Becoming a parent for the first time (or second or third!) is SO hard. You’re trying to figure out how to care for this new baby, make sure they’re fed, dressed, happy, but chances are, you’re getting way less sleep than you’ve ever gotten in your life. And if you haven’t noticed, sleep is important to not only your baby’s well-being, but to YOUR well-being! (Can I get an AMEN for self-care!?)
While I’m not claiming to be a baby expert, I want to share a few things that worked with my own children when they were newborns, as well as some tricks I use during newborn sessions to get those babies calm and sleepy.
Babies like to be warm and cuddley! Make sure baby is dressed appropriately for the temperature they are in. Try to avoid putting on too many layers though, since babies ability to regulate their body temperature is not as developed as adults. You can tell if your baby is overheating if they feel warm to the touch, if they look red, or if the back of their neck is clammy or sweaty. For newborn sessions, I recommend to increase the temperature of your house to be slightly warmer than you typically would have it, so that way I can get some sleepy photos of your baby without risking them getting overheated.
Newborns (and children, and heck, even adults!) sleep better with white noise. White noise mimics the the sound of the womb and can be calming for them. It also helps create a stable sound environment to drown out any noises that could potentially wake them in the middle of the night. I’ve used both the Dohm and the Hatch sound machines for my kids and have been happy with both. At newborn sessions, I use a white noise app on my phone when baby gets too fussy and it usually calms them right down.
Touch is also such a powerful tool! Lightly rubbing the area on your baby’s face right between their eyebrows also provides a calming effect and makes them calm down and get sleepy. I’ve also found that rubbing their belly or back (depending if they are laying down or you’re holding them) in a circular motion can help the settle them down as well.
Have you heard of Dr. Harvey Karp? He’s the doctor famous for introducing the 5 S’s for soothing babies. Not familiar with the 5 S’s? Let me introduce you!
- Swaddle – newborn babies have just spent 9 months squished in your belly, so they feel nice and secure when they are swaddle up tightly. Swaddles are great for sleep (sleeping on their back is safest until they can roll!) – the Halo swaddle sleepsacks worked great for both of my children. However, for photographs, I recommend swaddles that look a bit prettier. I recommend a neutral colored swaddle – I love the muslin ones from Aden + Anais or any of the neutral, light colored ones from Lou Lou & Company. Anything too brightly-colored will reflect onto baby’s face for pictures.
- Side or stomach position – while “back is best” for sleep, holding your newborn on their side or on their stomach (such as on your shoulder) will help calm them right down and help them drift into dreamland!
- Shushing – just like you shush your older kids when you want them to be quiet, shushing consistently can help your newborn settle down too. This, of course, is similar to white noise.
- Swing – many babies will fall right asleep if you put them in a baby swing. If you use a baby swing for naps, just make sure their head and neck is supported, the swinging motion is small, and you are supervising.
- Suck – hello, pacifier!! Although neither of my children exclusively used pacifiers, they are known to be soothing to babies (my son still sucks his fingers though!) For a newborn shoot, I’m never mind photographing babies with pacifiers. I want to follow their lead, and if they want to suck on a pacifier, I’m all for it!
The tips above have been my tried and true methods to encourage calmness and sleep in newborns. Keep in mind, you’ll want to consult with your pediatrician on when it is safe for your baby to sleep through the night. But hopefully these tips will help you along the way! Let me know any tips you’ve had work below!