Baby health

How do you hold an infant?

Until you've parented a baby, the idea of holding one can send you into a nervous sweat. Here's what you need to know.

How do you hold an infant?

Photo: iStock/Orbon Alija

Before I had my own kids, holding other people’s babies had me breaking out into a nervous sweat. Because, confession: I didn’t actually know how to hold a newborn, beyond supporting the head. When I had my daughter, I still felt pretty clumsy and unsure with her squirmy, floppy little body, which led me to google the seemingly obvious question: “How do you hold an infant?” No surprise, the result was thousands of articles and YouTube videos, with many different answers.

But is there a “best” way to hold an infant? I put the question to Stephanie Bonn, a family chiropractor in Vancouver. She outlined the importance of supporting the head and neck, and added that, until little ones can sit up on their own, parents should also support their baby’s lower back and bottom when lifting or holding them. The idea is to minimize stress to their developing spine.

An example of a supportive hold is the cradle hold, where you put your baby’s head in the crook of one arm and both arms envelop the back and bum. An unsupportive hold is picking up or holding your baby just under the shoulders, which is fine for older babies, but not great for newborns.

If you're more of a visual learner, check out this video. Baby expert Bianca Sprague shows new parents a variety of different ways they can hold their baby that are comfy for both parents and little ones. The holds include "Jaguar In a Tree," "Home Position" and "Standard Cradle."

With all that said, research shows that how you respond to your baby in those early days comes from an intuitive understanding of what they need—so trust your gut and snuggle away. You’re doing it right!

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