Holding your baby for the first time would be one of the most magical moments of your life. When the nurse hands over your newborn to you for the first time, you will feel all kind of emotional, as if it was the moment you were waiting for your whole life, which it is. There won’t be much you can think about during that time, which also includes the way you hold your baby.
Holding a newborn is not an easy feat. It requires extra care and attention. If you are a first-time parent or a relative or friend looking forward to taking care of a loved one’s newborn, perhaps the first thing you should learn is the best way to hold a baby. And it is common and natural to feel nervous about the same. What you need to do is just focus and keep working on making your hold comfortable and safe for the baby.
The first step to prepare for holding a baby is wash your hands, or use hand sanitizer to keep your hands clean. Newborn babies have underdeveloped immune system, which means they are prone to catching infections and illnesses easily. To you, it could just be a simple bug; but, it can cause a serious illness in a newborn. Therefore, make sure you have clean hands every single time you carry or hold your baby, and always make sure of the same with guests as well.
Make sure you don’t have any item on your upper body that could possibly scratch the baby, like your watch, pen in your pocket, etc. Always have a burp cloth on you when holding your baby to use when the baby spits up.
Take some time to build confidence in yourself that you can hold and manage the baby just fine and he/she will feel comfortable and safe in your hands. This is especially important if you will be holding someone else’s baby, because for parents, their parental instincts will automatically kick in, giving them the necessary confidence and comfort.
Picking Up a Baby
When you pick up a baby, it is extremely important that you support their neck and head, and be very careful around the soft spots, referred to as the fontanelles, present at the top of their head. Newborn babies lack fully developed neck muscles, which prevent them from being able to support their head on their own. Therefore, until that happens, which is usually around 4 or 5 months of their age, you should support their head and neck whenever you pick them up and hold them.
When you pick up a baby, use one of your hands to support his/her head from underneath and the other their bottom. Make sure you get a good hold before actually picking up the baby and slowly get them close to your chest.
Holding a Baby
When it comes to holding a baby, there are different safe ways you can follow:
Cradle hold is typically the most natural position to hold a newborn, and its simplicity makes it possible for everyone to hold a baby the right way. To achieve this position, the baby should be at your chest level, with one of your arms supporting his/her head and neck and the other their hips and the bottom. Your arm should be positioned in such a way that the baby’s neck comfortably sits on the crook of your arm or elbow. This cradle hold is known to be a great position to put newborns to sleep. Also, it is an excellent position to start with for not just new parents, but also the baby’s siblings and other who are new to handling a baby.
Similar to the cradle hold, the shoulder hold is also a natural baby holding position. Carefully lift the baby to your shoulder, left or right, so that his/her head rests on your shoulder. Use the same hand to wrap around the baby’s bottom and the other hand to support his/her back and neck. This is a great position not just for newborns, but also for all ages, except for the fact that the need for support reduces with time. Also, the should hold is the most common position used to burp babies after nursing.
Known to be a great holding position for babies with excessive gas, the belly hold is where you will use one of your forearms to hold the baby chest down and use the other arm to secure his/her position. This position can also be used for burping the baby; however, it is best suited for those with long arms.
In the chair hold, the baby will be positioned on your hand like he/she would sit on a chair, leaning against your chest for good head support. You should provide further support by placing one hand under the baby’s bottom and the other on their chest. This position is recommended for babies over three months of age.
The hip hold is recommended for babies with proper neck and head control. With the use of a single arm, you can hold the baby by making him/her sit on your hip and use the arm on the same side to hold them securely. This hold makes it easy for the baby to look around.
Remember, always pay attention to the baby’s mood when holding him/her. If the baby is crying or seems fussy, he/she is probably uncomfortable in the position; in that case, try a different position to make them feel comfortable.