The first hour with your newborn
Holding your baby
The first hour or so after the baby has been born will be typically spent where you have given birth. If all has gone well, the role of early parenting will consist basically of holding and talking to your new baby. It is not unusual for much of this holding to be done by the partner or support person as the mother recovers, eats, has routine procedures performed and freshens up.
Some parents will reach out and hold their newborn baby as if they have been doing it forever. This could come naturally, or be helped by past experiences dealing with the babies of friends or relatives. Other parents may never have held a baby before, and can feel nervous, wondering, "How do I pick up this very small, little being?"
Be aware that babies are pretty 'durable' even if they look small and delicate, although supporting the baby's neck muscles is important. The baby's neck is not strong enough to support its own head-weight just yet. These muscles will develop over the coming weeks and months, meaning that less support will be needed over time.
The following are some tips for lifting and holding your new baby.
If the baby is being passed to you from another person:
- Simply cradle both arms with your hands facing upwards, overlapping at waist level, and let the baby's neck rest in the crook of one of your bent elbows. Use the rest of your 'cradled' arms to support the baby's body. Your caregiver will normally guide you for this first hold.
If picking up the baby from the bed or cot:
- Slide one hand under the baby's neck, supporting their neck in the palm of your hand, and their head with your fingers. This means the top of the baby's back will rest on your wrist. Slide the other hand under the baby's bottom. You can do this by placing your hand between the baby's legs or sliding your hand under the side of their bottom so that their bottom rests in the palm of your hand. Once you feel both your hands are in place, lean towards them as you lift them up and hold them near your chest (as an extra support).
- Once near your chest, you can then move them into a cradling position in your arms. Lean the baby against your chest and then move the hand under the baby's head along their back until their head rests in the crook of your arm. Move the hand on their bottom up to overlap the other hand under the baby's back and 'cradle' your baby. Hold your baby so that their head is slightly higher than their bottom.
The first couple of times you pick your baby up, it may feel awkward and you may be a little nervous. It is often difficult to know where to place your hands (or the baby may not look comfortable when being held). Within the first week, picking up your baby will become more natural. Just remember:
- Hold your baby gently, but firmly and close to your body. This will reassure them, providing the security they are used to from being held snugly in the uterus for many months.
- Talk softly to your baby as you pick up them up, or wrap them firmly in a blanket (or bunny rug) first. This helps prevent the 'startle' reflex where the baby throws their arms out, often causing them to cry and startling you as well!
- When laying your baby down make sure their head is fully supported with your hand or arm, to avoid their head from flopping backwards.
They may seem very small and fragile but they are strong little creatures!