We all know all of the amazing things that happen when you have a newborn baby, but it can also be overwhelming and exhausting. Sleepless nights, and hours upon hours spent learning what your baby needs so that they stay happy sleepy and content. It can take some time and experience to learn what to do when your baby cries, and some babies are just more colicky than others. Sorry momma, this too shall pass! As a newborn photographer, I have seen my fair share of fussy babies during photoshoots, more than the typical mom and even OBGYN. My job is to work through it and find a solution for every baby no matter what the situations. Through my experience, I have learned a few tips for soothing newborn babies and make your life a little easier, and that is really what we all want, RIGHT?!?.
First and foremost, it is essential to understand that babies cry. It is their primary way of communicating with us. As new parents, it can be challenging to decipher what your baby is trying to tell you. However, there are a few common reasons why a baby may cry. According to Dr. Harvey Karp, a pediatrician and author of “The Happiest Baby on the Block,” babies cry because they are hungry, tired, need a diaper change, too cold or too hot, or overstimulated. Yes it can sound very simple, but it doesn’t feel that way when you have an unconsolable baby at 4:00 in the morning!
To soothe your newborn baby, it is important as a newborn photographer and more importantly as a parent or mom to address their needs promptly. This means feeding them when they are hungry, changing their diaper when it is dirty, and putting them to sleep when they are tired. But we all know that these easy fixes dont always work and by the time you get the winning combinations your baby is so upset that changing their diaper doesn’t work. In addition, you can use a few techniques to help calm your baby down.
One technique that I have found as a newborn photographer to be helpful, is swaddling. Swaddling is the practice of wrapping your baby snugly in a blanket. It mimics the feeling of being in the womb, which can help your baby feel secure and comforted. Remember babies were in your womb, squished up in a warm cocoon, and dont feel safe when they are not secure. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, swaddling can also reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) when done correctly.
Another technique I use as a newborn photographer is using white noise and shushing machine during my sessions. White noise is a type of sound that is created by combining different frequencies together. It can help drown out other noises and create a soothing environment for your baby. According to Dr. Karp, white noise can also help trigger the calming reflex, which is a natural reflex that babies have to help them relax.
Shushing sounds can mimic the sound inside of the womb. You can use your own mouth (very loud “shushing” sounds), try household items on hand (vacuum cleaner, hair dryer, fan) or use a machine or app. Remember that the AAP recommends using a white noise machine set to no louder than 50 decibels – so you may want to place the machine away from baby’s crib or use a low volume setting. You can purchase little noise machines that will play these sounds or even download an app on our phone to play them as well. I use a “Baby Shusher” during all of my sessions as a helpful aid.
Motion is one of the key ways I can soothe an upset baby as a newborn and baby photographer. Babies are use to constant movement while in the womb, so rocking, bouncing, and swaying can help soothe them. You can use a baby swing or a bouncy seat to provide continuous motion, or you can hold your baby and move them gently back and forth. One of the techniques I use often is to hold the babies head in my hand, having them lay with their stomach on my fore-arm with my other hand on their back or bottom and I gently swing them back and forth (video linked to a similar hold below from Dr. Hamilton) . Even with a swaddled baby, I can swing them from back to front repeatedly and I can relax babies into a deep sleep.
Bright lights can be overwhelming for a newborn, so dimming the lights or creating a soft, calming atmosphere can help soothe them. You can use a night light, blackout curtains, or a salt lamp to create a cozy, relaxing environment. As a newborn photographer I have even put a sleepy cap on their head and pull it down over their eyes to mimic the darkness and the security of the womb ( if you do this do not leave the hat or anything else over their eyes while you are not holding them, you should only do this for a very short period of time and they need to be supervised).
Skin-to-skin contact is a powerful way to bond with your newborn and can also help soothe them. Holding your baby against your chest with their skin touching yours can regulate their temperature, heart rate, and breathing, and release hormones that promote relaxation. This is an easy way Dad can take the duties and bond with the baby at the same time, because we all know their are enough duties only mom’s can do!
Hunger is a common reason for a baby to be fussy, so feeding them can help soothe them. Whether you breastfeed or bottle-feed, make sure your baby is getting enough milk. Even if you have just fed them, it is ok to feed them again (as long as your Dr. approves it). Babies go through many growth spurts during the newborn phase and sometimes they are really just hungry-even if you think they shouldn’t be.
If you have tried feeding and your baby is still hungry, or you cant feed your baby anymore, you can also try a pacifier or your finger. Your baby may just needs something to suck on for comfort and a pacifier can do he trick. I know many parents initially are scared to use pacifiers as a soothing technique, but as a newborn and baby photographer pacifiers are a useful tool to calm a fussy baby..
It is important to note that every baby is different, and what works for one may not work for another. It is also crucial to pay attention to your baby’s cues and respond to their needs promptly. If you are feeling overwhelmed or unsure, don’t be afraid to ask for help. You can reach out to your pediatrician or a lactation consultant for advice. These are tips and tricks I have used over many years as a baby photographer and experience soothing hundreds of fussy babies. Not all of these techniques work for every baby.
Being a new parent is HARD, and it is a learning experience. Soothing your newborn baby can be a challenge, but with a few techniques and some patience, it is possible. Before you know it, you will either be an expert or your baby will be older and onto a new phase to learn all about! Remember to address your baby’s needs promptly, use swaddling, white noise, motion, dim lighting, skin-to-skin contact, or stimulate their mouth to help calm them down. With time, you will get to know your baby’s unique personality and what works best for them. In time you might be just as good at soothing newborns as a baby photographer!
Safe swaddling techniques from the Mayo Clinic-https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/multimedia/how-to-swaddle-a-baby/sls-20076006
Baby Shusher– this is the one I use!
The Hold from Dr. Hamilton- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j2C8MkY7Co8
The 5 S’s for soothing babies from the HappiestBaby.com – https://www.happiestbaby.com/blogs/baby/the-5-s-s-for-soothing-babies
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