Mothers ask me all the time how to ensure their baby is settled during the shoot to help get the best images. Photos where their baby is posed perfectly, resting peacefully and oh so calm. While babies might be known for mainly crying, sleeping and eating, there are many things we can both do to ensure a successful newborn photography session.
Deal with all the needs first
Before you try any of the below settling tips, you should always ensure that they don’t need anything first. Are they fed? Are they dry? Are they too hot/cold? Have they been burped? Simple but effective. Babies need very few things when they are so young. A full tummy and dry nappy go a long way in making sure they are content during the session.
After you’ve dealt with all the physical reasons for your baby to be upset, now you can focus on things you can do to reassure and calm them.
Top ways to keep your baby calm and settled
Just like adults, all babies are different. They will respond to different things. But here are some settling tips to try if you’ve checked all the NEEDS and they’re crying or upset:
White noise Inside the womb is quite noisy, in fact, some experts say it is as loud as a vacuum cleaner. White noise and shushing sounds help babies feel calmer because it is closer to the natural state they have been in for 9 months. During sessions I have white noise in the background to distract them from the sound of my camera shutter and to help keep them calm. At home, you might like to try any number of White Noise Youtube Clips or Itunes tracks. I have used Natural Womb Sounds by Joe Baker for the last 7 years – both for my own babies and also during my sessions.
Swaddling When babies become unsettled during a shoot, swaddling them tight is often an effective way to calm them. Again, in the womb they are a set temperature and curled up tight. When a baby becomes unsettled during a photo session, I wrap them up so they feel secure (and also to prevent them waking themselves with their Startle Reflex). Often it’s enough to calm them to sleep.
Swinging and swaying Gently rocking your baby is a great way to soothe them. They spent months inside you moving around gently, swinging them slightly in a similar way is soothing. A great trick I’ve learned is to lie them down already swaddled on my lap and to rock my legs side to side. It’s a great back saver!
Sucking While I would never want to push a dummy on a baby, if families use one already, the sucking motion can help your newborn calm down. Alternatively, a quick feed with either breast or bottle, with that same sucking motion can soothe them as well. You might notice that your baby seems to want to feed when they are getting sleepy and tired even though they might have already had a full feed only a short time ago. This is often due to the soothing effect of sucking which can often help nod them off to sleep.
Side-lying Many babies calm down when being placed on their side. I’m not really sure why this is but it’s worth a try!
Calm parents Being calm yourself is one of the biggest things you can do to help ensure your newborn is calm too. They can sense when you are stressed which can cause them to cry and be unsettled. Of course, hearing your baby cry is probably the most stressful sound in the world for new parents. I guess we’re biologically programmed that way for the survival of our little ones! If your baby is crying and you find yourself getting upset or frustrated, be sure to put your baby down in a safe place and step outside the room for a couple of minutes to regain your calm. Taking some long deep breaths can be really helpful in allowing you to calm down. Your baby will stop crying eventually!
If your baby is really upset, try a combination of the above techniques. (I used to swaddle my babies with a dummy in a swing for their daytime naps with some white noise playing – it worked a treat!).
Keeping Your Baby Calm During Their Newborn Photo Shoot
Over the last 6.5 years of photographing babies, I can safely say I’ve seen it all. I’ve had really calm babies who have slept through their entire session and not made a peep, through to very unsettled babies who have been very wakeful and needed a lot of the above techniques to keep them as calm as possible. Many times, parents of more unsettled babies will arrive feeling stressed or worried about how their baby will “behave” for their session with me.
Please don’t worry!
In all my years as a baby photographer, I have never had to do a re-shoot. We always work with your baby and their unique needs on the day. If that means that all we get are awake photos of your baby wrapped to keep them happy, then that’s what we will do. If they need more cuddles with Mum or Dad to feel secure – we have lots of time for that too.
I use the above settling tips to try to make the most of every session regardless of how settled your baby is on the day. We always get enough images for your gallery. Here’s some more information about how I work with photographing tricky newborns
Have any more baby settling tips that I missed? I’d love to hear about them!