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Mother holding baby

How do I pick up a newborn baby?

Newborn babies do not have the strength or gross motor development to hold up their head. This means that you always need to support the head when you lift them up, hold them and put them down. To pick up your baby slide one hand under her shoulders and the back of her neck and the other hand under her bottom. Gently bring her upright and then lift her towards your body.

How do I hold my baby?

Newborn babies like to be held close to you. They love skin-to-skin contact, which calms them and helps regulate their temperature and breathing. If you hold them near your chest they can see your face, smell your skin (don’t wear strong perfume when holding a newborn baby – they like and recognise your natural smell) and hear your heart beating. Once you have picked up your baby there are lots of ways that you can hold her that support her head and neck.

Classic cradle hold

In the cradle hold, your baby is lying on her back with her head and neck gently nestled in the crook of one arm and your other arm can be brought round her outside as extra support.

Shoulder hold

Holding your baby at your shoulder is very useful when your baby is very alert or has had a feed. Babies that do a lot of posseting (bringing up milk) or have reflux will benefit from the shoulder hold. Some babies have a very weak sphincter muscle at the top of their stomach. This means their stomach can leak back milk feeds into their food pipe – as the stomach contains acid to digest food, this can be very painful. Holding your baby upright at your shoulder after a feed will help to prevent this. With your baby’s head looking over your shoulder, hold her close to your chest with one hand supporting the back of her neck and shoulders and the other hand supporting her bottom.

Facing outwards

When your baby has better head and neck control you can hold them with their back against your chest facing out. Your arm holds her against your chest just under her arms and your other arm supports under her bottom, taking her weight.

‘Leopard in the tree’

Many babies, especially those with colic, find it comfortable to lie on their tummy along your forearm with their chin nestled near your elbow and your hand holding them between their legs. Your spare arm can steady them.

Your baby helps you to carry her

All apes and monkeys carry their babies. Many baby monkeys and apes are very good at hanging on to their parents (important when your mum is carrying you high in the tree canopy!). Our babies do not have a furry mum to hang on to and were thought to be completely passive and helpless when they were carried. However, it has been discovered that babies as young as two months old can tell they are about to be cuddled. Researchers from Portsmouth University have found they stiffen their bodies in anticipation to make it easier to be picked up when their parents approach them with outstretched arms. Around this time your baby will extend their gaze from your face to your arms, which shows that your baby is reading your body language.


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