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Nail care for newborns

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.

Update Date: 12/4/2013

Updated by: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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