Newborn Photography: How to Get Baby to Sleep

It’s every newborn photographer’s dream to have a session where baby sleeps soundly–OK, OK, we’ll say it, like a baby–for their entire session. Where does that phrase come from anyway? If you’ve ever been a parent, or a newborn photographer for that matter you know that babies don’t always sleep soundly. In fact, if you are not somewhat of an expert on what babies want and how delicate they are, there may be something you’re missing that is causing the little munchkin to be fussy. Here are a few things to watch out for to ensure the newborn you are photographing is not super fussy during your session.

Prevent Baby from Getting Fussy

  • Make sure she burps after any feedings that happen during a session, when you are posing baby it can be painful for her if she still has air trapped in her little tummy.
  • Check if mom is breastfeeding. Momma’s milk usually doesn’t come in until the fifth day after birth. In this case it’s best to schedule the session after baby is at least five days old so you know he won’t be super hungry.

Newborn Photography: How to Get Baby to Sleep

Now that we’ve covered how to prevent baby from becoming fussy, let’s talk about why you would want baby to sleep during your session in the first place…I mean what’s wrong with some sweet shots of baby with her eyes open, right? While awake shots are super sweet–when it gets right down to it, you are going to have a really tough time posing a newborn in a prop or on a posing bag if he is awake. He will wriggle out of the position you’ve so carefully placed him in every time! This can get a bit frustrating for both you and baby after a while. So remember, a sleepy baby is always best during a newborn photo session.

Ok we’ve kept you in suspense long enough….let’s get to the good stuff, the gold–you know, the getting baby to sleep part! It sounds a lot tougher than it actually is, we promise! And we’ve even put together a list of our fave three secrets to getting baby to sleep soundly during your session so you can focus on safely posing your little subject.

Newborn Photography: How to Get Baby to Sleep

Send Parents a Prep Guide

  • Going over specific steps the parents can take to ensure baby will be nice and sleepy during the session can be very beneficial to help posing run smoothly. A few things to mention are keeping baby awake for a few hours before the session so baby will crash when it’s time to start taking photos. Parents can help keep baby awake by giving her a bath and playing with her for a little bit. Also it’s usually best to feed baby right when the photographer arrives, that way she is full and likely to fall right asleep with a full belly and a few hours of being awake with mom and dad. 

Keep it Warm

  • If you are photographing at the parent’s home, ask them to turn the heat up a bit before you arrive (or if you live in a hot place like I do, just turn the AC off). Remember newborns 14 days and under are used to being in a hot 98 degree womb and they will relax in warmer temps. I like to keep the room at about 80 degrees and I will ask parents to do the same. 

Swaddle Baby

  • Going back to the baby recently being in momma's womb…he was curled up with not much room to move around–this is the main reason babies like to be swaddled. Swaddling simply means to keep baby wrapped tight in a newborn wrap or swaddling blanket. If the newborn wants to stay awake during the start of your session, simply swaddle him and take some sweet shots of him in a newborn wrap looking all cuddled and cozy…he’s sure to fall asleep in less than thirty minutes! **Be sure not to wrap baby too tight, his comfort and safety should always be your number one priority during any newborn session.

Newborn Photography: How to Get Baby to Sleep

A Few Other Things. . .
You can never have too many tricks up your sleeve when it comes to getting baby to sleep so we’ve decided to list two more failsafe tricks to keeping any newborn calm and sleepy.

  • Keep a “shusher” close by during the entire session. A shusher is something that creates white noise, this helps baby feel comfortable and safe as she is used to hearing momma’s constant heartbeat. There are wonderful smart phone apps that do this for free…just search white noise!
  • All babies are different and have different preferences to getting to sleep. Some babies like to be gently swayed or rocked to sleep and enjoy the soft movement. Try this if baby gets fussy and doesn’t want to get to sleep after trying all of the other steps listed above. *Remember the key here is to use soft movements, it can be damaging to newborns development if you sway or swing them to hard or roughly.

Important: If you are new to newborn photography it is essential to take a safety course in posing and working with newborns. If you haven't worked with a newborn before some of the posing can be intimidating and a bit hard to accomplish, you don't want to test new baby poses on newborns, remember their safety should always be your number one priority! If you are not sure about something, it is always best just not to do it.

We hope you can take these tips and use them to be more confident in your next newborn session! Don't be shy and share some of your stories and images below. We love to hear from you guys. 

Did you enjoy this tutorial?  We have lots of other great Photoshop tutorials just for you including a great post and video on Editing Newborns in Photoshop

If you're feeling frustrated when it comes to editing or you feel like you just haven't found something that matches your style or if you just want to save more time when editing newborns in Photoshop -- you must try our LUXE Newborn Complete Workflow Photoshop Action collection, you'll be so happy you did!  

P.S. - If you prefer to edit in Lightroom, our sister site Pretty Presets for Lightroom just released their fabulous Baby Bella Newborn Workflow which includes tons of presets and brushes - everything you need to edit newborns in Lightroom!