Holding a baby can seem scary if you don’t have a lot of experience! Somehow they are so squirmy and wiggly. If a baby can slip out of a swaddle, can’t they slip out of your arms, too?
Whether you’re a babysitter, volunteering at a women’s shelter, or a new parent without a lot of baby experience, you might be wondering how to hold a newborn. Below are five safe ways.
Before Holding a Newborn:
- Wash your hands! Newborns have sensitive immune systems, so do your part to keep them healthy and wash your hands before holding.
- Most people know that newborns have big heads, and they have several months to go before developing strong neck muscles. The most important thing to know about holding babies is to support their neck.
- Last, avoid touching or pressing the soft spots on the baby’s head. These spots, called fontanelles, are spaces between the bones in the skull that haven’t closed yet.
How to Hold a Newborn
Probably the most popular hold of all, the cradle hold involves holding baby securely along your forearms.
Hold baby face up in front of your stomach with his head and neck supported by the crook of your elbow. Use both forearms to support his back, legs, and bottom.
This might be the hold you picture when you imagine parents burping their babies. Propped against your shoulder, this position allows baby to look around. With her ear pressed against you, she may even be able to hear your heartbeat.
With baby’s body facing yours, rest her head and neck on your shoulder, making sure she is well supported. Further support her neck and head with one hand. With your other hand, hold her bottom.
I think of this hold as more for dads because it seems to require a bit more forearm strength than some of the other holds!
Like the cradle hold, you’ll use the crook of your elbow to support baby’s head and neck. Unlike the cradle hold, baby will lie belly down. Let her arms and legs hang on either side of your forearm. You can rest your other hand on her back to help her feel secure.
I mentioned the shoulder hold is the one traditionally associated with burping a baby. The belly hold is a great option for helping her pass gas.
This position is a natural one to alternate with the shoulder hold.
If you have your baby in the shoulder hold already, switch to face-to-face by first supporting the head and neck with your hand. Then, gradually lean forward and let your baby shift from being supported by your shoulder to supported by your arm. She will be face up, now. Hold her around chest height.
Babies focus best on objects that are 8-12 inches from their faces. This hold is a wonderful one to bond with baby by making lots of eye contact!
This is a great one for tired parents! Sit on a surface that allows your thighs to be parallel to the ground. Rest baby on his back on your thighs so he can look up at you! Your legs will naturally support his back, neck, and head. To make sure he is securely in your lap, use your hands to cradle his head and your forearms to cradle each side of his body.
How Not to Hold a Newborn Baby
Do not hold the baby in any way that requires her to support her own head. She won’t be able to, so her head will flop one way or the other. If baby’s head goes unsupported for too long or flops many times, this poses a risk factor for suffocation, Shaken Baby Syndrome, and other serious complications.
That said, do not fret if baby’s head shifts back and forth a bit as you get her into a proper holding position. Heidi Murkoff of the famous What to Expect books assures nervous baby holders that a bit of adjusting won’t hurt baby.