We all know that the best possible scenario when creating gorgeous newborn images is to have a happy, sleeping baby. There are several ways to increase the odds in your favor here and today’s post is all about creating a perfect environment to send your little ones off into that gorgeous deep sleep.
The number one reason for having babies asleep is because they just look so beautifully content and peaceful and that certainly paves the way to creating beautiful images. Number two—safety. When they are deeply sleeping they are much more likely to stay nice and still but always have a spotter, I can’t stress this enough. Number three—babies are so much easier to pose when they are asleep. They can be molded and shaped pretty much however you want them, when they are awake they are much more likely to move about and become restless.
So what can you do to maximize your chances of a sleeping baby? Here are a few tips that I find can help.
Ideally I like to have my newborns come in for their session within the first 10 days of life. This is when they are at the most sleepy and are quite happy to be curled up into those gorgeous squishy newborn poses that we all love.
I have the room heating on an hour before baby arrives to ensure the ambient temperature is suitable for a baby that will eventually end up naked. At about the same time as I start warming the room, I place heat pillows under the blankets on the poser so that the spot baby is going to lie in is nice and cosy. Just prior to putting baby down, I will give the top blanket a blast with the hair dryer as well.
9 times out of 10, babies will settle off to sleep if they have a full tummy. Generally, when my clients arrive I will ask them to undress baby and place them in a loose wrap. If baby has stirred during the undressing process, I will ask Mum to give the baby a top up feed. Usually this process results in baby going off to sleep.
Once baby has been topped up and is sleepy, I usually ask to take the baby and will then spend several minutes rocking, soothing and patting them firmly on the bum. I have spoken about being patient in my 12 Tips for Posing Newborns post a few weeks back. At this point I would much rather spend a few extra minutes to ensure baby is in a deep sleep.
Whether it is a vacuum, a hair dryer or one of the smart phone apps that you can get, some white noise is in my opinion, essential. I use one of the iPhone apps for this and I just tuck the phone in under the posing blankets or behind the basket I might be using.
This is so easy to forget and it is probably the easiest way to startle a baby. Imagine being toasty warm and having someone stick their freezing hands on you – not nice! I wear fingerless gloves and will give my hands a blast with the hair dryer as well if I feel that they may be a little cold.
When moving any part of the baby, or setting and removing positioners – do it slowly and smoothly so that you don’t give baby a jolt. That may mean that you have your assistant or baby’s mum support the baby while you make the changes to the position and they can gently lower or raise baby as you get the positioner into place or out of the way.
Sometimes babies will stir a little and start to move their little arms and legs. When they do this, I have found that if you gently hold them in place they will mostly settle back off to sleep. If they really get their arms and legs going, you can be almost certain that they will wake themselves right up so I try to see if a little gentle holding is enough to settle them.
If your baby is unsettled you may have to start them out swaddled or wrapped. Some babies are happy naked and others want the comfort and security of a wrap. Usually when I have this type of baby, I find that once they have settled off to sleep in a wrap (which may take 15 minutes or more – be patient!) they are more likely to stay asleep when you gently unwrap them.
Again, feeding is your friend. As part of creating baby portraits we are constantly picking them up, moving and positioning their hands, feet, legs, arms and head so at any time we run the risk of disturbing them from their slumber. 9 times out of 10, when they are awake they are hungry—even if it is just for the comfort of feeding, it certainly doesn’t hurt to give them another little top up.
Keep in mind that every single baby is their own little person and will respond differently. Some are perfect little angels that will sleep their way through an entire session and others will stir at the slightest movement. Fortunately, I have found that most are somewhere in between and by being prepared and patient and by using these ideas, you can settle the majority of babies off to sleep.
I am always interested to hear new ways of settling babies off to dreamland. Tell me your favorite tip for encouraging a sleeping baby?
Til next time,