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Maybe you’re like me, and believe that you’re either cursed or have extreme bad luck with babies. Maybe every time you have held someone under 365 days old, they turn into an exploding cry-bomb and you are either embarrassed and hopelessly attempting to quiet the baby or throwing a Hail Mary to the caregiver to take the baby back. If you’re holding a relative’s baby, you are suddenly the family disappointment. And if something goes array when holding a friend’s baby, there is definitely something wrong with you.

So how do you solve this problem? Not surprisingly, your ability to soothe a baby is not genetic or a part of your ‘motherly instinct’. Just like driving a car, holding and soothing a baby is a SKILL that you can learn. So, next time you’re put in charge of a chubby little drool baby, here’s what you can do.

  1. Move to where you’re both comfortable.

I think most of us assume that when given a baby (especially a newborn), we must hold them in the rigid way we held babies at age 10. Your angled arms and straight back might be great for meditation, but that postiition is as comfrotable for the baby as it is for you. Try putting the baby over your shoulder or recline slightly and let them sleep on your chest. Newborns especially love this because your heartbeat reminds them of the womb. All that matters about the holding position is that the baby’s head is supported in someway, and by support, I don’t mean you have to have a hand on their cranium. As long as the baby’s head isn’t flailing around like a dying fish and their neck (meaning their airway) is close to straight, you’re good.

2. Try movement

Older babies love extra somatosensory information to rest and sleep to. It’s the same idea as sleeping with a fan or a white noise machine. Bouncing babies can distract them from crying or even being awake if you get the right pace. Just ensure that your bounces are light and gentle. You don’t need to make a baby slushie.

3. Have you swaddled yet?

Babies literally just got their nervous systems months ago. All their sensory nerves are telling their brain: “Hey, this blanket is soft”, “Hey, something is touching me”, and “Hey, did you know we have an ARM?”. All this sensory information causes a baby’s reflexes to fire, which is why babies squirm a lot. Babies then feel agitated because they don’t have adequate control of their bodies just yet (lowkey, my brain still doesn’t know how long my legs are either) and their agitation with themselves can translate into fussiness Best option: swaddle that sucker up! Babies love a tight blanket becuase they can’t squirm anymore.

4. It’s not you

Around the age of 7-9 months, babies securely attach to their caregiver and do not like to be away from or sometimes even held by anyone else besides their caregiver. So, if an older baby cries when you hold them, your instinctual reaction that you’re just a horrible person is most likely not true. That baby just isn’t attached to you and wants their caregiver instead. Granted, if a young baby also cries when you hold them, that also doesn’t mean you’re a horrible person or have no parental skills. For those of you who don’t have kids, your ability to soothe a child that you did not create or adopt says absolutely nothing about your parenting skills. You don’t have a baby, and you shouldn’t worry that you struggle to parent someone else’s child.

5. Finally, are you stressed?

From tip #1, we learned that you can’t sit in a stressful or awkward position and expect a baby to be comfortable. Same goes for if you’re emotionally or mentally stressed. If you’re stressing about a final, a text from a friend, or a bad day at work, babies can sense your stress-induced elevated heart rate and blood pressure. Your stress can then lead to the baby feeling stressed. How can you expect a baby to fall asleep or contently lay in your arms if the baby is sympathetically stressed from you? We can’t sleep when our mind is racing about concerns, so how can you expect a tiny infant to? Your best bet when holding a baby is to literally push everything out of your mind. Breath. Allow those feel-good hormones from cradling the next generation calm you down. Let baby holding time be your chill out time as well. This way, both you and baby will benefit from holding time.

In conclusion, babies are scary little buggers. They like to have everything their way and do not appreciate if you screw with their agendas. But fear no more! You have a set of tools to figure out how to hold a baby and who knew there would be so much to learn? Now you are no longer the cousin that is the familial embarrassment- today’s the day you can hold your baby cousin with pride.

 

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