Being a newborn photographer for many years, I've photographed hundreds of Glasgows newest residents. Throughout this time I have learned several techniques to soothe and calm babies to help them fall into a nice deep sleep which allows me to pose them. Continue reading to find out my Tips for soothing newborn babies during photography shoots.
It's normal for babies to cry, it's their way of telling us that they are hungry or cold or need their nappy changed. The key to a successful newborn photography session is being able to calm babies quickly when they get upset. Here are the techniques that I find work for me and why they work.
The 5 S's tips for soothing newborn babies during photography shoots
Babies like to feel secure and swaddling helps to recreate the feeling of being inside the womb. Swaddling keeps the baby from flailing their arms around and upsetting themselves even more. I will generally wrap babies at some point during their session. Wrapping babies is much more than making a pretty feature in an image, it's a key tool to helping babies settle and fall into a nice sleep.
2. Side or Stomach pose
For parents at home laying babies on their back is the only safe position for sleeping but for soothing babies it can be the worst. I find that babies are most relaxed in the stomach pose or tushie/bum up pose as newborn photographer refer to it. During a session I will often maximise this pose by using different props on the baby because they are most calm in this position. At home you can try laying baby on her stomach across your shoulder (in the burping position) to help soothe her before putting her down.
Babies don't need complete silence to fall asleep, you shouldn't tiptoe around your baby. When they are in the womb the sound of blood flow is louder than a vacuum cleaner so babies will be used to this noise. During my sessions I use the baby shusher which plays a rhythmical shushing sound which activates babies calming reflex. You can buy other white noise machines that will play sounds similar to womb noises which also work well.
Your baby is used to being jiggled around in the womb so this is another great technique to help soothe them. It's why babies always fall asleep in the car. Once baby is fed I gentle rock them in my arms to help them relax and drift off to sleep. If i have a fussy baby who starts to wriggle mid pose, I use fast, tiny motions to rock them back and forth gently to simulate the jiggly womb feeling. Supporting the babies head and neck with one hand, I can use my other hand to gently jiggle their bottom to help relax them again. Patting your babies bottom also helps. *For safety, never, ever shake your baby*
The technique that often works the fastest after swaddling is sucking. Babies suck because it provides them with a feeling of comfort and reassurance. Doctors refer to breastfeeding and bottle feeding as nutritive sucking, and call pacifier use non -nutritive sucking (as it provides no nutrition). Non-nutritive sucking (using a dummy/pacifier) helps lowers the heart rate, blood pressure, and stress levels. Some parents are against the use of a pacifier however for the short few minutes that it is used during a session it will not cause any nipple confusion.
Putting tips for soothing newborn babies during photography shoots into practice
The more you practice using the 5 S's tips for soothing newborn babies during photography shoots at home you will find that there may be a particular combination of techniques that your baby responds to best. Some babies love sound and will respond well to the shushing or white noise, with other babies you might find that the gentle swinging activates the calming reflex. Dr. Harvey Karp, who coined the 5 S's recommends swaddling babies first to help the baby feel secure and then use a combination of the other techniques to settle your baby. For some babies it might be swaddling and shushing, or swaddling and swinging. For really fussy babies it could be a combination of 3, 4 or all 5 of the tips for soothing newborn babies during photography shoots.
I hope this blog has been helpful to you and I'd love to hear about which techniques work for you.