Handling your baby: how to change a nappy, lay baby down and pick them up correctly.

  • Ergobaby
  • Nov 7, 2023
how to handle your baby

How to change a nappy, how to pick a baby up, how to put a baby down – these are things you probably do on autopilot, especially if you’re used to being around babies. But our midwife and babywearing expert Katrin Ritter recommends conscious and mindful movements done in the same way you move your own body. This means that rather than baby being moved by you, you become one and support them in carrying out the most natural movement.

This both strengthens your relationship and promotes the development of your newborn’s movement. Your child communicates with you through movement and touch. This is how kinesthetics, the science of movement sensation, sees it. From the very beginning, a baby has a great need for closeness and physical contact. It likes to be touched and it develops its abilities by moving together with you. You are an important interaction partner for your child.

So what does that mean in everyday life? The goal is to support your baby as little as possible, but as much as necessary. Show him how a certain movement works – for example, lying down (putting the baby down) – by first thinking very carefully about how you would move yourself in the respective situation. And then offer your offspring exactly this movement. The best thing to do is to look at the above-mentioned everyday situations from this point of view.

How should I put my baby down?

Whether baby is being laid down awake or asleep, be clear about the order in which you would lay yourself down. Then give your baby exactly this assistance:

  1. Support them by placing your hand on the upper body on their chest (for a newborn, use your fingers to support their neck) and one hand underneath their bottom so that they are slightly bent forward
  2. Then put their feet and legs down first – before their bottom touches the surface
  3. Maintaining plenty of support, you can then lower baby onto one side of the body
  4. Then finally lay them to rest on their back with their head to the side or facing up

In this way, the baby experiences a natural sequence of movements, they feel safe and understand more easily what is happening.

How can I pick up my baby correctly?

Just like you put them down, but in reverse:

  1. Gently turn baby onto one side of their body
  2. Support them by holding the upper body on their chest (for a newborn, use your fingers to support their neck) and one hand underneath their bottom and lift their upper body away from the surface
  3. Then follow with their bottom and lastly lift their feet and legs off the surface

 Through regular repetition, your baby’s body and mind will learn these movements in an unhurried way.

How to change a nappy properly?

One thing all parents must learn is how to change a nappy. You have probably heard that you shouldn’t pull a baby up by the legs to change them, as used to be the advice. This is not a movement that the baby can do on its own in the first few months. It tenses rather than relaxes them and this is exactly what is important in correct baby handling. Therefore: always change in the side position. To do this:

  1. Open the nappy and clean the genitals while baby is lying on their back (the supine position)
  2. Next, gently help your baby to turn to the side and remove the nappy. Now you can clean the rest of the bottom
  3. Put the new open nappy on the bottom and gently turn them back onto their back
  4. This will put them in the open nappy and you can continue as normal

In this way, your baby will automatically practise from birth how to turn from their back to their stomach.

How to pick up baby when they’re doing tummy time

Your baby is doing some tummy time, is unhappy and you want to pick them up? Then either support them to get into the supine position (lying on their back) and then lift them up carefully as described above. Or you can reach between your baby’s legs with one hand and place your hand broadly under the belly and breastbone. With the other hand, either reach under both armpits from the side so that your baby’s breast rests comfortably on your forearm or push your hand under the breast from above. Then you can pick up your baby with a slight twist and carry them in the side position or also in the prone position with the fly grip.

Basic movements like how to change a nappy, how to pick baby up, how to lay them down etc., are all incredibly important for your baby’s learning process. Putting a little extra care and consideration in pays off. Think about yourself, think about how you would do it yourself in this situation – without any help. And then act accordingly with your child. No matter the scenario, you are giving them security and trust through your conscious and mindful actions. And that’s what we all want for our favourite little creatures (and in our dealings with everyone in the world).

Source: Shaping relationships and accompanying movement development, European Kinesthetics Association