Holding and carrying your baby

At first you may feel a little awkward or nervous about holding and carrying your baby. But over time you'll feel more and more comfortable. And you'll soon learn what positions the baby likes — all babies have their

• Tilt the rear-facing car safety seat back so it's reclined at the angle specified in the manufacturer's instructions, usually 45 degrees.

• Check to see that the harness is tight enough. You shouldn't be able to fit more than one finger width between the torso harness and the baby.

• Make sure the harness straps lie flat and aren't twisted. Straps should be at or below the baby's shoulders. If a plastic harness clip is provided, place it at armpit level to hold the shoulder straps in place.

• Always keep the carrying handle on an infant-only car seat in the down position when the seat is in the vehicle.

• To keep a newborn from slouching, roll up a couple of small blankets or cloth diapers and tuck them in along the sides of the baby's body and head. If the baby still slumps, put a rolled-up diaper between the legs. Never put padding or head rolls behind or under the baby.

• Dress your baby in clothes that keep the legs free. If you want to cover the baby, place a blanket over your baby after he or she is secured in the car seat with the harness buckled and adjusted.

• Make sure you use the seat correctly every time you're in the vehicle.

own preferences. Newborns generally love being held close, soothed by the warmth of your body. They also feel secure and calm when they're cradled in the crook of an elbow, with their head, legs and arms firmly supported.

During the first few months of life, babies differ in their ability to control their neck muscles and head. Until you're sure your baby can hold up his or her head quite well, lift the baby gently and slowly so that his or her body is supported and the head doesn't flop back. When putting your baby down, gently support the head and neck with one hand and the bottom with the other.

With experience you'll discover the best position for calming and comforting a fussy baby. You might try holding him or her along the length of your arm, facedown, with the baby's head at the bend of your elbow and his or her crotch at your hand. Or you can hold the baby facedown across your lap, with his or her tummy lying against your thigh. Another comforting position is to lie on your back and put your baby facedown on your chest while gently rubbing his or her back.

Your baby will probably also develop a preference for how he or she wants to be carried. Some infants enjoy facing outward, looking at the world, and others prefer the security of snuggling close to your body. Your baby may like being carried with arms and legs tucked in, or he or she may prefer a more relaxed position with just the body and head supported.

Baby carriers

Infant carriers allow you to keep your baby nestled close to your body while your hands are free for other activities. A variety of carriers are available, including front carriers, slings and back carriers. They're especially useful for the first several months. By the time your baby weighs 15 to 20 pounds, he or she may be too heavy to carry this way. When the baby begins to sit up, at about 6 months, you can use a baby backpack.

A front carrier consists of two shoulder straps supporting a deep fabric seat. A sling is a wide swath of fabric worn across your torso and supported by a single shoulder strap. Breast-feeding is easier if you're wearing a sling instead of a front carrier. But some people find slings to be bulky and cumbersome.

Remember that it's never safe to ride a bicycle or drive or ride in a car while holding your baby in a carrier.

When choosing a baby carrier, consider these tips:

• Choose a carrier that holds and supports your baby securely. Look for padded head support.

• Make sure the carrier is comfortable for both you and your baby. Look for wide padded shoulder straps, a padded waist or hip belt, adjustable straps and leg holes that aren't too tight and are banded with elastic or padded fabric. Make sure a sling isn't so large that your baby gets lost in it. Both you and your baby should try on the carrier before buying it.

• Check for ease of use. Make sure you can easily slip the carrier on and off.

• Select a carrier with a fabric that's durable and easy to clean. Cotton is a good choice because it's warm, soft, breathable and washable.

• Look for a carrier with pockets or zippered compartments, which are handy for storing frequently used items.

• Choose a carrier that allows the baby to face both inward and outward.

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