How to Hold a Baby: 3 Ways That Calm Fussing

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:

Hold Your Baby in 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.

How to Hold a Baby Using This Technique

  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. Use your hand to make sure his head is supported too.

Hold Your Baby Using the Football Hold

Soothing babies, mid-squawk, with the football hold is one of the greatest baby “magic tricks” of all time. Here’s how to do it.

How to Hold a Newborn Baby Using The Football Hold

  1. Begin with your baby lying on her back (swaddled if fussy).
  2. Gently roll her onto your forearm, snugly cushioning her chest and stomach against your arm so that she is lying on her belly. Let her cheek rest on your palm or forearm. Her groin will be near your elbow while her legs will dangle, straddled over your arm.

Use the Over-the-Shoulder Hold to Hold a Baby

Simply lifting your baby to an upright position can often have a strong, soothing effect.

How to Hold a Baby Using the Over the Shoulder Method

  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.) 

How to Hold a Baby: Final Thoughts

Have fun discovering the position that makes your newborn 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.

View more posts tagged, crying

Have questions about a Happiest Baby product? Our consultants would be happy to help! Submit your questions here.

Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider. Breastmilk is the best source of nutrition for babies. It is important that, in preparation for and during breastfeeding, mothers eat a healthy, balanced diet. Combined breast- and bottle-feeding in the first weeks of life may reduce the supply of a mother's breastmilk and reversing the decision not to breastfeed is difficult. If you do decide to use infant formula, you should follow instructions carefully.