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.

About your baby’s 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 trim 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 just rounding off the nails so they’re smooth.


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.

File them down

Filing your baby's nails with an emery board is the least difficult, safest way to do it, but it takes more time. And you must be careful not to file the tender skin under the nail bed. Don't use a metal nail file, which may be too rough for baby's skin.

Use a baby nail clipper

Clip your baby's nails as you would your own, gently pushing back the fingertip from the nail to allow space for the clipper. This helps prevent clipping your baby's finger. Short little clips above the white nail line will help prevent clipping too close. For toenails, clip straight across. Keep a firm hold on your child's hand (or foot) as you clip. You can also use scissor-shaped clippers or manicure scissors. Smooth rough edges with an emery board.

Clip while baby sleeps

Wait until your baby is sleeping to clip her nails. If you're lucky, she will sleep right through it. And she won't wiggle and squirm. Even if you're clipping while baby sleeps, make sure you have adequate light for the task.


Distract and relax

If you choose to trim your baby's nails while she's awake, try to distract her. When newborns are alert, they tend to clench their fists, tightening the gap between the fingertip and nail, which makes the process more difficult. Make sure you and your baby are as relaxed as possible. A good time is right after baby's bath, when she's relaxed and her nails are soft. If your baby tenses up, take a break and give her a chance to calm down. Singing a favorite song may help.

 If you still don't have the courage (or the time) to clip your little one's nails, here are some alternatives:

Seek help

Ask a more seasoned parent to show you how they do it. Maybe this is a task for a grandparent or favorite aunt or uncle. A regular sitter or nanny also may be willing to do it. If you decide to do it yourself, you may want to ask your partner or a friend to hold your baby and keep her from wiggling too much while you work or to distract her while you do the clipping.


Put on the mittens

If baby's nails seem particularly sharp and you just can't clip them right now, put mittens on your baby's hands to prevent scratching, especially while she sleeps.

Some parents bite their baby's nails, but this is not recommended because it can introduce germs and leave baby's nails ragged, plus it's easy to bite into baby's soft flesh.


If the worst happens and you do nick a finger or toe, don't fret. Just rinse the cut with cool water and cover the cut with sterile gauze or cloth. Apply a little pressure and hold it briefly. The bleeding usually stops quickly. You can apply some antibiotic cream, but avoid bandages, which could cause your baby to choke.

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