When a new born first appears on the scene, you suddenly realise how much there is to learn about giving your baby the best start in life.
One of those worries can be “How do I support the baby’s head?”
- Supporting a baby’s head when picking up
- How to support a baby’s head when laying the baby down
- How to support a baby’s head in a bath
- When passing baby to a friend or relative
- Dressing and undressing the baby
Handling your new born baby.
Some parents can feel nervous handling the new born baby and this apprehensiveness can apply to anyone, especially those that have not had children and come to visit you.
Supporting your baby’s head is paramount until the baby’s muscles have developed enough strength the baby will be startled and fearful of being dropped this is called the Moro Reflex. This is why it can be so tricky to move a sleeping baby without waking them. They seemed to be designed to wake when put down!
How to support the your baby’s head when picking them up
Firstly make sure you are steady and that you are aware of your surroundings for safety hazards. Then move your hand so the palm is supporting the head and sneck at the same time and your palm is supporting the upper spine. Your fingers should be cupping the lower part of the head (do not try and just support the head from the side. The neck is like a loose hinge the baby can slip through the gap between both hands if the upper spine isn’t held too). The image below shows how a baby should be held during picking up and laying them down.
Keeping your baby relaxed and undisturbed becomes a very important and integral feature of parenting your child. A settled baby usually means that parenting is easier, less tiring and so much more enjoyable for you all.
You can easily pick up or move your baby around fifty times a day which can also take its toll on your back. In and out the car seat, bath time, feeding, changing, visiting family and friends and well as of course all important pick up comfort cuddles.
It’s worth here saying a little more about the Moro Reflex. It’s a sensitive survival instinct developed over millions of years. Unfortunately it doesn’t have any regard for how tired you might be but it will kick in the moment your baby’s head is disturbed as the baby feels they are going to be dropped and so will naturally scream in response to this.
Your baby can be absolutely asleep as you lay them down but when you move that last finger off the head a primal scream starts and you’re back to square one trying to settle your baby again which can be exhausting. It’s probably why we fear not supporting their head properly.
There is one new product however, that solves the age old problem of head support and being able to move a baby without waking.
It’s a cosy wrap that acts like a hammock and just like when you lay in a hammock the head cannot go back. It saves your back but the main benefit is that at the same time as supporting your baby’s head the transition is so smooth that your baby doesn’t wake up! This means you get more done and your baby gets more precious developmental sleep. The bonuses are massive, support for your back, help with post birth recovery and not having to carry your car seat either. Oh, not to mention that keeping your baby out of car seats reduces the risk of flat head syndrome and hypoxia (loss of oxygen to the brain due to head on chin and shallow breathing for too long).
Who’d have thought that a product originally designed for head support and moving a baby without waking them could have turned out to have so many benefits?
Frequently Asked Questions About Supporting A Baby’s Head
Not supporting the head can result in injuries. A newborn baby has weak head and neck muscles and very little strength to move their head. If the head isn’t supported it will flop backward or forward and startle the baby, making it feel very insecure. Any sudden movement of the baby’s head can also activate the Moro reflex which is a startle reflex. If this is activated the baby will become stressed. The head will need constant support for around 3 to 4 months.
All babies start to support their heads at different times but by one month your baby will be able to lift their chin but will still need support. After about 4 months your baby will be able to support it’s head when sat up. Neck muscles and head control should be strong and steady by 6 months
A loose flopping head can create twisting and over extension of neck muscles as well as twisting and jolting of the spine. It is highly advised that you always support your baby’s head. Not supporting the head is very scary for the baby and could lead to contact with hard surfaces during picking up a baby.
Unlike other species a human baby is born without the muscular strength to walk or even support its own head. It is designed to be constantly held so the idea that a baby can be spoilt by being held too much is a modern myth. In turn your hips are the perfect seat and your arms are designed to hold a baby. Both parent and baby are designed to keep the baby close. A baby feels safe and cared for whilst being held and this constant care and connection gives them the foundation to grow emotionally.
If your baby falls back on a soft surface like a bed or cot mattress then this unlikely to be more than a superficial issue which causes discomfort. However, if your baby falls back on a hard surface this can range from a bruise, cut or even brain damage. Most doctors will advise that if the baby is fine and alert after banging their head then things should be fine. Just monitor for a few days. The signs of something more serious are vomiting, drowsy, irritable, eating less, or having trouble using a part of their body. If one or more of these symptoms is evident then seek medical attention straight away.
A newborn baby’s head is heavy and needs careful support. The most secure way to hold a baby is to gently put one hand behind the head. Use your other arm to scoop up the back of your baby through legs so your arm to support the back of the neck and rest of the body. Do this while supporting the head with your other hand. When you have a good support of the body and head then lift your baby into your arms.