Before our family moved cross-country, my husband and I flew out here for an extra long weekend of house hunting. This was back in September, actually. And we had the pleasure of meeting the nicest realtor at an open house we attended. He mentioned that his wife was expecting (yay! Music to my ears!) and I mentioned that I would also be moving my newborn photography studio with us when we moved a few months later! As they say, the rest is history! I kept in touch with Chris and was so excited to hear when their precious baby boy was born just before Christmas. Their first baby! I know from experience what an amazing time it is when you meet your child for the very first time. It’s incredible. It’s also exhausting, exhilarating, joyful, stressful, and abundantly full of love. I was so very honored that they chose me to capture this amazing time for their brand new family. They are amazing people and will be amazing parents. And their little guy was the sweetest little bundle to cuddle. Here is the gorgeous gallery of baby Blake’s photographic debut! Enjoy!
As my five-year old began throwing an epic fit the other day, I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be nice if I could get him to stop screaming the way I used to when he was a baby?!
Although admittedly it never seemed that way at the time, soothing a crying baby– (isn’t always) but CAN be– quite simple. And now that I’ve had even more experience snuggling fussy, unsettled, or crying babies during newborn portrait sessions, I thought I’d share a few tips with moms and dads who may just be at their wit’s end, or even soon-to-be parents who just want to be prepared!
The 5 “S”s of newborn soothing…
The most effective techniques that I use soothe babies I learned from Dr. Harvey Karp’s book The Happiest Baby on the Block. (Here is a link to it in Amazon. Nope, I don’t get anything for mentioning it- I just know that countless parents swear by it. It’s awesome!)
In a nutshell, Dr. Karp describes “5 Ss” essential to soothing a baby: Swaddle, Swinging, Side-lying, “Shhh”ing, and Sucking. I can’t remember if there is a particular order to them- for that you may have to read the book! But I use these all the time during newborn sessions!
I can’t tell you how many times parents in the studio have told me, (as I begin to wrap their baby snugly in a wrap or thin blanket) “He really doesn’t like being swaddled, he always fusses and squirms.” Now keep in mind, I always tell parents exactly what I’m doing during a newborn session (when I’m wrapping them, turning them over, placing them in a prop, etc.) so when I start wrapping/swaddling baby, mom and dad never object. (If they did, I would of course respect their wishes!) They might, however, watch me with skepticism because they’ve not had any success with swaddling before! 😉
The key to a swaddle that a baby will love: Wrap them SNUGLY. Really snugly! And continue to wrap them even if they are fussing or squirming or crying. It’s not until you’re DONE that a nice, snug swaddle accompanied by more of the “S”s will start to settle baby down.
Steps for a successful swaddle…
The swaddle technique that always works for me?? You can use a receiving blanket– (my husband, the King of swaddling babies, always preferred the waffle-knit stretchy ones)– or a simple wrap like I put on babies in the studio! If using a blanket, lay it out flat with a corner pointing “north” and fold that corner down a few inches. Lay baby on the blanket so the top of his or her shoulders are a just below that fold. Take one side of the blanket, pull it across baby’s closest shoulder and arm (keeping it firm and snug the whole time!) and tuck it snugly under baby’s opposite armpit and around their back.
You can then bring up babies legs, cross them over their bottom (to make sure their legs aren’t stick straight) and bring up the bottom corner of the blanket to cover them, tucking it up and over one of their shoulders. (We never did this any fancy way- just kinda took up the excess and tucked it in. 🙂
Next, take the last corner of the blanket, and PULLING IT TAUGHT, wrap it over baby’s other shoulder and arm, and around their body, (as many times as you need to wrap it around) and then tuck it into a fold near the top. Voila! Baby Burrito!
One reason babies may fuss during swaddling is that they may have a preference to how their arms lie. You can swaddle each of baby’s arms so they’re down at their sides, or- what many babies seem to prefer- swaddle them with their arms bent at each elbow, or even with their hands up near their neck. (When our kiddos were babies, they both loved to have their arms and fists up by their faces, like they were blocking a right hook!) 🙂 The secret to a swaddle actually settling your baby (instead of frustrating them) is to make it SNUG. Tight, even! Think of how squished they were in momma’s womb- and perfectly happy to be! A nice, snug swaddle mimics that snug feeling of being in the womb- which is why it’s so soothing to them.
I think this is what Dr. Karp describes in his book… or is it swaying? Either way, holding a swaddled baby in your arms and swaying or swinging them back and forth (just the way baby swings do!) is like the icing on that baby burrito cake! Again, mom’s womb was the perfect little hammock to hang out in- when mom walked, baby was swished back and forth, and doing this with baby can recreate that calming sensation. Another form of this is BOUCNING! The one thing that our son and daughter both loved was when we held them (in a swaddle of course- they were always swaddled those first few weeks!) and sat on an exercise ball and just bounced with them. (Make sure to dig your heels in between the floor and the ball to keep yourself steady.) It’s even calming for mom and dad. In fact, I’m getting sleepy now just thinking about it!
You know the way that so many Dads hold their babies? Kinda like the quarterback just handed them the football they’re going to run it in for a touchdown? Babies love that! Well, many do, that is. A swaddled baby is especially easy to hold this way: just lay baby across your arm or tummy sideways, being sure to support their head completely. Then swing them, sway them, bounce them- they’ll love it!
I think I remember reading an article once on language and how various languages (even those that use entirely different alphabets) all have some kind of sound that its native speakers instinctively make toward a crying baby- and they almost all sound like “Shhhhh.” I think it had to do with recreating the sound that babies hear in the womb- which is quite noisy! So, don’t be afraid to use your regular voice and “SHHHHH” fairly close to their ear. In fact, some moms prefer to save their breath and just turn on the vacuum cleaner or their hair dryer somewhere in the room! In the studio, I have both a white noise machine, as well as a Baby Susher gadget. (Yes it’s a real thing! Here’s another amazon link if you’re interested!) Frankly, a bit annoying for adults, but pure heaven for babies! (Just make sure to keep these things a few feet away from baby and not right next to their ear, to better control the decibel level.)
The debate over using a pacifier can sometimes be a bit of a controversy. But allowing a baby to suck doesn’t necessarily mean giving them a pacifier, (though it certainly is the easiest and a favorite of most babies!) They may just need to be put to breast, or even suck on their own fingers, (or even your clean pinky!) The fact that a non-nutritive source (something that won’t give them food) like a pacifier or finger can actually soothe a baby is evidence it’s babies innately need to calm themselves. And don’t worry- I get it. I was reluctant to give a pacifier too soon because of the fear of causing “nipple confusion.” Luckily, doctors and researchers now largely agree that this is not necessarily the case. So, do what your gut tells you to do, but also go easy on yourselves, Mom and Dad! If you’re at your wit’s end- letting your sweet baby use that sucking reflex a while might JUST be the thing they need to chill out! 🙂
Tip #6: Baby-wearing
Although the term “babywearing” still seems goofy to me– (I mean, I wear clothes, I don’t wear my baby!) I understand the practice and know that it’s an incomparable way to bond with and soothe an infant. I had an infant carrier that our kids LOVED to be “worn” in. I wore it sometimes at home when doing housework and such, but when it really knocked them out was when I went for a walk. When I started walking, I could feel their little feet swaying with each step I took, and that repetitive motion calmed them so quickly they were out like a light in no time.
Tip #7: Burping
My sister-in-law (a day-care provider of nearly two decades and mother of 3 amazing kiddos) can hardly stand to see someone burping a baby too wimpily. (Wimply? is that a word? Wimpy-ish?) When she burps a baby, she firmly pats their back- And it works. A tiny way-too-soft pat of your fingers won’t likely do much to any gas bubbles in baby’s tummy- but a firm pat can. Burping baby with a firm pat can help relive gas they’re experiencing and also give that repetitive feeling that they know and love so well. (Be sure to never “slap” with your flat hand, as that can hurt! But pat firmly with a cupped hand, or with the heel of your hand).
In fact, the repetitive rhythm of patting (even on their diapered bottom) can give that soothing sensation that calms them. When I am posing a sleepy baby on their tummy, for example, I will “Shhhhh” in baby’s ear while patting their bottom- works like a charm! 🙂
And TIP #8 for soothing a crying baby?
8. When you’re too exhausted to do any of the above.
The Baby’s First Christmas Event at Babies-R-Us was SO much fun! I got to meet and talk to a ton of sweet moms and dads (and Grandmas and Grandpas, too!), got to see a heap of GORGEOUS babies, and got to share my business and services with families in our new town. I want to thank Babies-R-Us for welcoming me into their store- I appreciate the opportunity so much!
So, names from the “fishbowl” have been drawn and we have our winners! (Yes, that’s winner-S-! I decided to draw a winner from each of the two events on 11/18 and 12/2!)
And the winners of the newborn session/baby milestone sessions are:
Crystal Obarr & Phylicia Ferguson!
Congratulations Ladies! I can’t wait to meet with you and start planning your little ones’ sessions!!
And for all of the moms and dads that entered the drawing… THANK YOU! And you’ll receive something as well. 😉 If you didn’t receive a coupon at the event already… You have been gifted $50 off of any SLP portrait session! Whether you’d love to capture your 6 month old who’s starting to sit up, or have been meaning to have new family portraits done- take $50 off any SLP session fee!
This past summer, I took some time off of working, blogging, social media- and all that other business stuff- to go home to Michigan. (I haven’t lived there in nearly 14 years, but I still call it “home”!) Our family had a pretty rough past year. My sweet cousin Lorie, only 3 years younger than me, lost her hard-fought battle with a rare form of cancer. My Grandma actually passed away that very same night, preceeded by my Nana only 3 weeks prior. Even my Dad had a hospital scare during that time. It’s always a little hard to be so far from my family, but at times like that, it’s especially difficult.
So, after school was out, I was determined to let my business have a little hiatus, and go spend some quality time with our loved ones! Unfortunately, Chris couldn’t take work off, so we missed him the whole time, but we had so much family to make up for it! We got some Grandma and Grandmpa time. Some Cousin time! Some time to talk, play, camp, fish- or just spend time together doing absolutely nothing. We laughed a lot. Cried a lot. Ate a lot. Cousins fought one minute, and were best friends again the next. And all of the normally mundane things we do from day to day were especially sweet because we were with family.
Documenting the everyday…
I finally got around to going through some of the hundreds of photos I took of our Michigan summer. They weren’t traditional portraits- but instead just showed us all and what we do everyday- and how we are together. And I just adore them. I love making pictures with a more candid, documentary vibe. A “Day in the life” of our family. My nephews and nieces- on both my husband’s side and my side- seem to grow almost as fast as our own kiddos. I’m so thankful I’ll have these photos to remember these kids long after they’ve grown to cool to want to hang out with me anymore. (Well, perhaps that’s happening already!)
My plan is to one day offer “Day in the Life” or Candid Family Photography sessions for my clients. But it’s still a work in progress! Anyway, I thought I would share a bit of our “Day in the Life” from this summer in Michigan!
A while back, I got to spend the morning with a couple of awesome ladies – a friend I met while playing at the park with my kiddos after first moving to AZ, who graciously agreed to let me photograph her second baby when I was portfolio building! (…and whose family I photographed on various other occasions!) She brought along her sweet mother-in-law- whom I also adore- and most importantly…. her THIRD gorgeous baby girl! What. FUN. I love these two! It was so fun to chat with them and to snuggle gorgeous baby Alice and make beautiful pictures! She was a big girl, and after squeezing her into some dainty little newborn pretties, we were able to make a ton of other beautiful shots with new fabrics, props, and accessories.
An added bonus for me was that I finally got to see myself working! These great ladies snapped a ton of photos of me working- everything from posing baby, shooting, fixing outfits, props, overheating in front of the space heater (phew!) and snuggling that beautiful girl. So, a huge thanks to Marissa and Kathy for capturing these for me and letting me share them!
Enjoy this behind-the-scenes look at a Newborn Portrait Session at Sarah Lake Photography!
Behind the scenes at a newborn photo shoot…
This set-up used one of my favorite props- my Great-Grandma’s butter bowl. It’s the perfect size to hold a baby snug and securely while they sleep. It also has a beautiful decades-old patina that complements the fresh, soft colors so beautifully. (Notice the space heater… the reason I dress in leggings and loose, cool clothes!) 😛
Babies sometimes sleep nearly the entire session through, and other babies are more “touchy” and wake or wriggle more often. During most sessions, a lot of shushing, patting, and soothing is needed to settle baby into a beautiful, comfy little snooze…
For this next set of images, we put a lovely lavender outfit on a very sleepy baby and posed her on the beanbag. Alice sure was a smiley girl! Bonnet is from one of my newborn prop vendors (I can’t remember which!), headband by Dear Felicity, and the little bibs were handmade by me. 🙂
Part of the fun of custom newborn portraiture is coordinating fabrics, textures, colors, and accessories to create beautifully composed image that keeps baby as the focus.
And here is another series of beanbag images… Bonnet made by me. 🙂
Another down shot with a sweet little newborn “bed” and lovely deep purples… She fell asleep again and gave us another set of beautiful shots!
Our last set-up… we got to play with so many cool props and colors! (PLEASE NOTE: Basket was weighted in the bottom to prevent tipping, and mom was sitting off to the side to spot baby as she slept.)