Taking care of newborns: How to hold your newborn
Created by Dr. Pooja Attrey(PT) Updated on Jul 07, 2020
Motherhood is an unpredictable rollercoaster ride. It is full of overwhelming love and many uncertainties, but it is a hugely heartwarming and fulfilling experience. You might feel an overpowering love when you hold your newborn in your arms for the first time, or you may feel scared. It doesn’t matter, because the mother’s instinct will kick in at some point of time. It’s the skills for the road ahead that may require some training. But don’t worry! These skills can be learnt with some will power and patience. So here we are to help you. Under the series Taking Care of Newborn, we will first discuss the most basic but a very important skill in baby care—holding a newborn appropriately.
Know Your Newborn’s Body
Before we tell you how to hold a newborn, here are some essential facts about your newborn’s body.
- Newborns don't have enough body control and strength to support themselves
- The head of the newborn is the heaviest part of the body, resting on a delicate and a weak neck
- They don't have any head and neck control for up to the first two months, neither do they have any back stability and control for the first 4-5 months
- By the time they’re 2-3 months old, babies start developing head and neck control, mastering it by 4 months and by 5-6 months they start developing back muscle control. They gain total control only by 8-10 months
You have to pick up and hold a baby according to her age, and amount of self-controlshe has. Till she develops head, neck and back control, you need to cautiously support these parts in your arms and against your body while picking up and holding your baby.
How to Pick Up Your Baby?
Now that we’ve gone through the important facts about your baby’s body, here are some things to keep in mind when you pick him up each time.
- Be calm, confident, loving and yet very cautious before picking up your baby
- Take care of the soft spot on his head. This point should never be pressurized
- Slide one hand under his head in such a way that the heel of your palm supports his neck, and your fingers span around and support his head. Slide the other hand under his bottom. Be loving but firm in your grasp at the head and the bottom
- Now scoop your baby up and bring him closer to your body
Note: Babies respond to energies instantly. If you are nervous or anxious, he will automatically feel unsafe and uncomfortable. On the other hand, if you are composed, he will instantly feel at ease and comfortable.
How To Hold Your Baby?
There are two easy and popular ways to hold a baby--traditional cradle or shoulder hold.
- After picking up your baby, make sure her head is resting against your chest
- Now slide your hand from her bottom up to support her neck (your baby’s back should be resting against the length of your arm)
- Gently move her head to fit into the crook of your arm
- At this stage, her head and neck should be properly held in your arm's cradle; her back and bottoms should be supported by the same hand’s side
Your other hand will now be free to pat or play with your baby now.
- Rest the baby on your shoulder/upper chest, his head moved to one side, to let him breathe properly
- Support his head and neck with one hand. Place the other hand under his bottom
- From this position, you can also put same side's hand under his bottom and use the other hand for head-neck support
How To Lay Your Baby Down?
Reverse the all above mentioned actions for laying your baby down on a surface.
Transferring Your New Born to Another Person
When you’re handing over your newborn to your partner or anyone else, keep these things in mind.
- The other person should preferably be sitting down when handing the baby over to him, to minimize the risk of falling. Hold the baby with one hand under the head- neck and the other under his bottom
- Now carefully place the baby's head in the sitting person's arm’s crook. Their arm side and hand should support baby's back and bottom
- Never leave baby's head support unless you are sure it is properly stabilized in crook of the other person's arm
After 6 months, as the baby's back control starts developing, you can shoulder hold her, making her sit upright on your lap, cradling her with both arms, but still holding her cautiously and supporting her back.
Holding During Feeding
Keep these tips in mind when you’re breastfeeding or bottle feeding your baby.
- For breastfeeding, once you are comfortably sitting with proper back support, your baby can be cradled in your arms or over a nursing pillow that is placed on your lap
- Make sure your baby is level with the breast and not with his neck bent too much.This can interfere with hisbreathing
- If your baby is bottle fed, his head should be on a slightly higher plane than the rest of the body. If adjustment is required, adjust his head-neck rather than just tilting the bottle
It is advised to feed your baby in a sitting position for at least the first 6 months to reduce chances of choking, regurgitation of milk, and ear infection.
Holding During Burping
Now that he’s fed, you need to burp him. Here are some things to keep in mind.
- For babies of 4-5 months, use shoulder hold and pat slightly over your baby's upper back till you hear the sound!p
- Start patting from the bottom and move your hand upward to force the air out of your baby’s mouthp
- Be gentle yet firm. Also, burping doesn’t come easily, so be patientp
- For an older baby, make him sit upright on your lap, supporting him from the front with one hand. Pat his upper back with the other handp
Holding During Bathing
If you’ve been concerned about bath time and how to hold your little one so that he’s safe, here are some tips.
- Pick up your baby, as described earlier, one hand under head and one under his bottom
- Place your baby's bottom carefully in a slightly inclined bath tub's/chair’s lower end, still holding his head with one hand
- Now with the help of the other hand, very cautiously and slowly put your baby's head down on the raised end of the bath tub/chair. Once done you can go ahead with bathing
Through the bathing process, do not leave your baby unattended at all.
Holding During Sleeping
When your little one is taking a nap, keep these things in mind.
- You may make a baby sleep in an arm cradle but once they are fast asleep put them in their crib or bed
- Do not sleep with a baby held in your arm’s crook.This may again cause positional asphyxia
Holding During Travelling
Journeys need not be stressful at all, when you’re travelling with your baby.
- For more than an hour long journey, never hold your baby in cradle or your lap else you expose the child to potential jerk risk
- Instead get a baby car seat installed if you travel frequently with your baby
Holding During Household Chores
We’re always prone to multitasking to get things done quickly. However, do keep this in mind
- Never try to juggle baby in one hand and do chores with the other
- You may end up hurting yourself and the baby as well
- If you have to finish chores, use a body wrap/sling for babies up to 3-4 months’ age and use a baby carrier after 4-5 months
As a new mother, questions about your newborn and how to care for him, ensuring his safety, are very natural. Don’t hesitate to ask the doctor any question – remember that no question is a silly question. Happy Parenting!
We hope you found these tips on newborn care useful. Share your thoughts with us in the comments section!
| Jul 27, 2016
@ nandini.. it's an absolute NO for bouncing n shaking! never ever do this.. till upto at least one year of baby's age... reason behind is to avoid injury to their delicate internal organs... mostly brain from his skull bones!u can go ahead with little swaying to relax or soothe the baby though. n baby's this small don't have self head neck n back control... so if u try to make them sit or stand they will just curl or sway in imbalance..
| Jul 28, 2016
@ ramesh : it's better to go with what ur neurologic pediatrician have told u.. I won't be much of a help considering that he can not be assessed or observed from here.. one thing that I suggest is if he is having trouble in body movements n balance,do consult a neurologic physiotherapist along.
| Jul 29, 2016
hi amreen.. it could be stomach pain due to colic or gas.. if it is so,u may put her on her tummy at ur lap or on bed or shoulder hold her for some minutes to release gas. in home remedies,put little hing dissolved in warm water at her umbilical area n massage it in circles for a minute or two. also,if she is breastfed,u avoid eating things that are acidic in nature.. fir example citrus fruits, urad daal,spicy things etc.. have nutritious but easy on stomach meals. increase ur water consumption.
| Jul 29, 2016
and also thank you Parentune team for giving this opportunity to reach out fellow mothers and being able to help :) with print media,i had limited access to mothers but here almost from every corner of country mothers are connected.. it's really nice!
| Aug 05, 2016
hi sneha... upto one year of age baby will have little cough every now and then.. it's because of milk diet that she is taking.. so fir little cough don't worry.. however if cough is more and start disturbing her feeding and sleep... u may try cough relieving remedies for yourself.. like take haldi milk... or take gud azwain kadha.. .if u r breastfeeding her,it will reach her... to ease her symptoms,juse tie some garlic buds around her neck n chest area with round thread... like a necklace.. garlic smell will act as immunity booster and will not let little cough turn into any chest or respiratory infection.. gd luck.
| Sep 01, 2016
hi vidhula... glad that u found the article helpful.. at 2. 5 months,sitting is not advised but yes u can make him burp once in a while in upright position... keeping in mind to give proper support to his back n abdomen area.. and some infants don't like to lie on bed.. I faced same issue with my son... so much so that I had to literally sit whole night with him in my lap.. just so that he can have a peaceful sleep... after some time I tried making him sleep in side lying and it worked... try that.. good luck.