Category Archive : Practical Dad Skills

Prior to my daughter being born, I was the type of guy that was happy to look at a baby and pull faces but if offered to hold them I would usually decline. Not because I was averse to them, but because I didn’t know how to hold them. They seemed so small and fragile, and I felt so clumsy that I thought it best for their safety (and my own) that I steer clear. Adding to this, I had thoughts of ‘what if I drop them?’, or ‘what if I break them?’ or ‘what if they squirm out of my hands?’, all fueling this fear of holding babies. So I stuck to my policy of ‘look, don’t touch’ and waited until they were at an age where they could walk and play before I started really engaging with them. Then once I knew my wife was pregnant, holding a baby was something I could only avoid for so long! I had to figure it out, or I would miss out on so much potential bonding time (plus have to deal with feeling guilty about not helping out as much as I could). Luckily for me, even with all the research I did, when the time came to hold my daughter it felt natural, and I almost just knew how to do it automatically. But that isn’t always everyones experience. So here are 3 common ways to hold your newborn and some tips to get you started. Remember, like any skill it takes preparation and practice, and mental resilience, to develop.

Any information included in this post is of a general nature and for informational purposes only. If you require support specific to your needs please seek support from your relevant health professional.

The Cradle

The cradle is probably the most common and most comfortable way of holding a newborn. It provides baby with a sense of safety by being held close to the parents body (and being able to feel your heartbeat) and ‘cradled’ in both arms. It provides stability for baby and ensures full support for baby’s head and neck. Aside from being a comfortable way of being held for baby, for dads and mums it also provides use with a sense of closeness and care, allows us to see baby’s face completely (which helps with bonding) and is also, for the parent, one of the most stable ways to hold a baby (reducing any worry or anxiety about dropping baby).

So how do you hold baby in a cradle position?

  1. First, place one hand under baby’s head and neck (this is the top arm) and the other under baby’s bum (this is the bottom arm). This should allow your hands to provide full support to baby.
  2. Next, as you pull baby in close to your body, slide your top hand down baby’s back under your other hand so that baby’s head is now supported by your inner elbow and body, and baby’s body is supported by your arm and hand. It is extremely important that you always maintain support of baby’s head since baby can’t support their own head. Note: you can also move your bottom hand up so baby’s head is supported by your hand and the body and bottom supported by your arm. This will give you better support of baby’s head if you aren’t feeling as confident, but you won’t have as much freedom to use your hands.
  3. Finally, with baby’s head and body now supported by your top hand and arm, place your other arm underneath your bottom arm to add extra stability and strength to hold baby. Perfect, now you’re holding your baby!

While this hold does limit the use of your arms, it does keep your hands somewhat free to hold things as needed.

Upright Head On Your Chest Or Shoulder

This hold is useful when you need baby to be upright – possibly to help with burping after a feed or if baby is awake and wants to see the world! It is also a hold that can help baby hear your heart beat more, feel safer in your arms and makes you feel like you are truly hugging your baby. If your baby is anything like mine, they may also just want to mix up how they are being held (they might get too bored in the one position) so having another way of holding baby is important!

Steps to hold baby in this way:

  1. With baby laying down, place one hand under their head/neck and the other under their back/bottom. Make sure you are always supporting their head and neck when in this position as they are unable to do so themselves.
  2. Gently pull baby up towards your chest or shoulder.
  3. Make sure baby’s airways (mouth and nose) are clear by facing them to one side. If baby’s face is nuzzled into your body, it creates a potential suffocation risk.
  4. For extra stability, you can place your hand under baby’s bottom, creating a ‘seat’ for baby to sit on. This will allow you to hold baby’s weight easier in the one hand.

I would often use this hold to help my daughter burp after feeds, by having her up on my shoulder while we walked around the house going on a ‘tour’. Aside from helping my daughter burp, it also gave me an opportunity to bond through holding her and helped my daughter to bond and develop by hearing my voice and seeing new things in the house.

The One Handed Cradle

This Cradle is exactly like the regular cradle, but as the name implies its only with one hand. This one is perfect when you have a bit more confidence and you’re comfortable with your strength in holding baby with one arm. It has most of the same benefits as the regular cradle, however even if you are comfortable with your strength and stability holding baby with one arm, it is still not as stable. The biggest draw card though for the one handed cradle is that now you have a free arm! This made it a bit easier to grab things, write things down, greet people, feed baby or do chores.

So how do you do the One Handed Cradle? Just follow the first 2 steps of the regular cradle and then remove your bottom arm so it is free!

Once I mastered this hold, it meant I could do so much more. And by so much more I mean it meant I could game for a solid 2-3 hours while baby slept (allowing me to finally complete Final Fantasy XV and have a solid run at Elder Scrolls Online).

General Tips For Holding Baby

Regardless of which method you choose to hold baby (whether its one of these three or another way), there are some key things to remember when holding a newborn baby, both for baby’s sake and also for your own confidence.

  • Always keep the neck and head supported. This is the most important part of holding a baby. If you do this, then even if baby is crying and upset, at least they will be safe.
  • Babies are more resilient than you think. Sure they’re small and feel fragile, but their bodies are tough and can handle any fumbling around you need to do in the beginning.
  • Practice, practice, practice. If you want to get better at something, you need to practice. If holding a baby is frightening, your brain will tell you to avoid holding babies. So if you want that to change, then you need to practice.
  • Babies will cry, for any number of reasons. Them crying while you hold them isn’t your fault, and with enough time you holding them will help soothe them. It’s difficult, but try not to let this knock your confidence.
  • Seek help, from your partner, family or friends. You can even ask your doctor or child health nurse. But don’t be afraid to seek help if you need to. Holding a baby is not always ‘natural’, and is something we learn.

Remember, You Got This

I’m confident now in holding babies, but that took practice and self belief. I was lucky that once my daughter was born that I had done enough to make me feel confident enough the first time I held her, but if you were to ask me back when my wife was pregnant I would be questioning my suitability to hold babies. At the end of the day, you will be able to hold your baby without any issues and feel confident about it. It may happen as soon as baby arrives, or it may take some time afterwards, but either way it will happen. So remember, you got this!

Before you became a father, life had enough responsibilities already. You have your role at work and responsibilities there. You may have responsibilities with your own family that need to be attended to. If you complete volunteer work or even a sport/activity in your personal time you will have responsibilities there. Within your relationship you will have responsibilities to your partner. Plus on top of all of this are any financial responsibilities that are tied to these life areas. Juggling these responsibilities is busy enough as it is, but then once you enter fatherhood and become a parent, your responsibilities increase significantly and place pressure on all other areas of life. Learning how to be a dad is challenging enough within its own right, but learning how to add the responsibilities of fatherhood to your already full life, and keeping it all going, takes the difficulty level up a notch.

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You’ve just had a baby, you’re in the midst of diapers, feeds and feeling like a zombie. The last thing on your mind is imagining how you want life to look in five years. If you were like me, it was hard enough to see past the next day let alone what life would look like years from now. But this baby that you now have responsibility for is the exact reason why you need to think ahead. Not only because of the increased financial responsibility, but because at the center of every family are the parents, and it is important for us as parents to consider the life we want for ourselves, because this will help with our happiness, which in turn will help with your childs happiness. Though, it is probably best to wait out the first 3-6 months, you have enough on your plate!

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Nobody likes being sick, and we don’t like seeing others get sick either. When you’re at work and someone comes in coughing and sneezing, you steer clear and hope you don’t catch the bug. As a parent, my thoughts were always on ‘when will my daughter get sick’ and ‘how to prevent them from getting sick’, or ‘can newborns get sick?’ Especially when I started seeing other babies fall ill. After getting about 9 months in, my daughter had been illness free, and I was thinking to myself that she must have some superhuman immune system and we’ll be in the clear by her 1st birthday. And then, it happened.

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I have always struggled to get into regular exercise habits. I start up, get into a really good pattern for 3-4 months, and then something happens like falling sick or going on holiday, where I stop working out for 1-2 weeks. After this, it takes me a good few months to get back into a routine before the same cycle occurs again. In fact, once my wife fell pregnant, I again attempted to get into a good routine with the hopes it would continue once baby arrived. I even managed to break my old cycles and workout for a solid 6-7 months, 4 days a week for a little over an hour each morning. I also started to see some physical results of my training (as well as an increase in strength and stamina).

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Becoming a dad is a life changing experience, but one of the hardest parts of this change is to know how to best support your partner. There is no doubt that for new mothers out there, it is a dramatic change for them to go through. Physically they have had to carry a baby and endure those body changes, they have had to give birth and endure the recovery post birth (whether it be a C-section or natural birth), and then for many they now become the primary carer looking after baby more days than not. And for the dad’s (or the non-primary caregiver), it’s trying to navigate your own experience and making sense of it all, trying to take care of this little human and then supporting your partner with the changes that they themselves are going through. This can be an overwhelming sense of responsibility, and lots of dad’s (myself included) find themselves asking how to be a supportive husband or spouse in the best way possible.

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When my wife was pregnant, we attended some pregnancy classes together to learn about life after birth, and everything that is involved in looking after a baby. One of the things they talked about was playtime and bonding with your child and how important this was. It all made sense, and we could see how important it was, and they took us through some ideas on how to play, and how this helped with baby’s development. But you see, as I mentioned in my post Expectations Vs Reality – What To Expect As A New Dad’ I had no experience playing with newborns, or even babies really. My experience was toddlers and above, so I really had no idea what play time was actually like for a newborn.

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How to find time to relax with a newborn, a question I also found myself asking regularly, often coming up with the same answer – you don’t find time! Relaxation becomes a thing of the past when you are caring for a little human, and you may often question when you will be able to find the time. And in my experience, what I found was not that I ‘found time’ to relax with a newborn, but rather I had to change my mindset towards what I was already doing. Finding ‘relaxation’ within my duties as a father, enjoying the moment and practicing this idea you may have heard about called ‘mindfulness’.

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There are many questions that I began asking once my daughter had come along. How often does a newborn need to feed? How many wet nappies is normal? Is my baby’s poo colour normal? But no question was more pressing than finding out how to get sleep with a newborn. As I mentioned in my previous post ‘Expectations VS Reality – What to Expect as A New Dad‘, there are quite a few changes that occur when you become a father, but the most challenging change I found was adjusting to the new sleep pattern that a newborn entails. This was such a challenge that I found myself Googling for answers a few times a day in the first few weeks. I don’t know if I ever found a single answer that worked, but I tried a lot of strategies that were recommended and my wife and I were lucky enough to find some semblance of normal sleep after the first 7 – 8 months. Hopefully through reading my journey, it will help you with yours.

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I sometimes think back to where my mind was at prior to having a baby, when my wife was still pregnant and we were in the ‘expecting phase’. At the time we were just over the moon to be having a baby, so I thought I knew what to expect as a new dad. And the challenge is that nothing can really prepare you. You can read tonnes of blogs, watch YouTube videos of peoples experiences, or even have friends tell you the honest truth. But none of that will prepare you, because you haven’t been through it yourself. You have nothing to compare those stories against in your own personal experience bank. So what your brain does compare the stories to, are experiences that it thinks are related. Let me run through some of my own personal examples.

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