Ask: How to keep a little one's nails trimmed?

11/19/2013 12:01 AM

11/18/2013 12:10 AM

Q. My baby's fingernails and toenails grow so fast, but I'm kind of terrified to cut them. Got any tips for making it easier?


A. The reason we tend to keep fingernails in particular cut short is that infants do not have good fine motor control, so they can inadvertently scratch themselves or you while they are waving their hands around. Additionally, for older children with itchy rashes or other things that children like to pick (yes, I'm talking about noses here), keeping the fingernails cut short helps to assure that the scratching doesn't damage the skin too much and reduces the risk of nosebleeds during picking.


Their little fingers and toes are so small, it makes all of us nervous when we're cutting the nails. First of all, sometimes children's nails can be cut while they are sleeping. It's amazing how sound children sleep during some periods of the night.  


Infants' fingernails are generally very soft, and parents can often use the edge of their own fingernail to cut the edge and then just rip off the end of the child's nail. Be careful not to rip far down below the white part of the nail when doing this. 


Lastly, a very easy thing to do is just to use a nail file. Infants' nails are thin and file quickly, so the nail file can easily be used to dramatically shorten the nails in a short period of time.


Good luck and keep the nails short, rounded, and out of the nose.


If you have a question about your child's health or happiness, ask Dr. Steiner or any of our experts by sending email to


Dr. Mike Steiner is a pediatrician in the division of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine at UNC and North Carolina Children’s Hospital, a group of health-care professionals dedicated to improving the health of children and adolescents through clinical care, research, education and advocacy. The group includes over 35 physicians, practitioners, nurses and other health-care professionals. We supervise the care of children with general medical problems at N.C. Children’s Hospital, including hospitalized children, the newborn nursery, primary care clinic and a complex care and diagnostic clinic that also sees patients at the N.C. Children’s Specialty Clinic located on the Rex Healthcare campus in Raleigh.


Entertainment Videos

Join the Discussion

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Terms of Service