For the first few weeks after his now-14-month-old son, Benjamin, was born, Jeff Eglash felt a little unsure as he held him. “He seemed so fragile, I was worried that I might hurt him,” says the Studio City, Calif., dad.
Thankfully, newborns are hardier than they look. As long as you’re gentle, you won’t injure a baby while you hold or touch her.
Still, it’s normal to feel nervous with this vulnerable new life whose well-being is quite literally in your hands. Here, tips for tender lifting, holding, and more:
Give a heads-up
Newborns have oversized heads for their bodies, and weak neck muscles. You’ll need to support your baby’s head and neck with your hand whenever you pick her up, hold her, and put her down. (Your other hand should support her bottom.) At around 8 weeks, she should be able to keep her head steady on her own.
“Your newborn needs to be held securely, tucked in close to your body,” says Frank McGehee, M.D., a pediatrician in Fort Worth, Texas. Otherwise, if the baby’s startled by a loud noise or a sudden movement, she could easily squirm out of your arms. And if her little legs are dangling while you’re carrying her, they could hit something sharp or hard.
Perfect the handoff
Before you pass your infant to someone else, ask the person to wash his hands—a baby’s immune system isn’t fully developed until she’s 2 months old. Support her a few moments even after the transfer, to make sure she’s stable.