Babies don’t come with an instruction manual, more’s the pity. So it’s not surprising new mums and dads often find the whole parenting thing a bit daunting. One of the scariest things can be knowing how to hold your newborn – she seems so tiny and fragile, what if you hurt her? Try not to worry. Even small babies are generally much more robust than you might think. But if you need some tips, here’s how to do it.
New babies are vulnerable to germs and infections as their immune systems aren’t yet fully developed. Make sure you and anyone else who wants to cuddle your new baby cleans their hands before they pick him up. You don’t need to run to the bathroom to use soap and water each time – just keep a bottle of hand sanitiser nearby
The most important thing to remember is to support your newborn’s head and neck. Their muscles aren’t strong enough to do this for the first few months, so they need your help – after all, their head is the heaviest part of their body. Whichever hold you choose or find most comfortable, always make sure one hand is giving essential support.
3Pick a position
There are several ways you can hold a new baby. To pick them up, slide one hand under their head and the other under their bottom, then lift them carefully to your chest. After that it’s up to you.
- The cradle hold: One of the easiest ways to hold your newborn baby in the early weeks. Hold your baby horizontally after picking him up and slide the hand under his bottom up to his neck. Slide the hand under his head down to his bottom, so that becomes the supporting arm and his head is resting in the crook of your elbow. Use your free arm for extra support or to do other things.
- The shoulder hold: After picking up your baby, hold her upright with her head at shoulder height. Rest her head on your shoulder, either facing to one side or looking behind you. Keep one hand on her head and neck for support, with the other at your baby’s bottom, taking the weight. This hold can also let your baby hear your heartbeat, which she may find comforting.
- The tummy hold: You may find this easier to do before picking your new baby up at first. Lay him face-down along your forearm, with the head up by your elbow. His feet should be on either side of your hand. When you pick him up, hold him at a slight angle so his head is just a little higher than his feet. This works especially well with some babies if they have wind and need to burp – stroke their back gently with your free hand to help release the gas.
- The lap hold: Sit down with your feet flat on the floor. Lie your baby along your lap, facing upwards, with her head at your knees. Use both your hands to support her head, with your forearms tucked slightly under her body. Her feet should be at your waist.
Watch your baby to work out if she’s happy and comfortable with how you are holding her. If she wriggles or cries, you might want to switch position. If she’s calm and settled, stay how you are. She might also enjoy it if you rock a little, slowly and gently. Remember to make sure your baby’s face isn’t enclosed and she has plenty of room to breathe easily.
5A few tips
- Don’t worry if you’re nervous about holding your newborn baby at first – that’s entirely normal! If you’re really worried about dropping him, you might prefer to sit down while you’re holding him at first.
- Skin-to-skin contact is a great way to bond with your newborn. Undress them down to their nappy (diaper) and hold them against your skin either inside your shirt or, if you prefer to remove it, cover them with a blanket to keep them warm.
- Never eat or drink hot food or beverages while you’re holding your baby as any spills could burn their skin.
- If you’re walking with your baby, especially going up and down stairs, make sure to hold her with both hands/arms.
- Above all, enjoy being close to your baby. Get comfortable, remember to support their head, and treasure the time together. Before long, you’ll wonder why you were ever nervous.