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Holding a baby for the first time can be nerve-wracking, especially if you’re unsure about the best way to do it.
There are several different ways to hold a baby, with one of the most common being the cradle hold.
This secure position, which is useful for feeding, holding, and soothing a baby, provides support while allowing you to establish eye contact with the baby.
To get into the cradle hold, lift up the baby to your chest as you support their head, neck, and bottom.
Then rotate the baby so their head lies securely in the crook of your elbow.
Practice this grip in a seated position and in no time you’ll be a cradle hold expert!
Getting in and out of Position
Bend your torso down to the baby.
Rather than lifting the baby all the way up to your chest, it is much easier and safer to bend over towards the baby while you get your hands into position.
This minimizes the distance that the baby needs to be moved while only supported by your hands.
To pick the baby up, it’s easiest if the baby is lying on their back.
Your body should also be parallel to the baby’s.
Position one of your hands palm-up under the baby’s neck and head.
When picking up a baby (especially a newborn) it is very important to support their head and neck, since babies don’t have the ability to hold up their own heads.
Slide your dominant hand under the baby’s neck and the base of their head.
Keep your thumb on one side of the face and your other fingers on the other side.
Place the heel of your hand behind their neck and spread your fingers apart for more support around the base of the baby’s head.
Do not grip too tightly. Instead, gently cradle the baby’s neck and head in the palm of your hand.
Place your other hand palm-up under the baby’s bottom.
With the baby still lying down, slide your non-dominant hand underneath their bottom.
Reach over from the opposite side of the baby, as if you’re giving them a hug.
Once again, spread your fingers apart to provide maximum support.
If you’re right-handed, your right hand should be beneath the baby’s head and neck (from your right side, or the baby’s left side) and your left hand should be supporting the baby’s bottom (from your left side, which is the baby’s right side).
Lift the baby up towards your chest.
Once you’re bending over the baby with both of your hands in the correct position, raise the baby up and hold them against your chest.
Holding the baby against your body provides additional support and will make it easier for you to slide your hands into the cradling position.
Rotate the baby to cradle their head in the crook of your non-dominant arm’s elbow.
With the baby held securely to your chest, you can slowly rotate them into the cradle hold position.
Turn the baby towards your non-dominant hand, placing their head and neck in the crook of the elbow of your non-dominant arm.
Keep your non-dominant hand in place to support the baby’s bottom.
For instance, if you lifted the baby’s head with your right (dominant) hand, you will place their head into the crook of your left (non-dominant) arm.
You started with the baby’s body parallel to yours as you got your hands into the lifting position.
Now, you’ll slowly turn them to the side so their body is perpendicular to yours.
Slide your dominant hand out from beneath the baby’s head.
Make sure the baby’s head is resting comfortably and securely in the crook of the elbow of your non-dominant arm.
You can gently remove your dominant hand.
Remember to hold the baby close to your own body with a supportive but gentle grip.
Feel free to reposition your dominant hand to provide additional support to the baby’s bottom or midsection.
This is important if you’re standing, and can be especially useful for bouncing the baby.
Or, if the baby is resting on your lap (or on a cushion atop your lap), you can use your dominant hand to do another activity such as bottlefeed or breastfeed the baby.
Continue supporting the baby’s body when you lay them back down gently.
When you’re ready to put the baby down, follow the reverse process as you did when picking them up.
Remember to lean over as close to the baby’s cot or seat as possible, in order to minimize the distance they need to travel unsupported.
Place your dominant hand back under the baby’s head and neck, then rotate them so you’re hugging their body closely and parallel to yours.
Maintain support of the baby’s bottom with your non-dominant hand.
Place their bottom down onto the cot or seat first, before laying their head down slowly and gently.
Once the baby’s entire body is in contact with the cot or seat, you can gently slide your arms out from under the baby.
Using the Cradle Hold
Cradle hold the baby while sitting down.
Position a comfortable chair nearby and sit down immediately after picking up the baby.
This is a great way to practice getting in and out of position.
Sitting down can also be advantageous anytime you want to hold or feed the baby.
A rocking chair or a comfortable armchair will do perfectly.
Practicing the cradle hold in a comfy chair will help you gain some confidence.
If the baby does start to wriggle out of your grasp, you can use your lap, or a cushion on your lap, to support the baby as you reposition your arms.
Using a chair and your lap for extra support will help free up your dominant hand for other activities.
It can be useful when nursing the baby or adjusting their clothing, for instance.
Stand up while cradle holding the baby.
Once you’re confident in your ability to cradle hold a baby while sitting down, you can try the position while standing up.
It can help to use your dominant hand to provide extra support to the baby’s midsection and bottom.
Try bending and straightening your knees to bounce the baby as you cradle hold them.
Make sure your feet are spread slightly apart to give you enough support.
You can also try adding a side-to-side rocking motion to the cradle hold, to soothe a cranky baby or help them fall asleep.
Later you can progress to walking while you hold the baby in the cradle hold position.
Consider swaddling the baby before lifting them in the cradle hold.
For exceptionally wiggly or upset babies, you might find it easier to cradle hold the baby after swaddling them in a blanket.
Swaddling not only helps to comfort the baby, it also helps you to balance their body more easily since they can’t wriggle their arms and legs around.
Nurse the baby in the cradle hold position.
Whether you breastfeed or bottle feed the baby, the cradle hold can be an ideal position for nursing.
Especially if you’re using your lap and possibly a cushion for extra support, the cradle hold will free up your dominant hand so that you can hold the bottle or help the baby latch onto your breast.
When breastfeeding the baby, rotate the baby so their chest faces yours.
Tuck their arm beneath their body and use your elbow to lift their head to your breast.