Newborns aren’t as breakable as you think. If the thought of how to hold a baby—especially for the first time—is keeping you up at night, you’re not alone. But it’s not as hard as it seems. (We promise.)
The Golden Rule
First up? The golden rule of baby holding. Carry your kid however you want as long as you always, always, always support their head and neck.
Your newborn’s neck muscles can’t support the weight of their head just yet. So, if you don’t read any further (although you absolutely should), then absorb that one piece of information into your newfound, sleep-deprived, dad-brain.
How to Hold a Baby
The most basic advice we can give you is: support your kid’s head and neck, and hold them however you want.
But for more detailed tips and tricks, read on. We’ve got the five basic baby holds that you’ll turn to again and again. We’ll go over how to carry out each hold and when to use them.
Think of the cradle hold as your most basic go-to baby holding move. This is a one-arm hold that you can use while sitting or standing. It leaves your other arm free to do dad things (like attend to your child or…hold your beverage of choice).
How to Cradle Hold
- Rest your baby’s butt in your hand
- Place your baby’s back against your arm
- Support their head and neck with the crook of your arm
When to Use the Cradle Hold
The cradle hold is an all-around champ, perfect for soothing, playtime, or feeding.
Cradle Hold Variations
- By moving your arm side-to-side, you can vary the angle at which baby is seated or lying down. Perfect for little ones who love to spit up and need to stay vertical after feedings.
- Use this hold while pacing back and forth once your kid hits the never-ending fussy stage. (Yes, they are born with a sensor that alerts them if you’ve stopped bouncing or—heaven forbid—you’ve decided to sit down.)
A go-to for gassy, fussy babies. Which, more often than not, are the same thing. This is another one-arm hold that you can use while sitting or standing. In this case, your free arm can begin anti-fuss measures (i.e., patting or massaging the baby’s back).
How to Belly Hold
- Place baby face down on one arm
- Support their head (which is turned away from you) with the crook of your arm
- Your arm is threaded between their legs so that both feet are dangling
When to Use the Belly Hold
When baby’s about to blow (gas, not chunks). Or when trying to put your little ball of energy to sleep.
Belly Hold Variations
Have a yoga ball handy? Use this hold while seated on the ball for an extra bounce that can help soothe your newborn a heck of a lot quicker.
This is the hold to interact with baby and let your cheesy inner-dad out to play. The face-to-face hold uses both your arms, and is best used when seated.
How to Face-to-Face Hold
- Sit down
- Place baby face up on your lap
- Their feet are towards your stomach
- Support their head in one hand
When to Use the Face-to-Face Hold
Playtime. Make all the silly faces and noises you can think of and watch how your little one reacts.
Face-to-Face Hold Variations
Bounce your legs up and down (like a horse) for added dad fun.
For—you know—snuggling. This holds uses both your arms, but you can use it while standing or sitting.
How to Snuggle Hold
- Rest baby’s chest against your chest
- Support their butt with one hand
- Support their head with your other hand
- Make sure their head is turned to the side
When to Use the Snuggle Hold
Best for when baby is sick, needs soothing, or is about to fall asleep.
Snuggle Hold Variations
Take off your shirt for some skin-on-skin contact. It helps regulate your baby’s temperature and is very soothing. (Hopefully, for both of you.)
The football hold is key for feedings and any dads expecting multiples. This is a one-arm hold that can be used while sitting or standing. Variations of the hold are best used while seated.
How to Football Hold
- Tuck baby’s body faceup between your arm and torso
- Make sure their legs are extended behind you.
- Support their head with your hand.
When to Use the Football Hold
When you need to sit down and feed your hangry bundle of joy.
Football Hold Variations
- While seated, tuck pillows under your arm to better support your baby’s weight. We know they’re not that heavy yet. But after 20+ minute feedings, they’ll get awfully weighty on you.
- If you’ve won the multiples lottery (aka, you have twins, triplets, or beyond), you can football hold one baby on each side. You can also support them with pillows, so you can feed both at once. Although, until you develop a third arm your third+ kid will have to wait their turn.
You’ve Got This, Dads
Look, your kid is fragile. But they’re more resilient than you think. Make sure to follow the golden rule (support their head!) but, otherwise…get to it.