December 28, 2022

What if My Baby Won't Sleep for His Newborn Session?

newborn photography, newborns

What if my baby is wide awake?

You've been dreaming of your baby's newborn sweet, sleepy photo session for at least six months, and now that it's here, baby's got a major case of FOMO and doesn't want to close her eyes! What now?

It's totally okay! If baby is awake but calm, we'll proceed with the session and capture those bright eyes and silly expressions. If baby is awake but unsettled, we may reschedule. But before we resort to panicking and rescheduling, I've got a few tricks up my sleeves that may help (especially if you followed the prep guide before your session), and if she's still unhappy or unsettled, it's really, truly okay to come back another day.

So what are these magical sleepy-baby tricks? I have three tried-and-true options and for some reason, they all start with the letter S.


It's rare to meet a newborn who doesn't LOVE being swaddled up snug, so if baby is unsettled, my first go-to trick is to wrap baby. Even if we're aiming for unwrapped shots, it's usually helpful to settle baby by wrapping her, then once she's sleeping, gradually unwrap.


The Baby Shusher is a miraculous device, providing either a half-hour or fifteen minutes of sweet soothing sound. Once baby is swaddled, we'll try adding or turning up or down the white noise/shushing and see if that helps.


If the combination of swaddling and shushing didn't help, something else might be bothering baby, so it's time to bust out the seemingly random soothing techniques. The bounce and sway, the bootie pat, the binkie, the burp, or the bottle/diaper change. Sometimes a little top-off or bootie pat will help, or just the binkie. If none of these, or any combination of them, works, baby might just be in a growth spurt and wanting to cluster-feed, or have a painful gassy tummy, or... just not want photos that day. This is when we'll consider rescheduling, but what's strange is that sometimes just saying those words aloud will somehow soothe the baby. Yeah, weird, right? If they do calm down, but they're still awake, it's time for the last S...


Okay, so baby is soothed, but not asleep? We're going to roll with it and shoot some photos anyway. Wide awake photos can be adorable, too! Here are a few of my favorites.

Newborn girl awake on pink background, taken by Jen Knightstep, Photographer
Newborn boy awake on blue background, taken by Jen Knightstep, Photographer
Newborn girl awake with teddy bears, taken by Jen Knightstep, Photographer
Newborn girl awake on pink background, taken by Jen Knightstep, Photographer