Holding a newborn can be a wonderful experience for new parents, family members and relatives. It can be awe-inspiring to see the little bundle of joy that has spent nine months getting here, knowing that you are the one providing them safety and security in their new world.

However, because babies are so vulnerable, holding a newborn must be done the right way to protect their delicate body. Newborn babies have few muscles to support themselves at the early stages in their lives, so they rely on you to provide that security when you are holding them.

It can be scary to learn how to hold a newborn for the first time but, with a little bit of confidence, anyone can. Find out more about the basics of holding a newborn baby below.

How to Hold a Newborn

There are a few different ways to hold a newborn baby. You can cradle a baby against your chest, lay them across your shoulder, or even lay them across your forearm. You will always want to choose the method that you feel most comfortable with, as a baby will pick up on any stress you feel.

For most people, the best way to hold a newborn baby is by cradling them against your chest with both hands. You can do this seated or standing; older children and the elderly should always hold a baby while sitting.

Most parents will need to know how to safely lift a baby from a flat surface into the support of their arms. Here, we break down the correct way to hold a newborn baby, step-by-step

Step 1: Wash Your Hands: Babies do not have well-developed immune systems, so they can easily catch illnesses from anyone who touches them. It’s a good idea for everyone around a baby to wash their hands, even if they don’t plan to hold him or her.

Step 2: Remove Any Objects from Your Hands and Wrists: To protect the baby from scratches and to make it easier to hold them, remove things like watches and other jewelry, just in case.

Step 3: Always Protect the Baby’s Head: Whether you are picking up a baby from a flat surface or from someone else’s arms, your first move should be to cradle his or her head. Support the neck, as the baby cannot do so themselves at this point.

Step 4: Slide a Hand under the Baby’s Bottom: By this time, you will have a hand under the baby’s head/neck and under their back/bottom to provide support as you lift them up.

Step 5: Cradle the Baby to Your Chest: Once you have a comfortable, solid hold on the baby, you can lift them to your chest. They should rest against your chest for not only support but also bonding purposes. However, always make sure their head is turned away from your chest so they can breathe.

Step 6: Continue to Support the Baby’s Head: You’ll now start moving to the cradling aspect of holding a newborn baby. Keep your hand on the baby’s head as you slide the hand on his or her bottom up to the neck to support. Remember, keep the baby against your chest for security during this move.

Step 7: Switch Hands: By now, the hand that was formerly on the baby’s bottom will be under his or her neck. Your other hand should move under the baby’s bottom, in return.

Step 8: Cradle the Baby in the Crook of Your Arm: Rest the baby’s head in your arm crook, making sure that his or her neck is properly supported. Now, you can use your other hand to interact with the newborn while providing a solid hold.

If you reach step eight, congrats — you will be holding a newborn in the proper way! You can find a more visual representation of this process here.

It may take you a few tries to get it right. Remember, your comfort and confidence in holding a newborn will play a large role in how successful you are. Take your time and be patient, and always pay attention to the baby’s mood while you are holding them.

You’ll probably want to learn more about the different ways to hold a newborn — such as how to hold a newborn baby when bottle feeding or how to hold a newborn baby when breastfeeding. You may consider talking to friends and family who are experienced parents, or even attend a local parenting class to help you practice and be more comfortable with holding a newborn.

Can You Hold a Newborn Too Much?

New parents have many questions as they adjust to this change in their life. As you have been preparing for your baby, you’ve probably heard all kinds of questions and advice from many sources — some of which may seem to contradict.

In wanting to do everything right, you may ask, “Can you hold a newborn too much?” You may be worried about the controversy of attachment-style parenting, understandably concerned that you can spoil a newborn by holding them too much.

Breathe easy, new parents: There is no evidence that you can spoil a newborn by holding them too much — or that there are any detriments at all to frequent contact during a baby’s first few months of life.

Touch is crucial to a baby’s development. In fact, many experts recommend that parents hold their newborns anywhere from 60 minutes to 24 hours a day to promote this bonding, which leads to benefits such as:

  • Healthier heart rates and respiration
  • Increased breastfeeding
  • Improved immunity
  • Increased weight gain
  • Regulated body temperature

Think of it this way: Your baby has spent the last nine months in an environment where they were “held” constantly by the uterus. A transition period to more independence is very normal and even necessary.

As long as you are holding a newborn properly in a way that supports their vulnerable frame, you cannot be “wrong” in how often you hold them and give them attention. Just take the time to enjoy the bonding you are doing now, because there will come a day when they will be too big to cuddle in the same way again.