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Reviewed by the Faculty of Harvard Medical School

Trimming Your Baby's Nails

Many babies are born with long fingernails, which must be trimmed to keep your baby from scratching himself (and those around him). Although the task makes some parents nervous, it gets easier to do with practice. And, you'll have lots of practice because nails grow quickly and need to be trimmed regularly, sometimes as often as once or twice per week.

Nail trimming is often easiest after a bath because the nails have softened a bit in the water. Use special baby nail scissors that have blunt (not sharp), rounded ends to avoid injury; small manicure scissors also work. Some parents prefer to use special baby nail clippers. The clippers and scissors are available in most drug and discount stores, usually near the other baby supplies.

Hold each finger or toe securely, pressing the skin underneath the nail down and out of the way to avoid cutting it as you trim the nail. Cut toenails straight across to prevent ingrown toenails. Round off the sharp corners on fingernails to prevent scratches. Use a baby-sized nail file to smooth any rough edges. Do not bite off any of your baby's fingernails, because the germs in your mouth can cause infection of the baby's skin.

Few babies hold still for nail trimming; most make the task more difficult by squirming and waving their arms around or kicking their feet. To make the job easier, try one of the following strategies:

  • Place your baby's favorite toy in one of his hands while you trim the nails on the other hand.
  • Enlist the help of your partner. One of you can trim the nails while the other keeps the baby occupied.
  • Trim your baby's nails when he is asleep. This method seems to work best for babies who sleep soundly.
Last updated June 24, 2005




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