How to Cradle Hold a Baby

Two Parts:Learning How To Do the Cradle HoldUsing the Cradle Hold

Holding a baby for the first time can be nerve-wracking, especially if you are unsure about the best way to do it. There are several different ways to hold a baby and choosing one is usually based on the comfort of the baby as well as the person holding them. One of the most common ways to hold a baby is the cradle hold - this gives the baby lots of support and allows for easy eye contact between the baby and the person holding them.

Part 1
Learning How To Do the Cradle Hold

  1. Image titled Cradle Hold a Baby Step 1
    Bend down to pick up the baby. Rather than lifting the baby all the way up to your level, it is easier and safer to bend towards the baby as you lift her up. This minimizes the distance that the baby needs to be moved while only supported by the hands.
    • Bending towards the baby also maximizes the amount of eye contact you can make with the baby, as babies can only see about a foot in front of their eyes.
    • This eye contact is especially important if the baby is upset, as it will enable you to soothe and comfort them.
  2. Image titled Cradle Hold a Baby Step 2
    Support the baby's head as you lift it. When picking up a baby (especially a very young one) it is very important to support the head and neck, as they do not have the ability to do this themselves. To pick the baby up into the cradle position, it's easiest if the baby is lying on its back.
    • Slide your dominant hand under the baby’s neck and base of the head so that your thumb is on one side of the face and the other fingers are on the other side. [1]
    • Do not grip too tightly. Instead, the baby’s neck and base of the head should be cradled in the palm of your hand with your fingers spread apart for more support.
    • Place your other hand under the baby’s rear, but from the opposite side of the baby (as if giving a hug). Once again, spread your fingers apart to give maximum support.
  3. Image titled Cradle Hold a Baby Step 3
    Hold the baby against your body for additional support. Once you are bending over the baby and your hands are in the correct position, lift the baby and hold them against your chest. Holding the baby against your body provides additional support and will make it easier for you to slide your hands into the cradling position.
  4. Image titled Cradle Hold a Baby Step 4
    Slide your hands into the correct position. Slide your dominant hand (which is currently being used to support the baby's head) down along the baby's back, while supporting their head with your arm. Move your non-dominant hand to the far side of the baby, to prevent them from rolling off your arm.
    • Ultimately, when the baby is in the cradle hold, their head is resting in the bend of your elbow while your dominant hand is cupped on their rear.
    • The baby’s legs are supported by your other arm while your non-dominant hand adds support to the baby’s midsection and protects against falls.
  5. Image titled Cradle Hold a Baby Step 5
    Hold the baby's head higher than their feet. In the cradle hold, the baby's head should be positioned higher than their feet, as this is most comfortable for both you and the baby. Remember to hold the baby close to your own body, but not too tightly.[2]
  6. Image titled Cradle Hold a Baby Step 6
    Put the baby down gently. Although cradling the baby is a wonderful experience, at one point or another, you will need to put the baby down. Putting the baby down is basically the opposite of picking the baby up!
    • Once again, remember to lean over - as close to the baby's cot or seat as possible - in order to minimize the distance. Some people actually prefer to lean all the way over until their arms and the baby are supported by the bed or other surface before moving their hands and arms.
    • Gently slide your arms out from under the baby, keeping the head supported until you can lay it down gently.

Part 2
Using the Cradle Hold

  1. Image titled Cradle Hold a Baby Step 7
    Cradle the baby while sitting down. At some point or another, everyone is afraid that they might drop the baby. If you are really worried about cradle holding the baby while walking or standing, you can start off doing it while sitting.
    • Position a comfortable chair nearby and sit down immediately after picking up the baby. A rocking chair or a comfortable armchair will do perfectly.
    • This will help you to feel more confident, because if the baby does start to slip from your grasp, you can rest your arms on your lap in order to reposition the baby.
  2. Image titled Cradle Hold a Baby Step 8
    Progress onto cradling the baby while standing up. Once you are confident with your ability to properly cradle hold the baby while sitting down, you can try it while standing up. Later you can progress onto walking. With practice, it will soon become second nature to cradle hold the baby.
  3. Image titled Cradle Hold a Baby Step 9
    Consider swaddling the baby before using the cradle hold. For exceptionally wiggly or upset babies, less confident people might find it easier to cradle hold the baby after swaddling it in a blanket.
    • Swaddling not only helps to comfort the baby, it also helps you to balance them more easily, as they aren't flailing their arms and legs.
    • For step-by-step instructions on how to swaddle a baby, see this article.
  4. Image titled Cradle Hold a Baby Step 10
    Feed the baby while using the cradle hold. Often women that are breastfeeding find that the cradle hold is an ideal position for nursing their baby. Babies can also be fed a bottle of formula while in this position.
    • When breastfeeding the baby, turn the baby so they are faced towards you and tuck their arm beneath their body, to make them more comfortable.


  • The cradle hold can be used when soothing cranky babies or helping a baby fall asleep. Simply add a rocking motion by gently moving your arms from side to side.


  • You should always wash your hands before picking up a baby (especially a newborn) as they are very sensitive to dirt and bacteria and could become ill.

Article Info

Categories: Babies and Infants