Am I Holding My Newborn The Right Way?

If you’re like a lot of first-time parents, handling your newborn baby can be kind of scary. Are you doing it right? What if you drop the baby? Are you supporting his/her head properly? It’s a lot to deal with. At Westchester Health, we get it. We’re parents too. And we want you to know that we’re here for you with guidance, tips and advice for properly and safely handling your newborn, especially new parents. To start you on your way, here’s a great blog on the subject by Lauren Adler, MD, FAAP, a pediatrician with our Westchester Health Pediatrics group (excerpted below).

2 important things to know before even picking up your baby

1. Be sure to support the head and neck. When carrying, picking up or laying your baby down, make sure to support his/her head and neck with your hands. Your baby’s head is the heaviest part of his/her body at birth and the neck muscles are not yet strong enough to support it on their own. (This typically takes 4 months.)

Lauren Adler, MD, FAAP

2. Wash your hands. says that you should always make sure your hands are clean before you pick up your baby. Newborns have not developed a strong immune system yet, making them very susceptible to germs that are easily transmitted from people’s hands.

Many positions and holds to choose from

Different “baby holds” work better for different purposes, such as breastfeeding, burping or soothing. Here are our 6 favorite holds, from Mom

1. The cradle hold

  • With your baby horizontal at chest level, slide your hand from their bottom up to support their neck.
  • Gently nudge your baby’s head into the crook of your elbow.
  • While still cradling their head, move your hand from your supporting arm to your baby’s
  • Your free arm can provide extra support or perform other tasks.

2. The shoulder hold

  • With your baby’s body parallel with your own, lift their head to shoulder height.
  • Rest their head on your chest and shoulder so they can look out behind you.
  • Keep one hand on their head and neck, and your other hand supporting baby’s bottom. This position also lets your baby hear your heartbeat.

3. The belly hold

  • Lay your baby, stomach down, across your forearm with the head up toward your elbow.
  • Their feet should land on either side of your hand, angled closer to the ground so your baby is at a slight angle.
  • This position is helpful if your baby is gassy and needs to be burped. Gently stroke your baby’s back to work out the gas.

4. The lap hold

  • Sit in a chair with your feet firmly on the ground and place your baby in your lap. Their head should be at your knees, face up.
  • Lift their head up with both of your hands for support and your forearms under their body. Your baby’s feet should be tucked in at your waist.

5. The face-to-face hold

  • Support your baby’s head and neck with one hand.
  • Offer support to his/her bottom with your other hand.
  • Hold your baby just below the chest facing you.

6. The football hold

  • Support your baby’s neck and head with your hand, and the rest of their back with your same forearm.
  • Adjust your baby’s head and neck with your other hand.
  • Encourage your baby to curl towards your body side, with the legs extended behind.
  • Draw your baby close to your chest.
  • Use the other free hand for offering extra support to the head or to feed your baby.


Vigorously shaking your baby is very dangerous and can cause bleeding in the brain and even death. At Westchester Health, we understand that a constantly crying or colicky baby is hard to endure at times. When this happens, we recommend playing music, gently rocking your baby, or making soft, soothing, cooing sounds to help stop the crying. Put the baby down and leave the room to take a break if you need to. Whatever you do, don’t shake. If you feel like you’re at the end of your rope, please ask for help. Call your partner, a friend or your pediatrician and we’ll talk you through it.

Helpful articles on baby holds:

Questions about how to hold your baby? Come see us.

If you’d like more information about the best ways to hold and handle your newborn, or any aspect of raising your baby, please call (914) 232-1919 to make an appointment with one of our Westchester Health pediatricians. We’ll answer all your questions, offer advice and guidance, and be a listening ear if that’s what you need. Our #1 goal is to help you raise a happy, healthy baby and for you to feel confident as a parent. Whenever, wherever you need us, we’re here for you.

To read Dr. Adler’s blog in full, click here.

by Blog