Little nails grow quickly.

How to Cut a Preemie's Nails

by Jaimie Zinski

Although your preemie's nails are small, delicate and pliable, you still need to trim them because a newborn can't control his bodily movements and might scratch himself with his fingernails or snag his nails on his clothes or a blanket if you don't maintain them properly. In fact, because a newborn's fingernails grow very quickly, you may need to cut them at least once a week, notes MedlinePlus. Toenails grow somewhat slower. Also, a newborn's toenails are often surrounded by skin, making trimming difficult. If this is the case, wait until the toenails are growing normally before trimming. Ask your pediatrician if you are uncertain if you should trim them. Use the correct tools and be prepared to soothe and calm your preemie during his first experiences with personal hygiene.

Bathe your preemie as usual. Once finished, towel dry her, but avoid applying lotion or oil to her hands to keep them from becoming slick and sliding out of your hands while you're clipping her nails.

Ask a friend or spouse to hold your preemie while you gently grasp one of his hands. Carefully push the tip of his finger away from the nail. Trim the nail with miniature clippers specifically designed for use on newborns or infants. Never use adult-sized clippers.

Continue to clip all of your preemie’s nails in the same fashion. If your preemie becomes agitated, stop clipping and hold and cuddle him until he calms down, or falls asleep.

Check your preemie’s nails once you're finished. If you accidentally cut or puncture the tip of one of her fingers, dab away the blood and apply and antibacterial ointment, recommends the AskDrSears website.

Items you will need

  • Towel
  • Infant nail clippers
  • Antibacterial ointment


  • If you're nervous, or your preemie becomes agitated, clip her nails while she is in a deep state of sleep. Your baby is in this state when her hands are open and her limbs are completely limp, notes the AskDrSears website.
  • If your preemie's nails aren't too long, you can try just smoothing them with an emery board or nail file instead of using clippers.

About the Author

Residing in Chippewa Falls, Wis., Jaimie Zinski has been writing since 2009. Specializing in pop culture, film and television, her work appears on Star Reviews and various other websites. Zinski is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in history at the University of Wisconsin.

Photo Credits

  • Getty Images/Lifesize/Getty Images