How to Take Care of Your Baby's Fingers and Toes

Newborn fingers and toes are tiny, delicate, and downright adorable. Cute as they are, parents sometimes feel apprehensive about taking care of these little body parts. It's normal to worry about exactly what you need to do to take care of your baby's fingers and toes—and how to do it safely. Keeping their skin clean and soft and their nails trimmed requires some extra care. 

Trim Baby's Nails

Newborn baby's feet
Mike Kemp / Getty Images

You will need to keep your baby's nails well-trimmed. Despite how paper-thin baby fingernails can be, they can seem like little claws at times. Since newborns do not have perfectly developed motor control yet, they will often bat their arms around and may scratch themselves—or you—in the process.

Baby fingernails grow fast, so you will need to trim them approximately twice a week. Toenails are not as sharp and grow slower, so you will likely only need to trim them once or twice a month.

Always use clean nail clippers, a soft emery board, or blunt-nosed nail scissors to keep your baby's nails at the right length. Consider trimming their nails while they're asleep or very calm so that they will be less wiggly. Don't cut too close to the skin, in order to avoid cutting them. However, do not panic if you see a drop of blood, because your baby will heal quickly. 

Do not bite your child's nails to trim them. That can give your baby an infection.

Watch for Ingrown Toenails

Every now and then, your baby might develop an ingrown toenail. If you have ever had one, you know how painful they can become. Soaking the affected area and gently massaging it can loosen the nail from the cuticle. Contact their pediatrician if the area becomes irritated or infected.

Be sure to trim your baby's toenails regularly, which can help to prevent ingrown toenails. Clip toenails straight across with nail clippers and do not round the edges down.  

Check Fingers and Toes Frequently

You might be surprised by how much lint, hair, and fuzz can collect on and in between your baby's fingers and toes. Newborns tend to have a tight grasp, which is a normal aspect of newborn development. You might even find hair wrapped tightly around a finger or toe, which can be painful for your baby if it interferes with blood circulation.

Babies tend to touch whatever is within reach. So it is a good idea to check your baby's hands and feet at every diaper change and to use a baby wipe to clean them, as needed. Alternatively, wash their hands and feet using warm water. If necessary, you can also use a small amount of mild, fragrance-free soap. However, avoid using excessive amounts of soap as it can dry out your baby's sensitive skin.

If you notice any injuries to their fingertips, these should heal on their own. But stay aware of signs of infection, such as redness, puffiness, or warmth. If you notice anything that concerns you, check with their pediatrician.

Protect Hands With Baby Mittens

If your baby tends to scratch their face, you might want to invest in baby mittens. They are an excellent way to protect your baby's hands and to prevent scratches. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests limiting the time your baby spends wearing them, particularly after the first few weeks of life. This is so that your baby gets enough time to explore the world with their hands.

When packing for the hospital, you might want to stow a pair of baby mittens to be used after delivery. Consider sliding on a pair just before your baby has any procedures done that might cause them to move their arms around.

You can also simply use baby socks for this purpose, as well. Socks, like mittens, work well until the baby ends up losing one or both of them, an exceedingly common occurrence. After the newborn stage, the AAP suggests only using baby mittens or socks on your baby's hands when they sleep,

Use Gentle Baby Lotions

According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), if your baby doesn't seem to have any dry patches, lotion is not necessary. If they do have dry skin, you can try bathing them less rather than putting on lotion.

However, many parents do moisturize their baby's skin with a gentle lotion. If you decide to use baby lotion, choose one that is fragrance-free and mild. Scented options can cause irritation.

Note that it is not uncommon for your baby's skin to peel in the weeks after birth, and this may happen around the fingers and/or toes. Peeling skin is not dangerous or painful, and it likely doesn't bother your baby. However, you may use a baby lotion on any peeling areas if you want to keep your baby's skin looking smooth and soft.

Apply lotion within a few minutes following a bath to help lock in the moisture. You won't need to use much at any one time, because a little will go a long way.

Keep Feet Covered

Depending on the climate, you may need to keep your baby's feet covered for warmth and protection. Newborn baby socks are very easy to kick off, so they may not be the best choice. It may be easier to use footed baby outfits. With the feet built in, you'll know that their little toes will stay comfortable in cool weather. However, when it's warm out, it's perfectly fine to keep your baby's feet uncovered.

7 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. Nailing it: How to trim your baby's fingernails.

  2. US National Library of Medicine. Paronychia.

  3. Haneke E. Controversies in the treatment of ingrown nails. Dermatol Res Pract. 2012;2012:1-12. doi:10.1155/2012/783924

  4. US National Library of Medicine. Infant reflexes.

  5. American Academy of Dermatology. How to bathe your newborn.

  6. Nemours KidsHealth. Looking at your newborn: What's normal.

  7. American Academy of Pediatrics. Tips for dressing your baby.

Additional Reading

By Jennifer White
Jennifer White has authored parenting books and has worked in childcare and education fields for over 15 years.