Becoming a parent is amazing, exciting, tiring, and even a little overwhelming. Your whole world changes and your baby too needs to adapt to his new world outside the womb. The first 12 weeks of a baby’s life is commonly called the fourth trimester as they have to adapt to new noises, lights, smells and all new sensations. During this period they can be unsettled at times and sometimes hard to soothe to sleep.
To capture those beautiful sleepy, curly newborn images I need baby to be asleep and content for most of the session so I will be mostly soothing and settling baby, I am only behind my camera maybe 10% of the time! All of the things described below is what helps me have a happy sleepy baby to create amazing photographs of your little one, but you can try them at home too!
1.The Baby Shusher
An absolute must have in the studio! I think most newborn photographers use them these days. This little device produces a rhythmic “shush” sound that is very soothing for babies. It’s a great help in settling babies in the studio and saves me from “shushing” constantly, although I sometimes still do it even when it’s on without realising!
I used to put my Shusher on the handle of the pram when I was rocking my daughter to sleep, it definitely helped. The website says it will get a baby to sleep in only a few seconds for some and up to 10 minutes for others. I wouldn’t say it got my little one to sleep every single time but when it didn’t it definitely soothed her and kept her calm. Although I no longer use the Shusher at home now, at nearly 3 I still find the shushing noise relaxes Olivia and will help get her to sleep when she’s a little overtired, the “shush” definitely has a great power!
You can find more info on their website https://babyshusher.com/
If you are looking to buy one you can oder on their website, they deliver to Ireland.
You can also buy one on www.amazon.co.uk
2. White noise
I said this about the Shusher but this also a must have for sure!! I would never
do a newborn session without having white noise on. I find it helps settle every baby that comes in the studio and I notice it straight away if i have forgotten
to put it on.
So what is white noise and how can you use it at home to settle your baby?
By definition white noise is noise containing many frequencies with equal intensities.
It is quite noisy for babies when they are in the womb so noise is often more comforting for them than silence. The ambient noise in the womb is loud and constant, white noise will create a similar environment and will also block out other abrupt sounds that could disturb baby’s sleep such as a door slammed closed, a pan falling on the floor, etc
White noise can sound similar to TV or radio 'static', but many other constant noises can also work to help settle your baby.
If you wish to try white noise at home you can start straight away! Many things already present in your house can produce a noise that will help promote sleep such as your vacuum cleaner, your washing machine or your dryer for example!
If it’s a bit late in the day to start housework don’t worry, there are many white noise apps that you can download and use on your phone. A lot of these will have all kinds of background noises so you can test them out and see what works best for your baby.
Another product that I personally tried at home with my daughter is Ewan the sheep! I used an app on my phone most of the time but I found that If I had it by her bed during a nap and a call or message came through it could disturb her! So I bought this adorable sheep that has four different sounds, one on each of his legs! Gentle rain, womb, vacuum cleaner and white noise!! It can be used from birth and has an easy way to attach it to the cot.
I found him on littleones.ie
There are many other websites you can order on, it’s a widely available product in Ireland.
The best way to insure baby will sleep during a session is to photograph them between 6 and 14 days, at this age most babies are still very sleepy but this changes quickly!
All babies are different of course, some sleep during their entire session, others may be more sensitive to touch and wake easily when moved, and some will take much longer to settle altogether.
I will usually start my sessions with baby wrapped, this works really well to get them into a deep sleep. After a couple of wrapped set-ups, I will start unbundling baby and move onto different poses without a wrap.
I style my sessions with lots of different wraps and colours and I use all different wrapping techniques for beautiful results.
Swaddling is a fantastic way to help promote sleep at home as well. I hear a lot of parents tell me that they don’t swaddle because they find it hard to get right and baby gets out of the blanket in their sleep which can be scary.
I totally understand these concerns that I had myself as a new mum, but once you get used to swaddling it becomes easier and I personally swear by it for young babies.
There is also a lot of great options now for swaddling. Stretchy bamboo swaddle blankets are very soft and the stretch makes them easier to use than muslin wraps in my opinion.
There is also a wide range of swaddles with zips or velcro now that can be easier to use than a simple wrap on a wriggly baby.
If your little one loves to sleep with their arms up I highly recommend the Love to Dream swaddles. They are super easy to put on, babies can’t wriggle out of them and they can keep their little arms up for comfort.
This is their website if you would like to check them out http://www.lovetodream.co.uk/
You can also find them here on The Jojo Maman Bebe Ireland website
Ok so this one is pretty obvious and i think it is something that comes naturally to parents.
A gentle, steady rocking movement from side to side or a very gentle bouncy rock up and down can do wonders to settle a baby. If this is not working at all, you can try placing baby in your hands on their tummy and gently swaying from side to side can really calm babies down. Patting is also very soothing for small babies.
As a parent you very quickly learn what works best for your baby and rocking becomes second nature to all parents, to the point that you might see yourself rocking a loaf of bread in the shop of pushing your trolly back an forward in the aisle like if it was a pram with a sleeping baby inside. (Yes I have been seen to do both when Olivia was a baby, I blame sleep deprivation! )
When parents arrive in the studio and have settled in, baby will have a feed if needed then I will move onto wrapping them for the first set-up. If baby isn’t sleepy then I will gently rock them, most of the time wrapping + rocking is pretty efficient!
We do plenty of breaks for feeding and cuddles when needed of course but I will do most of the rocking and settling when baby is fed. I want my sessions to be relaxing for parents, it’s a chance for them to have a rest and sit back with a cup of tea while I take care of their little one.
I always take care of your baby as if it was my own and safety is always my priority.
Soothers or dummies ,whatever way you prefer to call them are always a bit of a subject of discussion amongst parents. Before becoming a mum I thought I would never give my child a dummy…well let’s just say I changed my mind after a few weeks with an unsettled newborn!
Now I am not saying that you should or shouldn’t give your child a soother, that is totally a personal choice of course!
I do however recommend my clients to bring a dummy with them to the studio if they have one. Even if baby isn’t taking to it yet, or you are unsure if you will give it to them in future, just for the time of the session if you have one bring it! It can really help, it can even be make or break for some photos!
Jolly pop dummies are probably my favourite for newborns as I find they always seem to take to them. Unfortunately they are not easy to come across in Ireland, you can purchase them from their website but the shipping to Ireland is a bit extravagant, or you can find them on amazon.co.uk
The AVENT soothie pacifiers have a similar design and may be easier to find and slightly cheaper.
I hope you will find these little tips and tricks that I use in my sessions interesting and useful.
This blog post is my personal opinion only and all the products that I have mentioned here are things that have worked for me at home with my baby and during my newborn sessions in the studio. I hope some of these will work for you too if you try them.
If you have any concerns about your baby’s sleep or you find your little one extremely unsettled always ask your health professional for their advice.
Morgan Bonel Photography | Newborn - baby - Maternity photography