Holding your fussy baby on his back is a little bit like calming him…and pinching him at the same time! That’s because upset babies feel insecure on their backs, as if they are being dropped (the position triggers the moro reflex or falling reflex, which makes crying babies fling their arms out and yelp even more.) On the other hand, rolling your baby to the side or stomach to hold him causes his position sensors to send a soothing message: “Don’t worry. Everything’s fine!”
So you’ll want to learn how to hold your baby in a few different positions that soothe him. Here are 3 ways to treat your baby to the calming pleasure of the side or stomach position:
The Reverse-Breastfeeding Hold
This is my favorite way to carry crying babies while I’m bouncing them into calm. It’s easy, comfortable and perfectly supports their head and neck.
1. With your baby lying on his back (swaddled is best), place your palm on the front of his diaper.
2. Roll him onto your forearm, so his stomach rests against your arm (your upper arm and elbow securely supporting the head and neck) and bring him in to your body, lightly pressing his back against your chest.
The Football Hold
Soothing babies, mid-squawk, with the football hold is one of the greatest baby “magic tricks” of all time. (This is like the reverse-breastfeeding hold, but with the head in your hand.)
1. With your baby lying on her back (swaddled if fussy), place your hand on her chin – your thumb on one cheek and your other fingers cradled against her other cheek and temple – supporting her head like a chin strap.
2. Gently roll her onto your forearm, snugly cushioning her chest and stomach against your arm. Let her cheek rest in your palm and outstretched fingers. Her groin will be near your elbow while her legs will dangle, straddled over your arm.
The Over-the-Shoulder Hold
Simply lifting your baby to an upright position can often have a strong, soothing effect.
1. Hoist your fussy baby up onto your shoulder.
2. Let the weight of his body press his stomach against your shoulder. (You can even turn him more on his tummy and higher up so his head rests over your shoulder than shown here.)
That extra tummy touching makes this hold doubly comforting. (Swaddling your baby before putting him over your shoulder will give you better control and help him stay asleep when you move him off your shoulder to the bassinet.)
Have fun discovering the position that makes your baby the happiest!
Important note: While side and stomach positions are fantastic for soothing, you should always place infants on the back when he is out of your arms. And babies should sleep only on the back. Begun in 1994, the AAP’s Back to Sleep campaign has reduced SIDS deaths by more than half, just by advising parents to sleep on the back.
Happiest Baby actively works on innovative ways to keep babies safer. To ensure infants don’t roll to a risky position, we created SNOO smart sleeper, with its one-of-a-kind swaddle that clips into the bed to keep the baby securely sleeping on the back. Learn more.