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Handling techniques for your new baby

27 Nov, 2023

Mater Mothers’ Hospitals have provided some helpful tips for handling and holding your baby in ways that are helpful for their wellbeing and development.

Picking your baby up

To encourage head control, pick your baby up through this side lying technique.

  • Turn your baby onto their side and lean them forward into your hand, supporting their chest and back with each hand as you lift. This encourages development of your baby’s head control. Try to vary picking them up through their left and right sides
  • Put your baby down onto their side in the same way, and then roll them onto their back
  • Carrying your baby
  • Apart from cradling your baby in your arms, you might like to try some other ways of carrying your baby
  • Lying on their tummy, over your arm, with baby’s head close to your elbow and facing outwards; this position may help to settle your baby
  • Hold your baby high over your shoulder with their arms over your shoulder. This position can be good for burping
  • If using a baby sling, choose one that provides good shoulder support. If the weight of the sling is supported onto your hips, adjust the sling so that it is supported around your waist; this will help you to maintain good posture


Always follow the safe sleeping guideline. See for further information.

It is important that your baby sleeps for equal amounts of time with their head to the left, right and in a central position, to prevent their head becoming flattened or misshapen. Sleeping your baby at different ends of the cot and approaching your baby from different sides are some of the ways you can achieve this.

It is very important that your baby spends time off their back. A change of head position will prevent flattening and/or asymmetry of your baby’s head shape

Change time

  • The change table height should be just under the level of your bent elbow so that your back stays straight when changing or dressing your baby
  • Encourage eye contact with your baby by placing a small towel or pillow under their head
  • With your baby’s nappy off, stroke across their chest and legs to encourage kicking and relaxation

Tummy time

Although babies should not sleep on their tummy, it is important that all babies spend supervised time each day in this position to encourage their physical development.

Baby needs to develop head control and enjoy being on their tummy in preparation for rolling and crawling.

Try the following:

  • On their tummy over your arm or on your knee
  • On their tummy on your chest (you must stay awake) or on their tummy on your bed — you can sit on the floor and talk to your baby
  • Other ideas to encourage your baby’s development
  • Look at and talk or sing to your baby; they recognise your touch, voice and smell. Read to your baby every day. This is important for their language development and encourages secure bonding with your baby
  • Your baby may like to listen to quiet, soothing music. Lullabies, classical or relaxation music can be useful. Sometimes white noise e.g. radio static, washing machine or vacuum cleaners, which has been recorded, can help to soothe and settle
  • Give your baby something to look at e.g. a dangling mobile, when awake. About 30cm away from your baby’s face is the best distance in the early weeks. Your face and voice are most stimulating when your baby is young. Encourage them to follow you with their eyes through their whole visual field
  • Learn to do a deep relaxation bath with your baby
  • Learn to read your baby’s cues and responses to different types of stimulation. This helps with settling, learning the best time for play and promoting a secure attachment with your baby
  • Find toys that are age appropriate
  • Avoid baby walkers and jolly jumpers as they do not promote the correct development for your baby
  • Provide movement opportunities for your baby that are age appropriate such as walks in the stroller, carrying your baby in a sling, swings, and moving through space
  • Plenty of safe floor play is the best way for your baby to learn about their body and how it moves. Get involved during these play sessions and spend time on the floor with your baby

Find out more about Mater Mothers' Hospital here

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