I will never forget the first time I held my son in my arms. I couldn’t stop gazing into his tiny face as I tried to contain all the emotions I was experiencing. I was thrilled but also quite anxious. He, on the other hand, full of unguarded trust and seeking a bit of reassurance, curled up closely, then drifted back to sleep.
As a new parent, you will likely experience these feelings and more. The important thing is that you don’t let these emotions impair your understanding of how a baby should be held.
Haven’t learned how to hold a baby yet? We’re here to help. Check out our detailed guide on how to hold a baby safely.
How to hold a baby – step-by-step guide
Here is a step-by-step guide on how to hold a baby for the first time and throughout his/her infanthood.
Step 1: Wash your hands
Newborns and infants don’t have a fully developed immune system. It means that you can easily pass germs and bacteria to your little one.
To avoid this, be sure to clean your hands with soap and water every time before picking up your baby. You may also want to keep a hand sanitizer within easy reach. It can come in handy when you have visitors who want to cuddle your baby.
Step 2: Get cozy
The next thing you’ll want to do is to ensure that you’re as comfortable as possible. Comfortable in this case means getting physically cozy as well as having the right mindset.
It’s ok to be a little nervous at first, but don’t let that overwhelm you. Take a deep breath and stay calm. Remember, you should be confident in your hold, too.
Step 3: Pick a position
If you’re just starting to learn how to hold a baby, you should first get acquainted with the different ways to do it. You can then pick the best position for you and your baby (more on this below).
Step 4: Offer ample support
Newborns have little neck and muscle control, so when you’re holding them, you’ll need to support their head and neck. While you’re doing this, ensure you’re not pressing their fontanelles – the ultra-soft spots on their head.
Supporting these parts of their body is necessary until your baby develops control of their head and neck muscles, which happens around the third month.
Safe positions to hold a baby
Before we get to the positions, it’s advisable to swaddle your baby before picking them up. In addition to keeping them warm, swaddling makes your hold a lot more secure.
Want to learn how to hold your baby with good posture? Here’s a rundown of the safe and gentle ways to hold a baby:
1. The cradle hold
This is the most common way to hold a newborn, and understandably so given how natural it feels. This posture is particularly recommended for moms looking for a comfortable way to breastfeed or bottle-feed their babies.
To cradle hold:
- First, pick up your baby by gently sliding your dominant hand under their head and neck for support. Bring your other hand over their body and then underneath their hips and bottom.
- Lift them to your chest level. Slide the arm holding their head and neck along their back. This will allow the baby’s head to rest comfortably in the crook of your arm.
- Continue supporting their hips and bottom with your other hand. Ensure your fingers are spread out to provide the best support.
2. The snuggle hold
This position is fairly similar to the cradle hold. The key difference is that the snuggle hold requires you to hold your baby vertically.
This posture is ideal when you’re trying to calm a fussy baby or one suffering from colic.
To snuggle hold:
- Pick your baby up with one hand supporting their head and neck and the other their bottom.
- Bring the baby close to your chest and allow their head to rest on it.
- Check the position of your baby’s head-it should be facing sideways to allow them to breathe.
3. The football hold
Have you just gone through a C-section and are wondering how to hold your baby while breastfeeding? If so, you should try the football, or clutch, hold.
It’s advisable to use a nursing pillow for this approach to provide additional support to your baby.
To football hold:
- Begin with the standard position where you’re supporting your baby’s head and neck with your right hand and their bottom with your left hand.
- Spin your baby around, bringing their feet and legs tucked underneath your right arm and their back resting comfortably on your forearm.
- Continue supporting the base of their head and neck with your palm.
- Nestle your baby’s side closely against yours. At this point, the nursing pillow can be used to support your baby’s lower body.
- Pull your baby closer, enabling him/her to latch onto your breast.
4. The belly hold
The belly hold, also known as “tiger in the tree” hold, is great for when you want to calm or burp your baby.
To belly hold:
- Position your baby so that they’re facing downwards. Their body should be resting along your forearm, with their head up very close to your elbow.
- Their legs should be resting on either side of your hand. They should also be inclined slightly towards the ground, enabling you to hold the baby at a slight angle.
- If your aim is to burp them, stroke their back gently and slowly to help them expel any excess air.
5. The “hello world” hold
Also known as the chair hold, this posture is best reserved for older babies, preferably those above three months of age. It can be done either when you’re seated or standing.
To chair hold:
- Allow your baby to lean back, bringing their back to rest against your chest.
- Put one arm under their bottom and your other hand across their chest to prevent them from tilting sideways.
- Ensure that your baby’s head is always supported by your chest.
If you’re performing this from a seated position, then you don’t need to support their bottom as it will be resting on your lap.
How to hold a baby when nursing
A few of the techniques we’ve looked at are applicable when you’re breastfeeding your little one.
What about when you’re bottle-feeding them? Well, the majority of moms use the cradle hold, but there are two other postures you can try out when bottle-feeding:
- Upright feeding: As the phrase implies, this requires you to feed your baby while they’re sitting upright. Their head should be resting on your chest or the crook of your arm. Upright feeding works particularly well for toddlers experiencing reflux.
- Lap feeding: For this approach, you should be seated with your legs up and flexed at the knees. Next, hold your baby on your lap so that they’re facing you. Their back should be resting against your thighs and their head against your knees. This posture is also a nice way to interact and play with your baby.
How to properly carry a baby
Once your child is born, you will have dozens of opportunities to carry them—whether you’re going for a stroll around the block or simply carrying them around the house to lull them to sleep.
Just as there are different ways of holding an infant, there are different approaches to carrying them. It all boils down to preference.
Does the thought of holding a baby make you break out in cold sweat? Arming yourself with knowledge of how to do it safely and gently can help.
There are several positions you can adopt, such as the cradle, snuggle, clutch, belly, and chair holds. Whichever posture you choose, be sure to always support your baby’s head and neck, especially when handling newborns.