Catching sweet, fleeting newborn smiles is one of my favorite things about being a newborn photographer! While smiles are never guaranteed at any session, over the years I’ve learned to read the signs of the newborn sleep cycle and anticipate when a smile may be coming.
Newborn smiles and the sleep cycle
Newborn smiles typically happen as a reflex when your baby is moving in or out of the REM (rapid eye movement) part of their sleep cycle. REM is considered “active sleep,” where the body makes a series of involuntary movements. Other reflexes you’re likely to see are fluttering behind the eyelids, heavy breathing, twitches or jumps, puckering of the lips, frowns, and tiny coos or cries.
In my studio, most newborn smiles happen during the swaddled poses. Swaddling is one of the best ways to help a baby relax when they are having trouble settling. As they begin to drift off into dreamland those little movements begin and that is our best chance at capturing a smile. While adults take 90 minutes to reach the REM stage of sleep, newborns reach this stage first. (In fact, babies can spend up to 50% of their sleep in the REM stage, compared to only about 20% for adults.)
“It is a moment of pure ecstasy and satisfaction when you see a smile flicker on baby’s lips, just as they gently pass into a deep slumber.”– Unknown
Grinning newborns that will make your heart melt
Without further ado, here are some of my favorite smiling newborn portraits! I hope these tiny little grins bring a little bit of warmth to your day.
“A baby’s smile is a bit of sunlight wrapped in your arms.” – Unknown