Newborn fingernails and toenails are most often soft and flexible. However, if they are ragged or too long, they can hurt the baby or others. It is important to keep your baby's nails clean and trimmed. Newborns do not yet have control of their movements. They may scratch or claw at their face.
- Clean the baby's hands, feet, and nails during regular bathing.
- Use a nail file or emery board to shorten and smooth the nails. This is the safest method.
- Another option is to trim nails carefully with baby nail scissors that have blunt rounded tips or baby nail clippers.
- Do not use adult-sized nail clippers. You could clip the tip of the baby's finger or toe instead of the nail.
Baby's nails grow quickly, so you may have to cut the fingernails at least once a week. You may only need to cut the toenails a couple of times per month.
Danby SG, Bedwell C, Cork MJ. Neonatal skin care and toxicology. In: Eichenfield LF, Frieden IJ, Mathes EF, Zaenglein AL, eds. Neonatal and Infant Dermatology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2015:chap 5.
Goyal NK. The newborn infant. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 113.
Review Date 12/10/2021
Updated by: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.