When you have a baby coming, there is a lot to think about. The best crib, the best diapers, the best pediatrician and so much more. Often, new parents don’t think about the best way to pick up and handle a baby until their little one arrives – and then parents could be worried about dropping their precious child.
Dr. Hassan Alzein of Alzein Pediatrics in Evergreen Park and Oak Lawn Illinois has helped hundreds of parents through proper ways to handle a baby. “Parents quickly realize that, for the first year at least, babies need to be held and carried everywhere. And they may be trying to juggle feeding, diapering, and soothing at the same time. First, there is no one right way to hold your baby,” he says. “How you hold your baby will mostly depend upon what you’re doing at the moment.
When giving Babies their bottles, you should be holding them one way. We do recommend changing feeding positions to prevent “flat heads.” If they are fussy and tired, you’re most likely to be holding them against your chest. When you’re showing your Baby off proudly, you may be holding them with their back against your chest, so people can see that beautiful little face. When you’re burping them, that’s an entirely different way of holding.”
Dr. Alzein explains that the first step is to be calm and confident before picking up the baby. “Relax,” he says. “Confidence is the key; holding a baby for the first time can be terrifying for some people. Remember that the joy of holding your baby will outweigh all of the anxieties.”
To pick up a baby, support their head and neck with one hand and support their bottom with the other. “A newborn baby‘s head is by far the heaviest part of their body, and their necks are not strong enough to hold their head up; your baby’s head and neck need careful support.” Hold Baby’s head gently with one hand while using your other hand to scoop up Baby’s bottom.
Bring your baby close to your torso, so that they can rest their head against your chest. “Babies are instinctively comforted by hearing your heartbeat,” says Dr. Alzein. One hand and arm should support most of the baby’s body weight, while the other hand supports and protects the head and neck. “Always make sure that your baby’s head is facing out to one side so that they can always breathe,” notes Dr. Alzein. He recommends alternating sides to develop neck strength, vision and again, to prevent a “flat head.”
Holding your baby can be incredibly soothing for both you and your baby. This is valuable bond-building time to sing to, read to, and entertain your baby until it’s time for the next feeding, diaper change, or nap. You may need to switch hands from time to time. When you do this, remember to always keep one hand under the baby’s head as you switch hands.
This is known as the cradle hold and while this is likely how you’ll hold the baby at first, there are many other correct ways to hold your baby. Becoming comfortable with different positions, depending on what you’re doing, will be very helpful.
The face-to-face hold:
This is a useful hold for interacting with your baby. Place one hand behind your baby’s head and neck. Put the other hand under their bottom. Hold the baby out in front of you, just below your chest. You can have fun smiling, talking, and perhaps making faces at your adorable child.
The belly hold:
This hold can be very effective in calming your baby when they are fussy and uncomfortable. Slide your arm under your baby’s belly so you’re holding the Baby against your torso, with their head against your bicep. Make sure that Baby’s head is turned outward, resting near the crook of your arm. Pat or rub your baby’s back with your other hand. Check your baby’s head and neck to ensure that they are supported at all times.
The football hold:
This is the hold typically used when breastfeeding your baby and can be used whether you’re standing or sitting. Place a hand under your baby’s head and neck, and rest the baby’s back on the inside of the same forearm, with the baby’s feet towards your back. You can use the other hand as a placeholder under the baby’s head as you get adjusted, making sure that the Baby’s head and neck are supported at all times. Draw the baby close to your chest and use your free hand to feed the baby or give its head extra support.
The “hello world” hold:
This is a fun hold when your baby wants to see the world and what’s going on around them. Let your baby’s backrest against your chest so that their head is supported. Place one arm under their bottom, cupping it with your hand. Place the other arm across Baby’s chest. Make sure that the Baby’s head remains supported against your chest.If you’re sitting down, place Baby on your lap with no need to put a hand under their bottom.
Dr. Alzein says, “There are many ways to correctly hold your newborn, and parents typically figure out which holds are most comfortable and most useful for them within the first few weeks of bringing Baby home. There are, however, certain things parents and other people who may want to hold your baby must never do.”
- Never hold a hot drink when holding your baby.
- Never hold a cigarette or cigar while holding your baby
- Always hold your baby securely while walking up or down stairs
- When the elderly or young children hold the baby, it’s always safer to have them hold the baby while sitting down
When you have questions about holding your baby to make breastfeeding more comfortable, Dr. Alzein recommends speaking to a lactation consultant. “These professionals can help you with supports and positions that make breastfeeding an easier, more satisfying experience for both you and your baby.”
Dr. Alzein also recommends, “Talk to your pediatrician whenever you have questions or doubts about your baby’s health and wellbeing, including how you’re holding them. Your pediatrician is your partner is making sure your baby has the best start possible for a healthy and happy future.”