Safe, Gentle Ways to Hold a Baby

Holding a baby is such a delightful task, Many people say that they could hold a baby for hours. While this is true, there are many different ways to do it. There are also times when you need to be doing other things at the same time. You need options for different situations. Learn safe ways to hold a baby that you can also show others to ensure your baby is always cradled correctly.


The Cradle Hold

Cradle hold for baby
Photo © Tetra Images/Getty Images

Cradling a baby is quite natural and simple. Place the baby's head in the crook of one of your arms and wrap your other arm around the baby or hold the original arm with the second arm. This is a great position for talking to the baby or looking at her. Many babies sleep very well in this position. It's also a good beginner's position, particularly for younger kids or siblings.

This is often used as a breastfeeding position. It is also a great position for skin-to-skin contact.


The Belly Hold

Belly Hold for Baby
Photo © Sally Anscombe/Getty Images

The belly hold is a great position for gassy babies. Lay the baby chest down over one of your forearms. Use your other arm to lay across baby's back to hold him securely. You can also do this across your lap or use it for burping.

The comfort of this position depends on how long your arms are. A variation is to place the supporting hand between the baby's legs for a more secure grip. You can also bounce your legs a bit for added help in gas relief.


The Hip Hold

A Hip Hold
Photo © CaiaImageCLOSED/Getty Images

Once your baby has some good head and neck control, the hip hold is a great, one-armed technique for holding your baby. Sit the baby on one of your hip bones facing outward and wrap the same side arm around the baby's waist.

This is a great way for your baby to look around, and it gives you a free hand. You can also combine this with the use of a sling or other baby carrier.


The Shoulder Hold

Shoulder Hold of Baby
Photo © Sally Anscombe/Getty Images

The shoulder hold is another natural hold for a baby. Lean your baby up on a shoulder and with the arm of the same side, wrap it around his bottom. Use the other arm to hold against his back and/or to support his neck.

Babies sleep well in this position, too. It also allows them to hear your heart beating and breathing. This is a great position for almost any age. As the baby grows, the need for support is less and less.


The Sling Hold

Sleeping baby in a sling
Photo © David Cyr (Froghammer)/Getty Images

A sling is a great device that allows you to carry the baby hands-free. Your baby can be held in many positions, including positions for discrete nursing. A sling is also very useful for the parents of multiples, as it is never advisable to carry two or more babies in your arms without the use of something like a sling, for fear you might fall.


Set Guidelines for Holding Your Baby

Father cradling newborn baby in nursery
LWA/Dann Tardif/Getty Images

You can decide on safety rules around who can hold your baby and what you require. Do you let strangers hold him? How old should children be before they hold your baby? Should you make people wash their hands first? What about siblings?

Your rules may include:

  • Washing your hands before holding the baby
  • No holding the baby standing up
  • No holding the baby if you're sick
  • Holding the babies one at a time (for twins)
  • No holding the baby without an adult present (for older siblings)

A Word From Verywell

Holding a baby is natural, but those who are not familiar with it may need gentle correction to do it safely. Take the time to show your kids, partner, and friends the correct ways to cradle your child.

1 Source
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. La Leche League International. Breastfeeding info: Positioning.

By Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH
Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH is a professor, author, childbirth and postpartum educator, certified doula, and lactation counselor.