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This is How To Hold A Baby For People Who Are Nervous Around Babies

It doesn't come so naturally for everyone.

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It's the holiday season — which usually means there's way more food, family, and babies around than normal.

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Babies can be super adorable and fun, especially if you're celebrating their very first holiday.

But if you've never held a baby before or you're just terrified of babies in general, this can be very daunting.

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We reached out to Dr. Chanelle A. Coble, assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, to find out more about best baby-holding practices for beginners.

"First of all, just know you aren't alone," Coble says. "Everyone — even pediatricians just starting out — is nervous their first time holding a small baby, and no matter how experienced you are, there are still more unique things to learn."

First things first: Keep it simple, and watch someone more experienced hold the baby first.

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"If you haven't had experience just focus on the baby and don't try to multitask while holding them or try advanced stuff like burping them," Coble says. Instead, she suggests holding the baby while sitting down first if that makes you more comfortable. And it never hurts to do a few brief trial runs right next to the mom before you want to try walking around or holding the baby completely on your own.

"I think people learn best by modeling, so a great tip is to really watch how the mother or an experienced grandmother handles the baby and mimic that," Coble says. It's also best to wait until after the baby has been fed and ready to sleep, so they're less fussy and active.

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The easiest way is a simple cradle hold, making sure you support the head and neck.

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"The biggest thing is supporting the neck and head, especially in younger infants whose necks are very unstable," Coble says.

A good beginner's position is the basic cradle, where two arms are wrapped under the baby and it's head is fully supported by the inside of one arm where it bends — using wide, open hands. This is an easier position to walk in as well, which is more calming for the baby than sitting still. "The cradle hold is confining and difficult for the baby to squirm out of but also very comfortable," says Coble.

Another good position is holding the baby over the shoulder.

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If you're feeling confident, the next best position is propping the baby, facing you, on your chest over one shoulder, with one arm supporting its weight from the bottom and the other holding it's head up if necessary.

And try to your best to relax, because "babies can smell fear," says Coble.

"If you're nervous and anxious or jumpy, the baby can feel that too and it'll make them more upset and uncomfortable," Coble explains. It's best to go into holding the baby with a calm, relaxed demeanor — just like the baby's mom does every time she holds them. Besides, the only way to get over your fear of holding babies is to practice and keep holding them.

It's actually pretty difficult to just drop a small baby due to sheer lack of coordination.

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"We have an amazing instinctual ability to hold and catch babies if they start falling — it's basically impossible to let yourself just drop it," says Coble.

Besides, the person who ends up dropping the baby probably won't be the person holding the baby once a year — it'll be the parent who handles them every day and ends up in higher risk situations, Coble says. But babies are overall pretty resilient and most major injuries don't occur in infancy because their bones are softer and still forming, Coble says. That obviously doesn't mean you still shouldn't be super careful, but just try not to let your anxiety get the best of you.

If the baby starts crying, try gently rocking or walking around — movement is very soothing.

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"Walking around and moving is always more soothing for the baby — they love motion," Coble says. The shoulder-prop hold is also good, she says, because it helps the baby burp, and a major cause of crying is the discomfort from gas.

You can also try swaddling the baby or distracting them with a pacifier, a rattling toy, or singing (here are a few more tips on how to calm a fussy infant). And if you're feeling overwhelmed by the baby crying, you can always hand him back to the parents and let them take control.

And just go ahead and brace yourself for spit up.

"It's important to be prepared for vomit and spit-up so you aren't shocked or jolt away when an accident happens," says Coble, which could worsen the situation. She suggests having a blanket between you and the baby and not wearing any strong perfumes or colognes that could irritate them. "If they do spit up, try to sit them up as straight as possible over the shoulder and keep the head up so they can cough properly," says Coble.

Finally, have fun and enjoy holding that baby while they're small, because they grow up super fast!

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"Don't forget that holding babies is super fun and it can be a great bonding experience, especially if it isn't your child," Coble says. There's no denying that babies are cute AF, and they won't be that tiny and snuggly for very long. So just relax and enjoy hanging with those little guys.

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