health and care

Cutting your baby's nails

Newborns can grow sharp nails so it's best to keep them trimmed

Cutting your baby’s nails safely

It’s hard to believe soft, gurgling little newborns can grow such sharp, ragged nails, but with their movements still so uncoordinated, they can easily scratch themselves, and you! So when your baby is still tiny you’ll need to become a pro at cutting the smallest nails you've ever seen. Here’s how to get baby nails super soft while keeping your little one’s fingers and toes safe.

At a glance

  • Newborn baby nails grow very quickly
  • They're often sharp making it easy for them to scratch you or themselves
  • Keep the nails straight and not too short

Newborn nails

Newborn babies tend to have soft, flexible nails that grow astonishingly quickly and can get quite ragged and sharp. This means they can easily scratch themselves and even claw their faces, so you’ll need to learn how to keep your baby’s nails clean and short. 

It’s not easy trying to hold a cross, wriggly baby while you delicately trim their teeny, weeny nails, but if you take care and use the right products it can be done.

The good news is, when your baby’s very small you can gently peel the ends off with your fingers. But then as your baby grows, you’ll need to start using special baby nail clippers; tiny, round-ended safety scissors or a fine emery board. Some parents also like using emery boards to smooth rough edges after cutting.

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Get help with trimming nails!

Trimming your baby’s nails is a whole lot easier when you've got another adult holding your wriggly baby still and distracting them. You might also want to pick a time when your baby is calm or distracted – for example when they’re feeding or even sleeping. 

How often do I need to cut them?

Fingernails grow particularly fast so you’ll need to cut them more than once a week. Toenails though grow more slowly, so a couple of times a month is fine. 

What shape should my baby’s nails be?

Keep the nails nice and straight, don’t go too short and avoid trimming around the curve of their finger. Be careful not to cut down the side of their toenail, as it can cause ingrown nails, and avoid digging into the sides of their nails as it can cause an infection. 

How do I trim my baby's nails without nipping fingers and toes?

Press the finger pad away from the nail and keep a firm hold on their hand. Try not to trim too low as the tip of your baby's finger may bleed, which can lead to infection. 

Newborn babies' toenails are so soft they tend to curl over the end of the toe, which means it’s hard to tell which bit of the nail growth is still attached to the quick, so go slowly. 

What if I cut their skin?

If you accidentally nip the skin, don’t worry. Gently hold a piece of clean, damp cotton wool on the cut, apply a little pressure and the bleeding will soon stop. Don’t use a plaster though, as if it comes away your baby may choke on it.

Don’t bite baby nails!

Don’t be tempted to bite your baby's nails to keep them shorter. Germs from your mouth could get into any tiny cuts on your baby’s fingers, possibly causing an infection. You also won't be able to see what you're doing, and you'll find your baby's fingernail is tiny compared to your teeth!

How can I stop baby scratching?

You could try putting baby scratch mittens or socks on your baby's hands and feet – but they probably won’t stay on for long. Or you can keep your baby wrapped up so their hands are safely covered but do avoid prolonged periods of time with hands covered with mittens as this can stop your little one using their hands to explore the world around them.

At a glance

  • Newborn baby nails grow very quickly
  • They're often sharp making it easy for them to scratch you or themselves
  • Keep the nails straight and not too short

Cutting your baby's nails