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Trimming Your Baby's Nails

Trimming your little one's nails can be a bit unnerving, 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.

It's also important to keep babies' nails trimmed once they start interacting and playing with other kids who could be scratched, especially in childcare settings.

Some parents find it easier to accomplish the nail-trimming task with a partner: one person holding the baby to keep the little one from squirming and the other trimming the nails.

First, find a good position that allows you easy access to your baby's hands. This may mean placing your baby in your lap, sitting with him or her in a rocker, or even waiting until your baby's asleep. 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.
  • You should 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 hesitant to try 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 giving your little one any nicks.
  • If you accidentally draw blood (a common occurrence 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 will inevitably put their fingers in their mouths and can dislodge the bandage and choke on it.

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

Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
Date reviewed: October 2013