Infant Foot Massage To Soothe Fussiness And Crying

If you find yourself still feeling anxious about cutting your baby’s nails, you can try keeping them short by gently filing the nails down with a small emery board rather than using nail clippers or scissors. 

If I Accidentally Cut My Baby, How Can I Stop The Bleeding?

No matter how well intentioned and careful you are, there’s a chance you’ll draw blood by either accidentally cutting your baby’s tender skin or trimming your baby’s nails too short. Don’t panic and don’t feel guilty — it happens to the best of parents and is rarely cause for concern as long as you apply gentle pressure to the area with a clean gauze pad until the bleeding stops. Try to resist the urge to place a bandage on your infant's fingers or toes, as it may become loose and could become a choking hazard. 

For more infant and children's foot care tips, be sure to check out Footfile’s complete Children’s Foot Care section

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Articles having medical content shall serve exclusively for the purpose of general information. Such articles are not suitable for any (self-) diagnosis and treatment of individual illnesses and medical indications. In particular, they cannot substitute for the examination, advice, or treatment by a licensed physician or pharmacist. No replies to any individual questions shall be effected through the articles.

Kambra Clifford