Day Job, Work
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Day Job: Baby Wrangler

Meryl Salzinger is a baby wrangler who helps babies and children on photo and comerical shoots

Meryl Salzinger, the “baby wrangler,” helps a mom and her baby prepare for a shoot
(Photo credit: Camille Tokerud)

Who: Meryl Salzinger, 40s, from New York City.

What is your day job? “I’m a baby wrangler.”

What the heck is a baby wrangler? “The person who gets the babies or children to do what they need to do on a still photo or TV commercial shoot, all the while keeping them happy and safe.”

How does your job work, exactly?  “A photographer, client, or ad agency brings me in to use my bag of tricks that get the babies or children to do what the ad requires. I try to be the first person a baby or child sees when they arrive so that I can give them a friendly, loving welcome. Then I pretty much run back and forth from the kid to the camera lens to get the expression and position the photographer needs.”

How did you get the gig? “For five years I was a photographer’s assistant at an in-house studio for a children’s textbook company. I also produced, styled, and wrangled shoots. After that, I did studio management for a commercial child photographer, where I met another baby wrangler. She took me on as an assistant, passed me jobs when she could, and I just started getting more and more work!”


Meryl Salzinger is a baby wrangler who helps babies and children on photo and comerical shoots

Meryl and a toddler get ready to shoot a
Capital One commercial
(Photo credit: Kimberly Conlon)

What’s in your bag of tricks? “Electronic whoopee cushions, bubbles, puppets, bells and whistles, rubber squeakers, feather dusters for tickling. I’m always adding new stuff!”

Any war stories? “I once did a casting of over 100 babies to find one who could bend over forward, put their head on the floor and look backwards between their legs (all the while smiling, of course!). I did end up at the chiropractor after that one, but we found a great little boy and he’s in the Desitin ad on my site.”

Where have we seen your work? “Stroll down the diaper aisle. See all those happy babies on the cover of the Pampers boxes? Those are my smiling babies! I was also the wrangler on those Capital One ads with Jimmy Fallon and the little girl, and I have worked on shoots for Toys “R” Us, Gap Kids, American Eagle, Macy’s, Joe Fresh, Nickelodeon, and W Magazine, just to name a few.”

Do you have kids? “Long ago, I decided that I didn’t want kids. It’s amazing to me how strongly people react to this choice. Since I work with and obviously enjoy children, I can understand that people might think I want my own, but it’s still surprising how hard it is for people to accept my decision not to. It’s also a bit frustrating to me that people don’t question my boyfriend’s decision, only mine. I had a lot of grownups in my life when I was little who were not my parents, but they were, and still are, very important to me. They taught me things that I don’t think I would have learned from my parents. I fully understand that it is different to be an auntie than a parent but I love being an auntie to the kids in my own family and my friend’s families — all the fun and less of the mess.”

Meryl Salzinger is a baby wrangler who helps babies and children on photo and comerical shoots

Meryl poses with one of her “babies”
(Photo credit: Josh Titus)

Life Lessons from Baby Land

1. Go up, down and around: “Have you have ever seen all the different ways that a child learns to sit up, stand and walk? Let go of the idea that there is only one way to do something or go somewhere, both literally and metaphorically.”

2. Get off of that iPhone: “Something as simple as whistling a bird song or imitating a monkey call can make a baby turn and look, as if something wondrous has occurred. When I leave a baby photo shoot, I often find myself much more alert to what’s around me. “

3. Find the humor in life’s little disasters: “This happens pretty quickly when your job can involve being puked on one minute and being given a big wet baby kiss the next!”

Filed under: Day Job, Work


Suzanne Rust

Suzanne Rust is a former editor and media spokesperson for Real Simple Magazine. She is currently a contributing editor for the MSNBC website, The Grio, where she covers culture and high-profile professionals in the arts. Rust also writes regularly for Citibank’s Women & Co. and BermanBraun’s She blogs at and tweets @suzannerust

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