Contents » Baby Care Basics » Holding, Comforting & Carrying » Picking Up & Holding Baby

Picking Up & Holding Baby

Nope, You Won’t Break Him


  • That tiny person is tougher than you think
  • Correct holds make you and baby feel safe
  • Use two hands for support when moving baby
  • Carry small babies with one arm; larger babies with both arms
  • Football hold works wonders for fussy babies
  • Hip carry works well for older babies


A little baby who looks as delicate as a soap bubble is frightening to many people who’ve never held one. Most think they’ll drop the baby (doubtful) or squeeze her too hard (even more doubtful) or literally break her (almost never). When I first started in medical school, I too thought that babies were as delicate as petals on a rose. Fortunately, I was wrong. Although not fragile, one should still handle with care. A few tips and a little attention will make baby feel secure and you a baby-holding champion.

  • You and Baby are Worried About the Same Things. Your new baby recently emerged from being securely curled up and fully supported from within your belly. Now he needs that same reassurance when he’s in your arms. And you need to reassure yourself that he’s supported properly, so you won’t hurt him.
  • Picking Up Baby. The main rule for holding new babies is: support her head & neck until she can do that for herself. As long as you have her head & neck in one hand and her butt in the other, you’re doing good. Because the world is still strange to your newborn, let her know you’re around by making quiet noise (talk, sing, etc.) as you approach, and make eye contact if she’s awake. Slide one hand under her head & neck then the other under her butt, with your fingers supporting her back. Lift slow and smoothly as you bring her to your chest, resting her head near your shoulder, keeping one hand on neck and head and the other under her bottom.
  • Putting Down Baby. To put him down, do the same in reverse: hold his head & neck in one hand with the other under his butt. Bend over as close as you can to the bed or stroller so he doesn’t have a long mid-air flight. Lay him down softly, keeping your hands in place for a few seconds before sliding them out.
  • Carrying Baby With Confidence. The easiest way to carry a tiny baby is to just use one arm: her head rests at your elbow, your forearm supports her back, and her butt is in your hand. Holding her close to you will make her feel safe.
  • Carrying Big Babies. Holding larger babies requires both your arms: one holds his head & neck, and one holds his bottom as you bring him to your chest, allowing his head to rest on your shoulder. Or, sit him on your lap (or put his butt in your hand) with his back against your chest and your hand supporting his head under the chin, allowing him to look around at his world. Once he’s good at holding up his head, your arm goes across his chest instead of under his chin.
  • Football Hold. I’m not sure who the football fan is within your house, but many babies like the football hold (as seen in American football): Imagine your little one is a football lying on her stomach along your forearm with her head in either your hand or at the crook of your elbow. Her arms and legs will hang down. Many babies find this position soothing—it’s a good position to try with colicky babies. Just don’t hand your baby a Budweiser or the television remote.
  • Hip Carry. Once he’s old enough to hold himself upright, you’ll both appreciate the hip carry: rest him on your hip so his legs straddle that hip bone with your arm wrapped around his body, holding him securely. He gets to move and look around, and it frees your other arm to do all those other parent-things.

With these basics in mind, you will be surprised at how fast you become comfortable holding your little one. Enjoy these moments now, because before long you will be preparing for a marathon as your toddler is running circles around you.

Stay current
with updates