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Trimming baby nails

Key points

  • You don’t need to cut baby nails very often

  • It can help to cut nails while your baby is calm or drowsy. Or try singing or distracting baby in some other way

  • Babies might get an infection around the fingernail or toenail. If you see signs of infection, see your Podiatrist

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.

How to cut your baby’s nails

Try to cut baby nails when your newborn is asleep, very calm or drowsy. For older children, you can use a high chair or car seat where you can strap your child in.

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 trims the nails

  • Trim toenails straight across to prevent ingrown nails

Some more tips to keep your baby happy as you cut 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 clean cotton 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 Podiatrist.

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 Podiatrist. 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 means baby can’t put their hands or feet directly into their mouth.


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