How Often And Step-By-Step Process

Infants’ nails require periodic clipping since long nails may harbor germs and also cause the baby to scratch themselves. A baby’s nails are soft and supple, making it seem a challenge to trim them. However, cutting babies’ nails is not very difficult when you know the correct method and use the right tools.

Read on to learn the right way to cut a baby’s nails, the tools you will need, and precautions to observe.

How Often Should You Cut A Baby’s Nails?

A baby’s nails usually grow quickly. You may cut them whenever you sense they require clipping. The frequency of cutting the nails could vary from one baby to another. You may usually have to cut a baby’s fingernails once a week, while toenails require trimming about twice a month (1).

What Will You Need To Cut A Baby’s Nails?

You will need the following tools to cut a baby’s nails safely.

  • Baby nail clipper
  • Emery board
  • Tissue paper or cotton balls

Adult-sized nail clippers may clip a chunk of nail larger than the baby’s entire nail. Also, nail scissors may increase the risk of nicks and cuts. Therefore, baby nail clippers are the best choice. Emery boards are softer and flexible, making them a safer alternative to metal nail filers.

Tissue paper or cotton balls could be used for cleaning nail dust or file the nail’s edges. It is ideal to keep rubbing alcohol or an antiseptic liquid handy in case you accidentally nick some of the skin.

How To Trim Your Baby’s Nails?

You may cut the baby’s nails through the following steps (2).

  1. Pick a spot with adequate light. You may prefer a sofa or chair next to a window, which permits natural sunlight to come indoors. If there is no natural light, sit close to a bright table lamp or another bright light source.
  1. Choose the time when your baby is most compliant. For instance, you may choose the time after feeding when your baby is most relaxed.
  1. Place the baby in your lap, ensuring their head is well-supported. If your baby has a tendency to wiggle, take the help of your partner or a family member.
  1. Hold the baby’s finger firmly enough that it does not wiggle. Place the fingertip between your index finger and thumb. Gently move the pad of skin beneath the nail to avoid accidentally clipping it. However, move only a small section of the skin to prevent cutting the nail too deep.
  1. Gently clip the excess nail beyond the natural pinkish curve of the nailbed. Cut the nail straight across rather than clipping them close to the nailbed’s curve. Trim the nail that effortlessly comes between the nail clipper’s blades, and do not forcefully cut more nail than required.
  1. If a nail is a bit difficult to cut or you intend to cut the sides of the nails safely, use an emery board to file the nails instead. File the nail from the edge to the center in single strokes. Do not file it too deep.
  1. Repeat the same process with toenails. You may also file all the nails if they are not long enough to be cut with a nail clipper.

You may wipe the tip/blades of the nail clipper with a cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol or antiseptic liquid before and after clipping the baby’s nails. It eliminates germs and reduces the risk of infection if you accidentally chip the skin. Store the baby’s nail clipper in a clean and dry place.

Recommended Shape For Fingernails And Toenails

The shape of the baby’s fingernails and toenails should be straight on the top and not too deep on the sides. Cutting the nail too close to the nailbed’s curve and too deep on the sides may increase the risk of ingrown nails (3). Ingrown nails may increase the risk of infections and discomfort.

If you find it difficult to achieve the correct shape with nail clippers, you may use an emery board to file all the nails instead.

What If You Accidentally Cut The Skin?

If you accidentally cut the baby’s skin while clipping their nails, follow the steps mentioned below.

  • Wipe away any blood with a cotton ball or tissue paper. Do not press the fingertip, let the blood flow naturally.
  • Soak a cotton ball in rubbing alcohol or antiseptic liquid. Gently clean the wound with it. Alternatively, you may immediately wash the wound with soap and water.
  • Wipe away the water or excess alcohol/antiseptic. Leave the wound open and do not apply a bandage since the baby may accidentally nibble it away, increasing the risk of choking.

The wound will heal within days. If the wound is deep and bleeding profusely, see a doctor after you have provided first-aid with the aforementioned steps. If it is the second time you accidentally cut the baby’s skin, it may be that it is difficult to clip your baby’s nails. You may switch to filing their nails instead.

Precautions To Take While Cutting Baby’s Nails

The following precautions and measures could help you safely cut your baby’s nails (4) (5).

  • Choose a nail clipper made for babies. Nail scissors may require skill, and there could be the risk of accidentally cutting the skin under the nail.
  • If you find it difficult to see a baby’s nails clearly, you may choose a nail clipper that comes with a built-in magnifying glass.
  • Keep all the nail clipping supplies handy before you begin the process. It would be inconvenient and risky to leave the baby alone to pick any item later.
  • Never cut the baby’s nails in low light. It is best to cut nails under natural sunlight or the light of a bright lamp.
  • Freshly cut nails may have sharp edges that could scratch the baby. You may place mittens over the baby’s hands for a few hours to a day after you cut their nails.
  • If you feel unsure of cutting the baby’s nails safely, use an emery board filer to file the baby’s nails. It may take time but could be a safer alternative, especially if your baby’s fingertip is prone to accidental cuts.
  • Do not cut the baby’s nails at a time when they are cranky, unwell, or hungry. It will make it difficult to keep their limbs still during the nail cutting process. Choose a time when your baby is usually most relaxed, such as after feeding. You may also cut their nails when they are napping.
  • You may cut the baby’s nails after their bath when the nails are soft. However, it may make it difficult to file the nails, and you may wait until the nails are dry.
  • Take your time and do not rush with the nail cutting process. You may also carefully check each nail to determine if it requires clipping or could do with filing alone.

Babies’ nails require periodic cutting and care. The nails, nailbed, and skin around the baby’s nails are delicate and susceptible to injuries. Use a baby nail clipper, which is designed to cut baby’s nails safely. You may also choose to file all the nails. The use of the right tools and adequate care ensure you cut a baby’s nails safely without any injuries.


MomJunction’s health articles are written after analyzing various scientific reports and assertions from expert authors and institutions. Our references (citations) consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.

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