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How to cut a baby's nails

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 2 minutes read

It can be hard as a parent to know how to approach the difficult task of cutting your baby's nails. At such a young age and with such tiny nails, there's a concern that you might nip their delicate skin or cause pain. As they get more mobile, the difficulty is in being able to pin them down without causing any harm.

While it's tempting to leave the nails alone, any scratches or marks serve as a reminder that the job can't be ignored forever. We've put together some tips from our own experience to help get the job done.

What’s the best environment?

Make sure nail cutting occurs in a relaxed, calm, and familiar environment; for example, while your baby is being breastfed or bottle-fed, with someone soothing them, or when they are lulling to sleep.

Cutting nails after a bath works well because the nails are softer and easier to trim. 

It’s best done when they’re a month or older, as nails have started to harden and have more discrete edges.

What’s the best equipment? 

Many will swear by the old method of biting a baby's nails. You're welcome to try this, but it can create a raggedy edge, and both nails and mouths do harbor lots of bacteria.

We suggest using clippers for good control but make sure they are the smallest version. Nail scissors are also useful, as they have rounded edges, avoiding unnecessary accidents.

Nail clippers are easiest with a less mobile child. Nail files are often not tolerated well. If you share nail clippers with anyone else in the family, it's best to sterilize them after each use. 

How can parents help?

It helps to have a calming adult around, who removes any added anxiety, as babies can often sense that. You can sing a song with them, such as the finger family, to distract them and make light of the situation.

Remember that it’s not essential to get both hands and toes done all at once, as that can be quite an ordeal. You want them to have a good experience. Doing a few nails at a time may help them ease into the process and make it a success. 

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This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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