Ways to keep baby upright after feeding

10 tips for handling and holding a newborn | Your Pregnancy Matters

Apprehension about handling a newborn is normal. But babies are not as fragile as they look.

Holding a newborn is often one of the greatest joys of new parenthood. It can also incite immense fear.

From their tiny fingers to their teetering heads, newborns look fragile, and many new parents are worried they’ll harm their baby by holding them in the wrong position. I understand their concern, but newborns are sturdier than many new parents realize.

While you must handle a newborn with care – and never shake the baby – you’re not going to hurt them during feedings or diaper changes if you use gentle, supportive movements.

Before you take your new baby home from UT Southwestern, our neonatal nurses and your doctor will demonstrate the best techniques for picking up, carrying, comforting, and laying down your newborn. You’ll get lots of practice before you’re on your own.

What’s most important is supporting the head and neck, no matter the position. From your first time holding the baby to the first few months at home, here are 10 do’s and don’ts for handling your newborn.

Related reading: 7 strange-but-normal things to expect with a newborn

After feeding, try to keep your newborn upright for about 30 minutes so gravity can help them digest their food.

Safe newborn handling and holding tips

1. Hold the baby like a football

While it might sound silly at first, you’ll find that holding your baby like a football – with their back on your forearms and their head nestled in the crook of one of your arms – is among the safest and most sustainable ways to hold a newborn. Angle the baby so their stomach is turned toward yours. This position is comfortable for the baby and gives you a more secure hold of your newborn, especially while sitting down.

2. Mind the baby’s soft spots

Newborns have two soft spots on their heads: the posterior fontanel in the back and the anterior fontanel on top. The bones in these areas of the skull have not completely fused together, which make it possible for the baby’s head to squeeze through the birth canal. It also leaves room for the brain to grow.

The soft spot in the back will close within a couple months; the spot on top can take two years to fully close. Touching these soft spots is fine, just don’t press down or let anything hit or fall on your baby’s head, as no bones are fully protecting the brain early in life.

3. Keep your baby upright after feeding

Upright positioning is necessary for burping your baby after eating, and sometimes they like sleeping upright against your chest while you stand or sit.

Instead of laying your baby down flat after feeding, keep them upright for about 30 minutes so gravity can help them digest their food. Otherwise, they’re more likely to spit up. With their stomach facing your chest, place their head near your shoulder with one arm supporting their bottom and the other hand supporting the back of their head and neck.

4. Wash your hands before touching a baby

Hand hygiene is very important when handling your baby, especially during the first two months. During this time, your baby hasn’t been vaccinated against diseases that can be spread through germs on unwashed hands.

Newborns have weak immune systems; it takes time for them to build strength against germs that likely would have no effect on you or your loved ones. So, be extra diligent about keeping your hands clean, and don’t feel bad asking visitors to do the same.

5. Keep the umbilical stump clean and dry

A little clump of tissue will stay attached to your baby’s belly button after we cut the umbilical cord during delivery. We’ll put a small clamp on it to keep it dry until you leave the hospital. It looks a little odd, but it will come off in its own time – usually within two to three weeks.

The best thing to do with the umbilical stump is to leave it alone. It can become infected if it gets dirty, so keep it clean and dry. Only clothes should cover it; don’t cover it with a bandage or the baby’s diaper. If it gets soiled, wipe it with water and soap that’s free of fragrances and dyes. If you see redness or discharge around the stump, it could be infected and require treatment right away.

Related reading: Should I have visitors in the hospital while my baby is being born?

Avoid these unsafe motions and positions

6. Don’t lift your newborn by or under their arms

Your baby’s head and neck muscles are very weak for the first few months. If you pick them up by or under their arms, you risk injuring their arms or shoulders. Worse, their head will dangle and could flop around, potentially causing a brain injury.

Instead, place one hand behind their head and neck and the other hand under their bottom. Gently scoop the baby up toward your chest. For more stability – and to protect your back – bend your knees as you shift forward and lift with your legs.

7. Don’t bounce a fussy newborn

New parents might try to soothe their newborn by positioning the baby upright against their shoulder and bouncing up and down. Though we’ve see this move frequently in movies and TV sitcoms, it’s not a great way to calm a fussy baby.

The up-and-down motion can be jarring and make the baby fussier, which may increase your anxiety, which can stress the baby more – it’s a vicious cycle. Instead, assume the football hold and gently sway them back and forth in a rocking motion while walking or standing. The flowing movement comforts babies by mimicking their experience in the womb.

Rather than holding the baby out in front of you, have the other person come close, facing you.

8. Don’t extend the baby forward to someone else

If you’ll have a lot of friends and family visiting or helping out after you give birth, you’ll quickly get used to others wanting to hold the baby. Protecting the head and neck is the priority when passing your newborn to someone else.

Rather than holding the baby out in front of you, have the other person come close, facing you. Then, they should place one hand beneath the baby’s head and the other beneath the bottom before you release your grip.

9. Don’t sit or lie down to hold the baby if you are tired

Fatigue and parenthood go hand in hand – especially in the beginning. But if you’re sleepy and seated, the risk of dropping your baby increases. When you’re still in the hospital, alert the nursing staff that you’re becoming drowsy. We can help you put the baby in the bassinet or take the baby to the nursery while you rest.

At home, place your baby in their designated sleeping area as soon as you feel tired. Losing grip can happen in matter of seconds if you doze off, so it’s best to be cautious.

10. Don’t kiss your newborn if you have (or recently had) a cold sore

The urge to kiss your baby’s chubby cheeks and nose will be strong, but if you have a cold sore, resisting that urge might save your baby’s life. Cold sores, also called oral herpes, are caused by the HSV-1 virus, which can cause brain damage or death in newborns – their immune systems are not strong enough to fight the virus.

An HSV-1 outbreak starts forming even before a cold sore appears. So, if you feel the familiar tingling that typically comes before a cold sore forms, or if you had a cold sore recently, refrain from kissing the baby until the outbreak has fully cleared. Firmly remind anyone else who will be handling your baby to follow the same guidelines.

Related reading: How to protect your baby from herpes infection

You’ll get better with practice

Apprehension about handling a newborn is normal. But the more you do it, the more comfortable you’ll feel. And our neonatal team will make sure you get lots of practice before you’re on your own.

I also recommend that parents check out the book “Happiest Baby on the Block” by Harvey Karp. It has excellent advice on how to soothe a fussy baby and feel more comfortable holding a newborn. The more relaxed you feel, the more comfortable your baby will be.

To visit with a pediatrician about holding or soothing your newborn, call 214-645-8300 or request an appointment online.

Holding Your Baby Upright After Feeding? Stop! It Doesn't Help

Spit happens! Even people who have not spent much time with babies know that spit up comes with the territory. But did you know that more than 2/3 of babies spit up regularly? More often than not, spit up is nothing to worry about. There are some tried-and-true methods out there that help reduce the frequency of spit up in babies. There are also some very common misconceptions. And, contrary to popular belief, holding your baby upright after a feeding doesn’t help. In this blog we will discuss:

  • why babies spit up.
  • the difference between spit up and vomit.
  • when to worry about spit up.
  • why holding your baby upright after a feed is not necessary.
  • myths and truths to reducing spit up.

Why do babies spit up?

Spitting up is physiologically appropriate in babies. This is because the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) has not fully matured – and doesn’t until around 18 months of age. You can, however, expect to see a decrease in spit up as baby gains core control (ie when they begin sitting up). The floppiness of this sphincter is why you may notice your baby spitting up over an hour after they’ve finished feeding.

Your baby may also spit up if they have had too much to drink and their stomach is full. The excess fluid can put additional pressure on the LES, leading to spit up. You can compare that to feeling ‘uncomfortably full’ after a holiday meal. However, you don’t spit up your food because your LES is fully matured.

What is the difference between spit up and vomit?

Spit up and vomit are not the same. The distinction between the two has nothing to do with the volume of fluid that is ejected. Spit up tends to leave your baby’s mouth at a slower speed; it may even dribble out. This can happen when you’re burping your baby. Vomiting is a forceful event. The liquid projects out from the mouth and may travel several inches.

When should I worry?

Every baby is different. Keep in mind, it may appear that your baby has spit up an ‘entire feed’ but the amount of spit up usually looks like more than it actually is.

Typically if your baby is continuing to gain weight and doesn’t seem bothered by spitting up, it is not a reason to worry. These babies are often dubbed “happy spitters” and the spitting up is more of a “laundry problem” than a medical one.

If you feel your baby is spitting up excessively, I definitely recommend calling their pediatrician. Other scenarios which may be a cause for concern include:

  • when it occurs after every feeding.
  • if your baby is not gaining weight.
  • if the spit up looks like anything other than milk/formula (undigested or partially digested). This includes spit up that is green, yellow, bloody, or looks like coffee grounds.
  • a baby who cries for more than 3 hours daily and is irritable.
  • if spitting up begins after your baby turns 6 months old.

Why isn’t holding your baby upright after a feeding necessary?

I realize this idea may be different than what you’ve heard in the past, but hear me out. It takes approximately 2 hours for your baby’s stomach to empty. While holding your baby upright for 30 minutes after a feeding may allow for some of the feed to leave the stomach, the majority of the feed remains in their stomach after that time. When you lay your baby down, their immature LES could still open, causing them to spit up.

So unless you are holding your baby upright until their stomach is completely empty, the chance of them spitting up still remains. Now if you were to hold them up until their stomach emptied, you would bring yourself to the time of their next feeding. This strategy would be grossly inefficient. It would result in you getting no rest, or your baby getting into the habit of having to be held or worn at all times.

You may wonder about propping your baby up to reduce spit up. It is unsafe for a baby’s sleep surface to be elevated (that means those crib wedges are not a safe option). Products like nursing pillows, baby loungers, and bouncy seats put your baby at risk for positional asphyxiation. And they don’t diminish the incidence of spit up!

Myths and Truths to Reduce Spit Up

Many pediatricians will, wrongfully, recommend switching to formula because it is “heavier” than breastmilk. The heaviness only means it takes longer to digest than breastmilk, not that it will be less likely to come back up. And adding rice or oatmeal cereal to the bottle will not help reduce spit up either (but it can create a choking hazard!).

The best ways to help reduce spit up in your baby include:

  • avoiding overfeeding.
  • burp your baby, well, during and after feeding. Trapped air in the stomach can increase the incidence of spit up.
  • avoid rigorous activity soon after a feed.
  • if you’re bottle feeding your baby, opt for a slower flow nipple. This helps baby to recognize when they are full before they become overly full.
Other Blogs You May Like

What is the Best Bottle?
Does Breast Milk Cause Cavities?
Pass the Bottle, Please!

The information contained in this blog is the opinion of Rebecca Tucci, certified doula and lactation counselor. It is not meant to take the place of consultation with your child’s healthcare provider. The above information cannot diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or condition.

How to help the baby when regulating

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Breastal feeding - completely special time for mom and her newborn baby. Together with the feeling of closeness and affection that feeding brings, understanding its nuances cannot but raise many questions, including the question of how to help an infant spit up. Regurgitation in a newborn is by no means always the result of a simple pat on his back.

In this article, we'll talk about the basics of helping a newborn spit up, as well as other questions you may have about spitting up.

Why do babies spit up?

Let's get it straight: why do newborns need to burp in the first place? During feeding, children usually swallow extra air - this is called aerophagia. Spitting up helps prevent this air from entering the intestines, as well as vomiting, gas, and crankiness in the baby. To avoid the return of milk after feeding, you should give the baby the opportunity to burp more often.

How to help a newborn spit up?

During the first six months, the baby should be kept upright in a column for 10-15 minutes after each feed. This will help keep the milk in his stomach, but if the baby occasionally burps anyway, parents need not worry. While carrying your baby in an upright position, you can put a baby diaper or wipes on your shoulder to keep your clothes clean.

We've already seen why spitting up is important, now let's find out how to help your baby spit up. Parents should gently pat the baby on the back with a hand folded in a handful until he burps. Folding your hand into a handful is important because clapping with a flat palm may be too strong for an infant.

Every baby is different and there is no one right position for spitting up. To get started, you can try the following options:

  1. Sitting position with the baby on the chest. In this position, the parent puts the baby's head with his chin on his shoulder and with one hand supports the baby under the back. With the other hand, you can gently pat the baby on the back. This method is most effective in a rocking chair or when the baby is gently rocking.
  2. Holding the child upright on your legs. With one hand, parents can hold the baby by the back and head, supporting his chin and placing his palm on the baby’s chest, with the other hand, you can gently pat him on the back. At the same time, it is important to be careful: do not press the child on the throat, but only gently support his chin.
  3. Holding a baby on your lap while lying on your tummy. Make sure his head is above his chest and gently pat your baby on the back until he burps.

Here are some tips on how best to help your newborn spit up:

  • Let your baby spit up during feeding. If the baby is restless or has swallowed air, it is worth giving him the opportunity to burp during feeding, and not just after.
  • When bottle feeding, let the newborn burp after every 50-60 ml.
  • When breastfeeding, let the baby burp at every breast change.

It is important to let your baby spit up after eating, even if he spit up during feeding!

If your baby is gassy, ​​spit up more often. Also, if he vomits frequently or suffers from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), have him spit up after every 30 ml bottle-feeding or every five minutes while breastfeeding.

How long should a baby be held for it to burp? It's different for everyone, but generally keeping a newborn upright for 15 to 20 minutes after a feed helps the milk stay in the baby's stomach.

Minimize the amount of air you swallow. Gas production and regurgitation result from aerophagia during feeding. The baby will inevitably swallow air, but there are ways to prevent it from swallowing too much. Whether you bottle feed your baby or combine breastfeeding with bottle feeding, the Philips Avent anti-colic bottle with AirFree valve is designed so that the nipple is always filled with milk without excess air, even in a horizontal position, thus preventing the baby from swallowing excess air during feeding.

Reducing the amount of air your baby swallows can help reduce your baby's risk of colic, gas, and spitting up.

Breastfeeding is a wonderful time to strengthen the bond between parent and baby. Every mom and every baby is different, so learning to help your newborn burp properly can take time and practice.

Articles and tips from Philips Avent

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step-by-step instructions and advice from pediatricians

When a person is preparing to become a parent, he studies the issues of feeding, hygiene, chooses a stroller and diapers ... But then a baby is born, and often parents (especially those without experience with babies) fall into in a stupor: but how to keep it?

There are no special tricks, but you need to know and follow a few simple but strict rules.

How to hold a newborn: basic principles

In general, you can get creative and use different positions when moving your baby. Still, in the same position, neither the baby nor you will be comfortable. The main thing is to follow the basic rules that pediatrician Maxim Karpenko told us about .

  • Use two points of support: head and trunk/buttocks. You can not move the newborn by the arm / leg, with fixation under the arms (armpits), you can not use one point of support (head / torso).
  • Do not transfer the baby from hand to hand while hanging - only by laying it on a hard surface (example: mom put the baby on her back, dad came up and picked him up).
  • Feed the newborn in a 45 degree position; at the same time, you can support the baby by the back and shoulders, but not by the back of the head (1).
  • It is recommended to carry the baby in a “column” after feeding.
  • Do not make sudden movements.

— Transferring a child from hand to hand while hanging is strictly prohibited, as there is a high risk of dropping it (mother has already given the child, but dad has not yet begun to receive it), says our expert Maxim Karpenko. - And even if “attentively” and “carefully” - you can’t do this: the phone, the doorbell, the intercom will ring, and the person will thoughtlessly turn around and be distracted, and a second is enough to fall.

How to hold a baby under 6 months old

Babies in their first months of life are too vulnerable. Until about 3 months of age, babies cannot yet confidently hold their head upright (2). Therefore, special rules apply to such babies.

- The head of a newborn child is the heaviest part of his body. Due to the fact that the neck muscles are not yet developed, a child up to 6 months should be moved using two points of support: the head and torso or the head and buttocks, says pediatrician Maxim Karpenko. - If a child up to 6 months old is lifted only by the body or under the arms (armpits), it is possible to injure the cervical spine, since the neck muscles are not yet able to hold it: under its own weight, the head will rush downward, which will lead to hyperextension of the cervical spine. If the child is moved by one limb, it is possible to injure the shoulder / hip joint, since the ligamentous apparatus of the child's joint is not yet ready to withstand such loads.

How to hold your baby: options

The rule that you must use at least 2 points of support when handling your baby does not oblige you to always hold your baby upright. There are various ways. You can choose the most comfortable for you and / or baby and alternate them.

- The child can be placed on the arm with the belly down or on the back. But in this case, the baby should lie motionless on the arm, and not ride on it, emphasizes Maxim Karpenko. - It is worth noting that you need to spread it on your stomach strictly before eating: if you feed the child and immediately lay it down with your stomach, there will be profuse regurgitation.

In the same way - belly down - you can put the child on your shoulder.

- In this position, fathers often like to play with their children. This is acceptable, but this position can also be used exclusively before meals, otherwise the whole back of the pope will be dirty, the pediatrician explains.

How to prepare your child

The most important thing to pay attention to is whether the child can hold his head or not. It depends on how carefully you need to handle the baby when moving it.

— It is better to lay the baby on the stomach before feeding — this will develop the muscles of the back, neck, and abdominal wall, — says Maxim Karpenko. - At 3 months, the child must pass his first "exam in physical education" - in the supine position, confidently hold his head. This requires frequent daily laying out of the child on the stomach. At 6 months, the child should learn to sit, this involves confidently holding the head in a sitting position.

And then a new stage begins.

How to hold a baby older than 6 months

If the baby can sit, breathe out. From now on, you can not hold your head, for fear of injuring the baby.

- At 6 months old, you can help your baby to sit up by holding the arms, while using both hands and doing it smoothly, our expert recommends. - You can move a child at this age by fixing it under the arms (armpits), and at an older age - by the arms.

The fact that excessive scrupulousness can be forgotten does not mean that now the baby can be treated indelicately.

“It should be remembered that all manipulations with the child must be done slowly and smoothly,” says the pediatrician. “So the parents will have better concentration, the child is calm, and the risks of an emergency are minimal.

Popular Questions and Answers

Our expert, pediatrician Maxim Karpenko, answers our readers' frequently asked questions.

How do I put my baby to bed?

As regards sleep, the child should be laid on his back, no pillow should be used, there should be no toys or any foreign objects in the crib. The child must sleep in a crib separate from the parents, but in a shared bedroom. Such recommendations prevent the occurrence of sudden infant death.

What is the risk of inattentive attitude towards babies?

Caring for a child is hard and responsible work, because just one mistake can lead to irreversible consequences. In order for the mother to be able to concentrate her attention on the child, she must be relieved as much as possible from household chores, and she must also be allowed to rest during the day. A child is a joint joy, which means that it requires the joint work of parents.


  1. Feeding children of the first year. Tutorial. L. A. Reshetnik. 2019. URL: https://mir.ismu.baikal.ru/src/downloads/98d7bc3a_uchebnoe_posobie__po_vskarmlivaniyu_reshetnik.pdf
  2. Morphometric and psychomotor development of a child in the first year of life. Guidelines. Part 2 // GBUZ "Scientific and Practical Center for Child Psychoneurology of the Department of Health of the City of Moscow".

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