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Baby—handling your new baby

The following information provides suggestions about how you can hold and handle your baby in ways that are helpful for your baby’s 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 carrier, 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 Mater’s Baby—safe sleeping and your baby brochure 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 30 cm 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.

Baby handling DVD

Mater’s Baby handling DVD provides practical demonstrations about how to hold and handle your baby in ways that are helpful for your baby’s wellbeing and development.

This DVD can be viewed by visiting Mater Health and Wellness' Antenatal and Postnatal Physiotherapy webpage.

Further information

  • Talk to your physiotherapist.
  • Watch the baby handling DVD on the touch screen television in your room during your stay in hospital.
  • Attend a baby handling class while you are still in hospital.
  • After discharge from hospital, attend the physiotherapy postnatal review class.
  • After discharge Mater Health and Wellness Clinic offers classes in infant massage and baby developmental handling.

For further information or to book an appointment, please telephone Mater Mothers’ Hospital Physiotherapy (Allied health reception) on 07 3163 6000.

For video resources on this topic in languages other than English, visit the Raising Children Network website.*

*Please note that Mater cannot guarantee the accuracy or appropriateness of information provided on third party websites.

Mater acknowledges consumer consultation in the development of this patient information.
Mater Doc Num: PI-CLN-430168
Last modified 26/7/2017.
Consumers were consulted in the development of this patient information.
Last consumer engagement date: 16/11/2016
For further translated health information, you can visit healthtranslations.vic.gov.au/ supported by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services that offers a range of patient information in multiple languages.
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