In almost every studio session I’m asked for my top tips for getting a newborn to sleep and am often called the ‘Baby Whisperer’. I’m not sure that is true but after 15 years of photographing them I know a thing or five about getting a newborn to sleep.
Keep it Cosy
Years ago before I had a studio, the most vital part of my mobile kit (apart from my camera of course) was a small electric fan heater because I quickly learned that warmth was so, so important for getting a newborn to sleep for their session. When my kiddo’s were little I was told that a good rule of thumb was for them to wear an extra layer that we were. So when a baby was wearing less for their shoot it worked so much better when the room was really warm for a while so they got nice and drowsy (and often the poor sleep deprived parents too!). These days I have the studio at about 23 degrees and keep newborns snuggled in blankets until they are in. nice deep sleep then bring the temperature down a little so no one overheats.
No One Likes a Soggy Bottom
This may seem obvious but an even sightly soiled nappy might be enough to prevent a newborn getting to sleep. When my clients arrive at the studio I make sure baby has a clean nappy before they change into one of the studio baby rompers so hopefully they will drift off and not be troubled by a soggy bottom. Having said that, hungry babies that need to feed a couple of its during the session might go through one or two nappies, every baby is different!
Fill it Up
I have a guide that helps new parents work out the best schedule for their baby on the day of their newborn session depending on how far they have to travel to the studio. In the first couple of weeks after birth, newborns are pretty sleepy (although it may not feel like it sometimes) and will generally want to be feeding when awake. So a full tummy and contented baby plays a major role in getting a newborn to sleep for their photoshoot so we can capture those dreamy, sleepy shots and all the little details.
Bring it Up
Sometimes when new parents come into the studio with their seven day old baby and understandably haven’t quite learned what their baby needs in terms of ‘winding’ after a feed. Trapped air in your baby’s tummy can be very uncomfortable and can prevent me getting a newborn to sleep or wake them after a few minutes of drifting off. Telltale signs that your newborn has trapped wind are them bringing their knees up towards their tummies, a little blue tinge around their mouth and when they keep looking for more milk even if you know they have had a really good feed minutes before. They feel uncomfortable in their tummy and mistake it for feeling hungry.
In the Background
There are lots of sleep aid toys on the market that help your baby to sleep by playing ‘white noise’ but when photographing newborns I don’t really want ‘Ewan’ the sleep sheep in the frame. I find two things work really well for my newborns, firstly I have a White Noise app on my phone (usually with the Ultrasound noise playing) which I can slip under the blankets to be near baby but it’s hidden in the photos. Secondly I asked the parents to keep talking, the best and most familiar white noise for baby is your voices making them feel safe and secure.