How to hold your baby

Holding your baby is one of the most important things you will do in your newborn's first days.
Whether you're moving baby from one place to another, rocking him to sleep, or just enjoying the closeness that holding him provides, there are things to consider which will ensure baby's maximum security and comfort during this time.

Holding your baby is a great way for you and your partner to bond with your baby, and for him to feel safe and comforted in the new world he is experiencing. It's good for your baby to get to know the other people who will be present in his life too, such as friends and extended family.

Skin-to-skin contact with baby is vital in the early days of infancy. He will greatly benefit from the warmth this provides, and it will also help to regulate his breathing. Although you will probably intuitively find a way to hold your baby that is right for you both, there are some important things to remember to guarantee the comfort and safety of your new baby.

The do's and don'ts of baby-holding
  • Always make sure that your baby's head is supported, however you are holding him. A newborn baby's head is heavier than the rest of his body so he won't be able to hold himself up on his own. Your baby's head will probably lag if not supported, and although this isn't painful, it can cause discomfort.

  • Hold your baby close to your body rather than at arm's length. Being able to hear your heartbeat and breathing will help to regulate his own bodily rhythms.

  • Try to avoid picking up or putting down baby too roughly or too suddenly.

  • Never shake your baby, as this will cause stress to his head and neck.

  • When you are holding your baby, be aware of your environment. Stay alert to potential hazards such as tripping on kerbs, or stumbling on toys left on the floor.

  • Be aware of the amount of space around you and be careful not to bump baby's head.

  • Make sure that baby's head doesn't drop down onto his chest, as this can obstruct his breathing.

  • Be careful that baby doesn't reach out and grab at things that would normally be out of his reach.

  • Try not to run or jog when you are holding your baby. These movements can place undue stress on his spine and nervous system.

  • While holding your baby it's a good idea to rock him gently, or sing to him - this will help to soothe him into sleep.

  • Towels, blankets or pillows across your arm are a good idea to provide extra comfort and support for baby.

  • Don't worry about spoiling your baby with too much close contact. Lots of holding and cuddling at this early stage is very important for providing a foundation of love and security.
There is no set way that you must hold your baby, but there are several tried and tested methods that may work for you. You'll probably find that after experimenting with different ways of holding your baby, you'll instinctively know what is best for him at different times.

Different ways you can hold your baby
  • To pick baby up from the prone position (lying flat on his back), scoop him up with both arms - one hand should support his head, and the other support his bottom. Alternatively try lifting him up with both your hands under his arms.

  • Then turn him so that he lies cradled in your arms. His head should be in the crook of your elbow. This is often called the Cradle Hold.

  • The Cradle Hold is an ideal position for talking to or smiling at your baby. Many babies sleep well in this position, and it's also a good way for younger children, such as siblings, to hold baby safely.

  • Babies also respond well to the Shoulder Hold, which involves leaning your baby up against your shoulder. One of your arms will be supporting baby's back and neck, and your other arm wraps under his bottom. This is also a good position for your baby to sleep in, as he will be able to hear your heart beating.

  • Sometimes known as the Belly Hold, this hold can be helpful if your baby is suffering from wind. Baby's chest is laid across your forearm, and your other arm lies across his back to hold him securely. This is also a good position for burping.

  • When your baby is a little older and can support his head and neck on his own, try positioning him in the Hip Hold. Your baby faces outwards, propped on one of your hips. One of your arms goes round his body to support him, leaving the other hand free to attend to other things. You can also try a variation on this position by turning baby to face you and hoisting him slightly up your body towards your shoulder.
Baby-carriers can also be a good idea, as they allow you to rest your arms if you are carrying baby for long periods. However it is important to provide baby with lots of close physical contact in his early days. Newborn babies love to be carried because it provides them with security, warmth, and comfort.

When your baby is held close to your body he is in tune with your breathing and heartbeat, which helps to reproduce the sense of being in the womb. Holding your baby is also said to promote cognitive development, as it allows him to experience the world from your level - which can help him to adapt to his new world outside the womb more quickly and easily.

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