Ever wonder how photographers do it? Especially those professionals who don't have kids of their own, how do they magically manage to keep your new little one asleep?! Here are a few tips/tricks.
Keep them awake.
That's right, I'm starting with the most obvious. When I schedule a newborn session with a family, I always send a prep guide on what to do/what to expect so that things go as smoothly as possible. The first thing being, schedule your newborns' session roughly around naptime. I know, this sounds counter-intuitive, but you gotta trust me on this one. You want your baby to be sleepy/asleep for the session because when they are awake, they are usually fussy and won't cooperate as readily for different poses/looks that you have come to see with other newborn sessions. If you need to stall, give baby a bath or play with them for a bit before the photographer shows up.
Wait to feed the baby.
Yeah, this one is gonna be rough. Baby has gotten used to feeding at specific times, and they're not a fan of their new routine changing, but please please please wait to feed your newborn until either you arrive at the studio, OR the photographer arrives at your home for the session. The reason you want to wait is that a full baby is a sleepy baby, and sleepy babies sleep HARD. If mom is breastfeeding, it's best to schedule your session sometime after the 5-day mark because that is when the milk starts to come in and the baby will stay fuller for longer.
Make sure the baby burps after every feeding-- some poses can be painful to the little one if they have air still trapped in their little belly.
Sweat is your friend.
Ahaha, I'm only partially kidding. As parents know, babies cannot self-regulate their temperatures, and babies 14 days and under are still used to the hot temperatures of the womb, so keeping the room where you are doing the session WARM. I'm talking around 26 degrees-ish. If you aren't sweating after being in the room for a few minutes, it's probably not warm enough.
Wrap em' tight!
Swaddles are a lifesaver. Going back to the baby recently being in momma's womb… they were curled up with not much room to move around - this is the main reason babies like to be swaddled. Remember though, not too tightly-- you want to ensure the baby is comfortable and safe during the session, make sure circulation isn't cut off when swaddled (keep an eye on discoloration).
White noise is a key ingredient here for keeping a baby out like a light. You can find white noise anywhere here, from using physical items in your home (Using a fan, a vacuum nearby--but not too close as they are loud-- a white noise machine, even a dishwasher!) or by using apps/ youtube and playing white noise through your phone.
White noise is a similar sound to what the babies are used to hearing when in the womb along with mommas heartbeat, so it helps keep them relaxed and asleep.
After the baby is done feeding and burping, and family photos are completed, I will usually have the parents back up a bit from the baby while I am doing the remainder of the session. Why? Because babies can smell their parents if they are too close, and will often be a little bit fussier if they can smell momma nearby because they'd rather be with their parents than a weird new smelling stranger. After a few minutes of not being able to smell their beloved parents and they fall asleep, I work quickly (but safely) to grab the shots needed so that when baby wakes, they don't wake up disoriented and wondering where the parents are. I don't often run into issues this way, however, sometimes, there will be a newborn that is just not having it with me, and that's when I'll pull some sneaky tricks from up my sleeve to keep baby comfortable. This includes but is not limited to asking dad to grab a used shirt from momma (and keeping it nearby, but out of frame), throwing momma under one of the posing fabrics, and posing baby on mama, or if all else fails, pose parents together with baby and use parents as the backdrop for some cute poses while baby drifts off to sleep.
Patience is key.
Normally when I know I'm going to be doing a newborn session, although my sessions are generally scheduled for an hour--I will often block off at least 2.5 hours to ensure we get the shots we need. Some babies are fussier than others, some require more feedings to stay asleep, some babies have colic or other issues that delay their sleeping. Babies are not a one size fits all situation, and often I'll find new parents who will feel frustrated if their baby isn't asleep right away for photos. PLEASE know that even if baby decides they're not interested in a nap or they are too curious to stay asleep for long, know that working with me you will still receive amazing images of your newborn- despite their lack of willingness to sleep. I will often grab breastfeeding mama+baby photos first (if you are up for it), followed by family photos together, and then I will start with closeups of cute little newborn baby features, I'll grab cute little poses that baby WILL cooperate for, and I will usually end up with a good collection of images you will cherish forever.
Babies don't stay little forever, and when they are this new, you want to cherish every little moment and milestone with them-- and photography will help keep those moments forever.