Although people say that knowing how to hold a baby comes naturally, it can sometimes be difficult – not to mention awkward. Babies are such fragile little things, you don’t want to hurt them. Similarly, if they won’t stop crying, you need to know which hold is the best at soothing them.
There’s not one universal answer for how to hold a baby: a certain hold that always works in soothing one baby may not be of any comfort at all to another. The real key is to listen to your baby to learn what works; try a number of different methods and look for clues to see what they like.
Take a look at four of the most soothing methods to help you know how to hold a baby:
- Over The Shoulder
One of the best ways to soothe a baby is by holding them upright and close to your body. With the over-the-shoulder hold, you’ll carry your baby facing you, against your chest, so that their chin rests on your shoulder. Hold them with one arm under their bottom and use your other hand to support their neck and back. Research has shown that a caressing touch is crucial for a baby’s well-being and can actually stimulate the brain through sensory reception. As you hold your baby to your shoulder, firmly press your cheek against theirs. This hold also puts the baby in a state of neurological alert, because they are free to look around and still feel secure.
In this soothing baby hold, carry your baby facing you, with their head resting against your heart and their stomach against yours. In addition to hearing the familiar, rhythmic sound of your heartbeat, your baby will also be able to smell you and learn to love your scent. A carrier can help with this, but you can also just hold your baby or lie down and hold your baby on top of you.
This position can be even more effective with skin contact. Simply undress your baby and lay them against your bare chest. Your own body heat should keep them warm, but if they feel cool, drape a small blanket across their back. Gentle skin-to-skin touch reassures the baby that you are there. Studies have shown that in addition to an emotional reaction, it can create a physiological one that can improve a baby’s blood pressure, blood sugar level, body temperature and breathing rate.
- Cradle Hold
Learning how to hold a baby the best way is all about fostering secure attachments. To be soothed, babies need both contact and communication. The cradle hold is one of the easiest and one of the best for soothing your baby, both with your body and your voice. Sitting or standing, hold your baby lying in one of your arms, looking up at you, with their head resting in the crook of your arm, and your forearm and hand supporting their back and bottom. You can wrap your other arm underneath the holding arm for extra support. Sitting in a chair, cradle your baby close to your body as you make eye contact, and speak or sing to her gently.
- Football Hold
Gas is often the root of inconsolable crying and fussiness. The football hold is one of the best holds for soothing a gassy baby. In somewhat of a reverse cradle hold, you carry the baby with their body supported along your arm, but this time facing down with her belly against your forearm. Support your baby’s head by cradling it in your hand. It’s important to be seated and keep your baby close in this position so that they don’t feel like they’re floating alone in the air.
While there’s no such thing as holding your baby too much, you may hit a point when your arms are so exhausted they feel like they might fall off. Instead of deferring to swings and bounces as relief, you could enlist an extra pair of arms with a baby carer or a mother’s helper who can provide the same secure attachment. Even just 15 minutes can make all the difference.