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Cuddling and comforting your baby

WebMD Medical Reference
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

Whether you've had much experience with babies or not, reassure yourself with the thought that most of your behaviour is instinctive. As each day goes by, holding, carrying and soothing your newborn will quickly become second nature, and your confidence will grow.

Your baby loves being in your arms and is more robust than you think. Here's our advice on how to handle him with confidence and what to try when he cries.

How do I support my baby's head?

Your baby's head is the heaviest part of his body, though his skull bones are still quite soft. That's nature's way of helping him through the vagina during birth.

Until he's old enough to support his own head, you'll need to do it for him. Simply slide one hand under his head and place the other one under his back and bottom to support the lower half of his body.

Do I need to be careful of his soft spots?

New parents often worry about the soft spots or fontanelles - openings in the skull where the bones haven't yet grown together. Don't be alarmed, there's a strong membrane underneath to protect your baby's brain.

The diamond shaped anterior fontanelle (the one at the front) will close up when he's about 12 to 18 months old, while the smaller, triangular posterior fontanelle will close up at around three months.

Touch them very gently, and sponge lightly around them when you're washing his hair.

What's the best way to carry him?

He'll feel snug and secure held against your chest with his face resting on your shoulder. Fascinatingly, you'll find you naturally hold him on the left side of your body, where he'll be comforted by the sound of your heartbeat.

He might also enjoy being carried with his head resting in the crook of your arm, slightly higher than the rest of his body. However you carry him, always support his back and head with one arm and use the other to support his bottom.

A beginner's guide to picking up your newborn:

  • When your baby is lying on his back, slide one hand under his lower back and bottom. Now slide your other hand under his neck and head, going in from the opposite side.
  • Lift your baby slowly and gently so that his body is supported and his head can't loll back.
  • Support his head in the crook of your elbow or against your shoulder.
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