How to Hold a Newborn

Tips for Supporting Your Newborn

Feeling a little nervous about holding your newborn? It's not as scary as it seems. As long as you give her neck and head plenty of support, she's perfectly fine. Changing positions when holding, feeding and burping your baby becomes easier once you master the art of proper neck support.

Why You Need to Support Your Newborn's Head

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Your little one arrives ready for life outside the womb, but many muscles and motor skills are still developing. Your newborn needs some time to develop complete head control. At birth, he doesn't have the muscle strength in his neck to keep his head upright without support. He also lacks the motor skills to control his head.

By 1 to 2 months, his neck gets stronger, and he can lift his head briefly. His head is usually still pretty shaky at this point. Around 3 to 4 months, the strength and control increase even more. He should be able to raise his head while lying on his stomach. When he holds his head up, it should be relatively steady and in line with his body. By 5 to 6 months, most babies have head control mastered. You can hold him or put him on your lap without the support he needed as a newborn.

How to Hold Your Newborn

Support for the head and neck is the key component to holding a newborn. Slide your hand gently under a newborn's head and neck before picking her up. Once you lift her, you can use the crook of one arm to support her head and neck. If you're standing up, use your other hand to support her bottom. If you're sitting down, you can use your body to support her to keep one hand free.

Need a new position? Use the shoulder hold method. Lift your newborn so her head is shoulder height on you. Place her head on your chest or shoulder, using your body to help support her head. Put one hand on her head for additional support and the other beneath her bottom.

How to Feed Your Newborn

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When you're ready to feed your newborn with a bottle, you have a few options. You want your newborn in a slightly upright position to prevent the formula or breast milk from coming back up out of his tummy. The cradle position lets you keep your baby's head a little higher than his tummy. Cradle his head and neck in the crook of one arm. Hold the bottle at an angle, so the formula or breast milk flows into the nipple.

If your baby has issues with reflux, holding him in an almost sitting position may help. Use your arm or chest to support him in the upright position.

If you want more eye contact with your newborn, prop your feet up on a stool, so the upper portion of your legs is elevated. Place your baby in your lap with his head near your knees. Your legs provide support for his head and neck, and you can look at each other while he eats.

How to Burp Your Newborn

Burping takes some coordination with a newborn. You have to support her body and head while patting her back to release gas bubbles. You may feel as if you need a few extra hands to make it work, but it gets easier with practice.

Sitting makes the job easier. Put your newborn in an upright position against your body. Her head rests against your shoulder, but it's also a good idea to use one hand to support her head. Use your other hand to gently pat her back.

Another option is to put your baby on your lap in a sitting position, while you hold her chest and head with one hand so that your hand touches her chin and not her throat. Holding her throat can make it tough for her to breathe. Pat her back with your other hand. You might feel more comfortable with this position after she gains some neck control.

Placing her on her tummy on your lap provides some pressure to her stomach, which can help release the gas. Raise your legs, so her head is higher than her chest and tummy. Use your hand to support her head. Pat with the other hand to help her burp.