Dad 101: How to hold a baby
Nothing really prepares you for the inherent fear of holding a newborn baby but here are some tips to help new dads get the grip of things.
It is like standing on the edge of a really high lookout and all you can think about is that you might fall off .
When I first held a tiny new human I was utterly convinced that I was going to drop them, probably right on their head.
For me, this feeling has never gone away . Now that my kids are older, if you hand me a newborn baby I feel exactly the same way I did the first time, and when I look at my two kids I’m shocked that I have managed to keep them safe all these years.
But don’t worry, it is pretty simple to perfect a safe baby hold.
It’s all about the head
The first thing to do is to always make sure their head is supported.
Babies have a special feature on the top and back of their heads called a fontanelle. Which are little gaps in their growing skulls that allow their bones to move and eventually fuse together as their head and brain gets bigger. There is pretty much just skin covering these little bits of their brain when they are very young, which makes their heads very sensitive and floppy.
So it’s really important when you lift them up or hold them that you support their heads by sliding one hand under your baby’s head and one hand under their bottomand then lift them up gently, the way you might imagine you would lift a bag of uncooked eggs .
Once you have them safely in your hands bring them right in close to your chest, then while the head is resting on your chest you can slide your hand up from the bottom to support the neck. Then you just gently slide the baby’s head into the crook of your arm and place your other hand on its little bottom. That is the classic cradle hold.
The shoulder hold
This technique rests your baby on your chest and shoulder, supporting their head with one hand and with the other hand supporting their bottom. This is great for helping a baby to burp (tho this can sometimes result in milky vomit down your back!).
You will most likely invent lots of other ways of holding your baby. There’s things like the one-handed ‘Where the hell is that bottle?’ hold, or the arms outstretched ‘No, I’m pretty sure it’s your turn to change the nappy’ hold.
But with all holds you need to make sure that baby’s head is safe and protected at all times.
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If you want to up the bonding you can try skin-on-skin contact. Babies like to be held so that your skin and their skin are touching - it is said to help calm babies and encourage attachment.
I thought this was new-age bunkum as our firstborn came out staring and quite calm and all I had to do was talk to him to keep him calm (he was born by C-section so I ended up holding him first). Our second child was also born by C-section and he was quite distressed, so while I desperately awaited the appearance of my wife I was not sure how to calm him.
I remembered reading about skin-to-skin contact so I unwrapped him and put a hand on his bare chest. He calmed noticeably, though not completely, so I took him in my arms and stuck him up my T-shirt. It was only then that he fell asleep and that I became a skin-to-skin convert.