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Gentle ways to trim newborn nails

Gentle ways to trim newborn nails

Trimming newborn nails without pricking a finger can be tricky. Experts give tips and tricks on how to ‘nail’ it

newborn nail cutting

“As a first-time mother, I was very nervous and a million worries plagued my mind,” says Abhila Lijo, a homemaker and mother of a two-year-old from Kerala as she recalls trimming her newborn baby’s nails for the first time. “What if I cut her skin? What if she’s in pain? What if she suddenly jerks her hand? My thoughts had no end.”

Seeing her plight, her sister volunteered to do it the initial few times. When Abhila finally mustered the courage to do it, her worst fears came true.

“I accidentally pricked my baby’s finger, and she began wailing. I felt very guilty. The subsequent times, I’d be extra cautious.”


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After several nail-trimming episodes, Abhila has developed a knack for tactfully cutting her baby’s nails. “Now that she’s two, I engage her with nursery rhymes like The Finger Family, where each finger represents a family member. She excitedly shows her fingers as she doesn’t want to leave any member behind.”

Abhila also tells her baby the importance of trimming nails. The baby now eagerly looks forward to the nail-trimming exercise.

Why is cutting newborn nails important? 

Hygiene is an important reason for trimming a baby’s nails, says Dr Anupriya Dixit, a paediatrician and member of the Indian Academy of Paediatrics, Jaipur.

There is a developmental milestone called mouthing where babies put everything in their mouth, explains Dr Dixit. “If they can’t catch hold of an object, they will suck on their fingers. If the nails are dirty, especially in instances where the child plays in the mud, it can lead to diarrhoea and worm infestation,” she says.


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Besides, babies may scratch or hurt themselves because of their constant hand movements, making nail trimming a mandatory practice, Dr Dixit points out.

Don’t bite the baby’s nails

Dr Diana Raheesh, a consultant paediatrician and neonatologist at Bethany Hospital, Thane, Mumbai, doesn’t recommend trimming a baby’s nails until they are one month old.

“Their nails are very delicate during the first month. There are high chances of breakage unless done in a hospital by a trained professional. Using mittens in the meantime will prevent the babies from scratching themselves.”

While many mothers bite and remove the baby’s nails, doctors don’t advise the same.  “Techniques like biting and using blades should be strictly avoided. An infant nail clipper is the safest option in babies older than one month,” says Dr Diana.

Experts also recommend using nail scissors until the baby reaches toddler age (one year). “I use nail scissors, as the babies tend to move a lot and it is easier to have control over scissors than nail cutters,” says Dr Dixit.

Newborn nail trimming

The best time to cut newborn nails

“Babies up to 2.5 years are mostly non-cooperative while trimming their nails,” says Dr Dixit.

According to Dr Dixit, a good time to trim their nails is when the babies are in deep sleep or while being fed.  “Somebody can volunteer and cut the baby’s nails while feeding is underway,” she says.

Dr Dixit adds that when the babies grow older, around 2.5-3 years, the parents can tell them the importance of trimming nails and they’ll understand and cooperate.

Bleeding after a cut

“In case of a minor cut, bleeding can be stopped by applying a little pressure on the area. If the cut doesn’t heal after a day or two or develops into an infection, and there is redness, swelling or severe pain, consult a paediatrician. Nail infections can sometimes be painful and recurrent. That must be shown to a paediatrician,” says Dr Diana.


Babies’ nails need to be trimmed not only to ensure hygiene but also to prevent them from scratching or hurting themselves. Use an infant nail clipper or scissors and push back the skin on the fingertips to avoid cutting the finger. Trim the nails straight across to prevent ingrown nails.

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