Boston, Massachusetts Newborn Photographer | Tips For Calming a Fussy Baby During a Newborn Session

It’s pretty rare, but occasionally I have a session where a baby just won’t settle. BUT I have a few tricks and tips up my sleeve to make it a successful newborn session regardless if the baby feels like cooperating! 

  1. Time. I never rush my newborn sessions. Newborns and babies can sense stress, and if parents are stressed, it’s likely that the baby will be as well. I let my clients know up front that there is never a hurry and always plenty of time for extra feeds, changing, snuggles, shushing and swaying. I especially emphasize this if an older sibling or two are involved. Say it with me; We. Take. Our. Time. 😉
  1. Extra feeding. I always suggest that the baby is fed before I arrive, or as I’m getting there so we can start off on good footing. An hour or so in if the baby is getting a bit tired from being moved around and changed so much, I’ll suggest a break for a top off feeding. This can help juuuuust enough to either put the baby to sleep, or settle them enough to get through the rest of the session.
  2. The 5 S’s. I think it was Harvey Karp that coined the phrase “The 5’s"
  • Swaddling. Even if you feel as though your newborn hates swaddling, I always capture some swaddled photos and this combined with that extra feed and some gentle swinging and shushing is just enough to get the baby to settle. After they are settled we can gently undo the swaddle to capture all those beautiful baby details like wrinkly rolls, peach fuzz, tiny toes, etc. 
  • Side or Stomach Position. I don’t use this often, but sometimes turning a swaddled baby onto their side and giving them a little jiggle while shushing can work as well.
  • Shushing. Some clients have this amazing Shusher, and sometimes I just shush myself. A white noise machine can also really help. In addition, I love when clients have background music on. Babies are used to ambient noise from being in the womb, and sometimes I think silence can put everyone a little on edge.
  • Swinging. I’ll usually pick baby up and swing them back and forth for a few minutes until they are calm enough to capture. It’s no big deal if they get upset again, I just pick them up and do it over again until I’ve captured what I need!
  • Sucking. Some families are open to a pacifier, some aren’t. If the only pacifier available is going to be distracting in photos, then we’ll usually let the baby suck for a while and then pop it out for a couple of photos! I also also suggest a few aesthetic pacifiers in my style guide as well! 
  1. Take their lead. Almost all newborns will let you know what they need. If whatever we’re trying to do just isn’t working, then we take their lead. If that means some skin to skin, or only being in one parents arms then we do whatever it is they are needing. The last thing I want is for my clients (especially my tiniest ones!) to feel stress when trying to capture such a special time in their lives. 
  1. Toddlers go first. One last trick I have for getting photos with newborns and older siblings is to get that buy in with the older siblings upon arrival. Let them show you their space, their favorite toys, their new baby. And try to capture all the family and sibling photos first. Then the toddler is off the hook for the rest of the session while you focus on the newborn, and if they come back or hang in there? That's great too! Newborns are way more flexible than toddlers are, so I typically find this method to work in my favor. 

Overall my sessions are fairly unstructured and my main goal is to capture the love and connection between you and your family in an emotive and authentic way, but again, these are some things I use to keeping things moving if the baby is struggling during our session! If you’re a photographer, what are your go-tos for a fussy baby? If you’re a client, does this put your mind at ease about attempting newborn sessions? I hope so, but of course reach out with any questions if you need!

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