Grooming little hands and feet

By Bupa

Your baby’s finger and toenails grow really quickly - in fact every part of your new baby does - by the five-month mark they’ll likely have doubled their birth weight!

As they grow, your baby’s nails will also grow and can become quite sharp. It’s important to keep them clean and short to help prevent scratches and infections.

For new parents, cutting your baby’s nails from such tiny delicate fingers and toes can be nerve wracking. Especially as babies aren’t in control of all their flicks and twists and it’s not hard to imagine yourself nicking their delicate skin while trying to trim their nails.

Cotton mittens can be donned to keep the scratches at bay, but regular grooming is essential. It is just a matter of finding a method you feel comfortable and confident with. Here are some options:

Clippers and scissors

Baby nail scissors or clippers need to be used with care. Hold their hand or foot firmly and try pressing the finger pad away from your baby's nail to avoid nicking their skin.


This is one of the safest ways to groom in the early weeks before the nail hardens. An emery board can also neaten any jagged edges after cutting.

Other methods

At first, baby nails are soft and thin making it easy to just peel off the surplus nail with your fingers, but you’ll want to be careful you don’t take too much of the nail. Some parents bite their children's nails as a way of trimming them. This method is not generally recommended as it can introduce germs from your mouth into any cuts your baby may have on their finger.

Trimming techniques

You can trim around the curve of your baby’s fingernails when shortening them, but toenails need cutting straight across. Cutting down the sides can cause ingrown nails.

Many parents find trimming easier when helped by another adult, one to trim and the other to keep the baby from squirming. Some parents wait until their baby is asleep before trimming their nails and others do it as part of a bathtime routine.

Hair Tourniquet Syndrome

When grooming always check no hairs have become tightly wrapped around their fingers or toes. Human hair is thin and easily over-looked. In severe cases, babies have suffered nerve damage and in rare cases, auto-amputation.

Nail health

Be on the look-out for raised lines or ridges running from tip to cuticle of the nail, This can indicate iron-deficiency anaemia, a condition common in babies and younger children. However, as iron can be toxic in too large doses, check with your doctor or pharmacist first for their advice on treating suspected iron deficiency.
Your baby’s nails are very soft and can sometimes look ingrown. There is no need for concern unless the skin alongside the nail gets red, inflamed or hard, which can indicate an infection. As your baby gets older the nails will become harder and more defined.

Nail cutting may feel like a big production at first, but as time passes you will become more confident until it is really no big deal at all.

Note: The views and advice expressed on this blog post are those of the author and are not representative of the Pregnancy Babies & Children's Expo.

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