How to Hold a Baby: 8 Safe Ways

How to Hold a Baby: 8 Safe Ways

When you’re a new parent or a new auntie, or a new friend of a friend’s new bundle of joy, picking up and holding a baby can feel like a pretty intimidating task. 

While it’s perfectly natural to feel a bit nervous about holding a small, fragile human, remaining calm and confident is key — that, however, is often much easier said than done. 

But don’t worry, Little Yawn Collective is here to help!

We’re exploring the wonderful world of babies to teach you everything you need to know about holding them safely in this post. We’ll also go over a few tips and tricks on how to properly pick them up and how to put them back down. 

Are you ready? Let’s dive in. 

What To Do Before Holding A Baby 

All new parents are nervous when it comes to holding their tiny tot for the first time — that’s human nature. You might be worried about holding the baby incorrectly or, worse, accidentally dropping the slippery little wiggle worm. But truth be told, it isn’t as difficult as you might think, and they’re certainly not as fragile or delicate as they seem. 

To prepare for the big moment, there are a few things that you’ll need to keep in mind:

Wash Your Hands 

Newborns haven’t built up their immune systems just yet, so they’re defenseless to icky germs and susceptible to many illnesses. A simple bug that gives you a case of the sniffles could spell disaster for a baby. While lathering your hands with soap and warm water works well, it’s a good idea to keep hand sanitizer around for guests who also want to cuddle your snuggly tot. 

Check Your Clothes 

In addition to scrubbing your hands to make them squeaky clean, it’s also important to check your clothes to ensure they’re free and clear of any harsh chemicals, pet hair, or something that would be potentially itchy or scratchy to a little one’s delicate skin. 

This is very important for relatives who are smokers — thirdhand smoke can negatively affect your newborn, so you’ll want to protect them as much as possible. While it might feel a bit uncomfortable, it’s in your right to ask those who smell like smoke to change their clothes before holding your precious treasure.    

Get Comfortable And Relax 

When it comes to holding your little buddy, you might feel anxious because of their itty-bitty size. These nerves can affect the way you pick up and hold the infant, making it pretty awkward and uncomfortable for both you and your tot. 

You see, babies can sense our energy. But not just that, they are also affected by it. So, if you’re feeling especially tense, take a few minutes to relax. 

Get comfortable, take a deep breath, and when you’re finally feeling cool, calm, and collected — go ahead and hold the baby. Your cheerful demeanor will make for a much better experience for both you and the little one.   

Find A Comfortable Position 

Once you’re clean, dressed suitably, and feeling relaxed, it’s time to get into a comfortable position. If you’re still a bit uneasy, sitting in a comfy chair is the best thing to feel more secure.

Provide Support 

When holding an infant, it is important to always have your hand supporting their head and neck. After all, your little buddy’s head is the heaviest part of their body at birth!

Newborns lack the critical neck muscle control to keep their disproportionately heavy heads supported on their own — this is a skill they’ll typically build through development and tummy time. Until a baby is stronger, providing proper noggin support is vital.   

Avoid Touching The Fontanelles 

Unlike adults, babies have tiny skull bones that aren’t firmly joined together just yet. The spaces between these bones create “soft spots” — aka, the fontanelles

Many parents tend to feel a bit apprehensive about touching their baby’s fontanels, but there’s no need to worry— they are covered by a strong, thick membrane that protects the brain, so normal handling is perfectly safe. 

However, what’s not safe is pressing into the soft spots as it could cause damage to a baby’s underdeveloped skull and brain. With that in mind, if you’re going to hold an infant, avoid touching or pressing the fontanelles. 

Don’t Panic 

Lastly, before holding a baby, you need to keep in mind that accidents do happen. If you’re holding an infant and they spit up all over your shoulder or a puddle of pee pools in your lap due to the diaper not being fastened properly — don’t panic. Stay calm, ask for assistance from a parent, and get yourself cleaned up. 

The same goes for a baby who becomes especially fussy while in your arms. Rather than immediately passing the child back to their mom or dad like a hot potato when they start to cry, do your best to remain calm. Remember, babies can sense your stress! 

Don’t panic, take a deep breath and talk calmly to the teary-eyed tot to help make them feel safe and secure.

8 Safe Ways To Properly Hold A Baby 

Now that you’re prepared and ready to go, let’s take a look at eight safe ways to hold an infant properly:

1. Shoulder Hold 

One of the most common and natural holding positions, the shoulder hold is perfect for burping and soothing a fussy tot. To do this hold, you want the baby to be fairly high on your shoulder. If the infant’s face rests directly against your shoulder, it can make breathing difficult. 

Lift your little buddy’s body in a parallel position to you and allow their head to rest on top of your shoulder. Support your baby’s head and neck with one hand and bottom with the other. 

2. Cradle Hold 

The cradle hold is an effortless and loving way to hold a baby. Simply slide your right hand under the infant from the top to support their head and neck.

Place the little one’s head into the crook of your elbow and gently move your hand to their bottom. Now, slide your left hand from the bottom and hip to gently lift the baby. Bring your sweet angel in close to your body and rock back and forth to summon the sleepies.  

3. Hip Hold 

When your tiny tot gains control over their head and neck, you can try the hip hold. Face your little one outward and make them sit on your hip bone. Wrap your arm around their waist and hold the baby firmly. 

4. Belly Hold 

Is your small bundle in a fussy mood? Try the belly hold! Simply drape your little one’s head and chest over your forearm. Make sure their head is turned outward, resting near the crook of your elbow. Let their feet dangle on either side of your hand. 

This position can be especially helpful when burping a gassy infant. Gently stroke their back to help release the gas. 

5. Lap Hold 

Are you new to holding newborns? If so, the lap hold is for you. This position is not only pretty easy, but it’s also very comfortable. Sit down on a comfy chair with your feet firmly on the ground. 

Place the infant in your lap with their head at your knees, face up. Support the little one’s head with both hands and place your forearms under their body. The baby’s feet should be tucked in at your waist.  

6. “Hello World” Hold 

Got a curious tot on your hands? Then your baby will love the “hello world” hold. This position lets the little one see what’s going on in the world around them. Gently lean your infant back and rest on your chest so that their head has proper support. 

Place one hand under their bottom and the other across their chest. Your baby should be sitting on your hand as if they were sitting on a chair. 

7. Face-to-Face Hold 

The face-to-face hold is a great way to bond and interact with your new family member. With one hand, support the baby’s head and neck. Offer support to their bottom with the other hand. Now, hold the infant out in front of you, just below your chest. Enjoy smiling and making faces at your sweet baby. 

8. Football Hold 

A great way to hold your hungry tot when feeding, the football hold can be used while sitting or standing. Place your hand under the little one’s head and neck and use the forearm of the same hand to support the rest of their back.

Curl your infant towards your body, allowing their legs to extend behind you. Draw the baby close to your chest and use your other free hand to support the head. 

How To Pick Up And Put Down A Baby 

You’re prepared and have eight different holding positions to try. But, before you can snuggle the cuddly bundle in your arms, you first need to learn how to pick them up and put them down. 

To pick up an infant, start by sliding one hand under the little one’s head and the other hand under the bum. Once you’ve got a good hold, simply scoop up the baby towards your chest and hold them close for the best support. 

To put down an infant, you’ll basically follow the same guidelines as picking up a baby, but you’ll do it in reverse. Support the head with one hand and the bum with the other. Bend your knees and get as close as possible to the surface onto which you’re lowering the infant. 

Slowly withdraw your hand from their bum as it comes in contact with the surface, and then gently remove the other hand from under the baby’s head as well.  

A Few More Safety Tips 

Mastering the art of baby holding can take some work, but with a little bit of practice, you’ll become an expert in no time! Here are a few more things to keep in mind:

  • To prevent extra strain on your back, always bend slightly at your knees when picking up a baby.  
  • Never cook or handle hot drinks while holding an infant. 
  • Hold the baby firmly with both hands when going upstairs and down. 
  • Under no circumstances should you ever shake or jiggle a baby. 
  • To avoid hip issues, carry the child-centered on your body— not on your hip. 


Holding an infant isn’t rocket science, but if you’ve never held one in your arms before, it can be a bit nerve-wracking. 

As long as you follow the essential guidelines, such as always supporting their head and neck, everything will be fine. So take a deep breath, shake off those nerves, and enjoy the snuggly cuddle bug! 

At Little Yawn Collective, we’re here to empower parents and build confidence. Whether you’re looking for proven kid-friendly sleep solutions, guidance on how to hold an infant safely, or the best calming probiotic drops on the planet, you can always count on us to have your back. 

Formulated by experts, approved by pediatricians, and loved by parents —check out our sleepy essentials today and get off to a great snooze tomorrow! 



Video: Baby's soft spots (fontanels) | Mayo Clinic

How your baby's immune system develops | Pregnancy Birth and Baby

Thirdhand Smoke Fact Sheet | JCMH

Babies sense parents' emotions to help understand their world | First Things First

Abusive Head Trauma (Shaken Baby Syndrome) (for Parents) | Nemours KidsHealth


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