Top Soothing Techniques for Newborns…
I used to feel so nervous before my sessions! I’d be worried about how the baby would “behave” that day.
“Would they be gassy?”
“Would they settle?”
“Would I be lucky enough to have a sleepy baby?”
Sometimes I would secretly wish they would arrive just a little bit jaundiced, so I’d have a better guarantee of a longer sleepy baby. (totally hiding my face behind my hands for that one)
The thing is, I needed to alter my thinking. Rather than praying I’d have a “cooperative” baby, I needed to arm myself with the best soothing techniques as well as be prepared for how to pose an alert baby too!
While I’m not covering alert posing in this article, these techniques can be used even if the baby doesn’t immediately drift off to slumber so you can create beautiful imagery and feel confident in your sessions.
My Top 5 Soothing Techniques for Newborn Photography
TIP ONE: Happiest baby on the block – the 5 s’s
OK this is actually FIVE techniques in one and the absolute most important thing you’ll learn for soothing newborns not only for your business but also your own babies! Once I learned these skills I applied them to every session and my 4 children to boot!
Dr. Harvey Karp created this concept of the Five S’s to soothe any baby and his teachings have been around for decades.
Swaddling means wrapping up your baby to make them snug as a bug in a rug! That’s not an exaggeration! Being super snug reminds them of the womb, keeps them warm and reduces the likelihood of babies waking themselves up with their Moro reflex — startling at sudden sounds or movement and flailing their little arms.
2. Side/stomach position
We definitely never want to lay a baby to sleep on their side or stomach as the back is the only safe position for a newborn for this BUT! holding babies in a supine position activates a calming mechanism that soothes their system and it can be a miracle save!
This one is always on play mode in my studio and works on 99.9% of babes. We all know baby heard plenty of muffled sounds while in the womb including:
- the pumping of mom’s blood circulation
- the rhythmic in and out of mom’s breathing
- the rumble of mom’s digestive system
- the drone of outside noises
And yes, the type of shushing DOES matter! Ocean sounds and the likes don’t usually work because they lack the rumbling sound of the womb. My preferred app can be found HERE or get this contraption I use at every session.
More white noise tips: Don’t turn down the volume — The baby will probably soothe fastest if you shush loud and long. Think of how the sound of a vacuum cleaner can calm an infant.
Put your mouth close to your baby’s ear so that the sound enters directly.
Match the volume of your shushing to the volume of your baby’s cry. As they begin to settle, turn your shushing down.
Movement is a great way to calm a fussy baby, and don’t forget to add a little bounce too. I love to incorporate the side or stomach position while I swaddle shush and swing!
Sucking is one of the primitive reflexes that a baby has. Having started practicing in the womb as a 14-week-old embryo, all baby’s are already a pro at sucking. I comfort all parents to know that Habits aren’t formed until around 4-6 months.
You can purchase the Happiest Baby on the Block via Audible membership HERE or hardcover book HERE but here is a quick synopsis by the Dr. himself on YouTube and on his blog!
TIP TWO: Touch
We never want to over stimulate a baby we are trying to keep calm, soothed and settled but when you are posing a newborn,making sure they feel secure on the beanbag or prop by having a firm hand on their bum as you adjust fingers will help. I also run my finger along the brow line or down their forehead to their nose to help their sleepy eyes to close.
TIP THREE: Body Heat
Newborns cannot regulate their body temperature so keep that studio warm! Whenever the baby is not in a pose, keep them swaddled and be aware of how warm they are too in your wraps as the opposite is also true and they can overheat.
TIP FOUR: Gassy gut massage or ovol
For a baby, gas may mean discomfort and pain. If the baby is having gas problems that keep them in distress, it can mean a baby who just can’t settle.
I first try to make sure the baby has burped and isn’t having hiccups but if they haven’t pooped in a while, then I turn to massage or ask parents to give a drop of Ovol. (I have parents bring this with them to sessions) There are multiple baby massage techniques but my preferred method is the “I love You”
Here are the steps:
Starting on the right side of the baby’s belly button, trace the letter I. Follow it by tracing the letter L, sideways, starting at the top left corner of baby’s belly, moving across and down the right side. Finish with an inverted U shape, starting at the bottom left corner of the baby’s belly and tracing up, then across the torso above the belly button, and back down the right side.
TIP FIVE: Follow their lead
Never force a baby into a pose. If they start to cry uncomfortably (this will be more than just settling into a position.) This is their only way to tell you that they are not happy with what you are doing so do not force it! There are so many poses available so go back to the 5 s’s and move on.
It’s important to note that if a newborn is inconsolable OR lethargic to the point they are not eating/responding, that there may be another underlying concern and you will need to stop and inform parents. While those are rare circumstances, In 15 years of photographing newborns, I have seen this only twice with one being my own daughter who needed immediate life-threatening medical attention. I share this because even as a seasoned newborn photographer, I didn’t immediately pick up on the signs and we need to be as alert and informed as possible when handling these precious people. Other factors that will guide you is baby’s temperature, bowel movements or lack thereof, blanching and even sounds the baby is making.
I hope this guide was able to give you clear guidance and as always, feel free to reach out to me HERE, as a mama of 4, I love chatting all things baby!