Yes, I’m calling myself a baby whisperer! That’s because with all the different babies I have spent time photographing, you better believe I have learned a thing or two about how to get them to sleep. Even the fussy ones! Its been a long time since I have been defeated by a baby for a newborn session. Stick around, and you can be a baby whisperer too!
the junebug method
So I probably can’t patent it or anything, but I do have a sure fire way to get most if not all babies to calm down almost immediately. In one hand, hold the front of baby’s chest right under the arm pits. With your other hand, hold baby’s bottom. Move baby in a up and down circular motion, and continue to do so until baby calms. Whichever way baby is facing, come over the top of the circle in that direction. For example, if baby’s chest is in your left hand, you will make counter clockwise circles. This can also work with baby’s head in your palm with baby on his/her back instead of belly. You will be amazed at how fast this gets baby to stop crying!
keep it toasty
Babies like to be warm. And not just slightly warm. I’m talkin’ curled up by the fire on a chilly night warm. I mean, can you blame them? They have just spent the last nine months in a nice warm incubator type atmosphere. I keep the studio at a nice balmy 85 degrees for my sessions. This is so that whether baby is wrapped or completely naked, they still feel like they are nice and snug in a cozy blanket of warmth. If you find your new one is struggling to stay asleep, you might want to adjust the thermostat.
a full belly is a happy belly
What’s the first thing you want to do when you finish a big huge meal? Sleep. Exactly! Your baby is the same way! I always suggest moms feed baby right before we start the session. This ensures we get the largest chunk of sleep time possible for pictures. This also works at home!
white noise for days
This one is key! Definitely invest in a white noise machine if you haven’t already! White noise is great at blocking out random noises that you don’t anticipate that might startle baby from their sleep. During sessions, it allows my assistant and I to talk as a regular volume level around baby without causing a disturbance, which is nice because whispering gets old, fast! Haha! I use something called “the shusher” for sessions, but you can also purchase an actual white noise device for $20-50. Most of them have several different sound options to play around with, but the standard white noise is a great place to start!
One thing that I have noticed over the years is that some babies simply like motion. Usually I figure this out as I am trying to soothe them and they calm whenever I am repeatedly patting their butt, and then get upset again once I stop. This is when I pull out my vibration app on my phone. I will turn it on and either put it against baby, or in the bucket with them, or under a few layers on the beanbag. This constant vibration can instantly calm a baby! While you may not always want to leave your phone around baby, they do have other solutions for parents! One example would be a baby swing that offers a vibration option. Another option is this sweet little vibrating mat that you can put right in the crib with your baby under the fitted sheet!
swaddle, swaddle, swaddle
When all else fails, swaddle. Babies LOVE swaddling! For my babies that are struggling to get into that deep sleep or for my older babies who are used to being awake more often, swaddling is always my go-to! If your little wiggle worm is struggling to stay asleep at home, try different swaddle techniques until you find one that works. Whether its a simple swaddle blanket or one of the new versions with velcro, it just might be what your little one needs to drift away to dream land!
BONUS TIPS I LEARNED FROM MY OWN CHILDREN
start a routine
Nothing teaches a baby a proper sleep schedule like a routine. Getting baby used to the fact that at night comes a bath, feeding, and bed is super important for teaching their little brains to slow down and prepare for sleep.
turn the lights down low
No one likes to sleep with all the lights on, including your baby. Dimming the lights in the evening will help with transitioning to nighttime thinking and preparing for sleep. Added tip: if your baby has his days and nights mixed up, make sure that during the day you keep things as bright as possibly to help baby differentiate between daytime and night time.
Easier said than done, right? I know. But try. Your baby feeds off your emotions and if you are stressing out, so will they! Even if this is your second (or third or fourth) baby, every kid is different. Every kid learns and grows at their own pace. In these early days, you are constantly learning new things about each other. Just when you think you have it all figured out, they go through a growth spurt, or something changes, and they don’t like the swaddle anymore. I know it can feel like forever when you’re in the thick of it, but I promise these moments are fleeting. Focus on doing the best you can, and everything will work out fine.