The looooong wait is nearly over, and each day that goes by you find yourself wondering if this will be “it”. Every twitch has your full attention. Your internet search history is full of tips that include brisks walks, eating pineapple, and drinking raspberry tea… among a few much more weird ones (riding a seesaw, anyone?). You are about to have a baby!
I get questions all the time about all the WHATS surrounding a newborn photo session. Here are five of my best tips for getting as near to perfection as possible.
1. AIM FOR THE SWEET SPOT
As is turns out, babies are nearly permanently asleep for the first two weeks of their lives… other than the times that they’re awake and screaming for food, that is. Or a diaper change. In the middle of the night. Five times.
But I digress….
The point is, this super sleepy “sweet spot” period of their lives is blessed and fleeting! It’s best to schedule your in-home newborn session within the first two weeks of their lives, and the earlier the better. (Also, many newborns get what’s referred to as “two week acne” – somewhere around 2-3 weeks old, they look like a teenager for a minute. Schedule your session early and savor the sweet, soft, wrinkly newborn skin instead.) I know you’re totally out of it after going through childbirth, and photos might be a far-off thought… but if you just shoot your photographer a quick text that the baby has arrived, s/he will be able to follow up and schedule for you asap.
2. DRESS THE BABY
Actually though, you want to dress down the baby. What’s more adorable than a cuddly, wrinkled, sweet nakkid newborn?? (hint: nada) I do usually ask my clients if there are an super special outfits they’d like to use – the hat grandma knitted, or a sentimental family gown – but mostly, just a cloth diaper cover or nothing.
I do promise – there are sneaky behind-the-scene shenanigans involving hidden diapers so that the lovely newborn rainshowers (or worse) that you’ve come to know so frequently do not end up on your photo-day clothes. But actually, now that you mention it… do have a backup Plan B in mind for your own self. Just in case.
3. TURN IT UP
…the heat, that is. Forget about your electric bill for a minute and crank that sucker! Your new tiny little human is going to be mostly naked for a few hours; not only naked, but expected to stay happily asleep while being moved around, maneuvered, and generally messed with MUCH more than is respectable during an afternoon nap. To counteract their natural indignation at such a change of events, you want to soothe your newborn into believing that they’re actually on a relaxing tropical vacation in Hawaii, basking in the sun on a private beach.
Oh wait, that’s you.
For real though: you want the heat in your house warm enough that baby is able to maintain their comfortable body temperature without clothes. It’s no fun trying to sleep when you’re cold, and the warmer they are, the sleepier they get. Of course we’ll snuggle them up in blankets and such, but if they get a shock of air when the blanket is removed, the resulting shocked baby reaction will not be exactly what you’re looking for. Rule of thumb: YOU should feel the need to wear a tank top and shorts to be comfortable in the heat.
4. GRANDMA’S BLANKET & ETC
While your in-home session is focused on the natural interactions that you have with your baby and their simple, unaffected little selves, that’s not to say that you want NOTHING ELSE in the photos. Make sure to tell your photographer that you’d like to wrap bebe in the handmade quilt that grandma sent; or that the outfit you brought them home from the hospital in is your absolute favorite; or to please be sure to use your favorite headbands on that adorable bald little head; or that you’ve got your own raggedy teddy bear from your childhood that you’d like junior to cuddle up with.
5. Most Importantly: SLOW DOWN
Photo sessions can be stressful – I get it. During my own family sessions, I am constantly sweating inside, trying to make sure my wild little banshees manage to catch a couple of clicks of the shutter looking halfway as adorable as I know they can be before the photographer has to leave. You want it to all be perfect. BUT! Newborn sessions are a world unto themselves. Take a deep breath, forget the clock, and slow your roll a little for this one. Baby is totally in charge. And *bonus!* they can sense when you’re stressed.
During your newborn session, take all the time you need to make sure that your tiny little human is completely happy – fed (more often than usual), dry (on demand), and warm (see #3). You’ve started to learn some of baby’s preferences in the last few days: the best way to be held, favorite lying position, whether they prefer bouncing or rocking. All of these things will be used in abundance during your session! There is no rush. When you stay calm yourself, your baby will sense that and calm down with you.
The thing is, even if it doesn’t seem to you like you’re doing much during your session – this is a GIANT upheaval in the tiny world of this little person. They are being passed around, moved as soon as they’ve gotten comfortable, put in weird positions, poked and prodded and put in front of bright windows… it’s hard work, man. Their routine, whatever semblance of it has started to form, is out of whack. So don’t be surprised if they ask to nurse at a different time or more often – let them, even just for the reassurance of comfort. We can set the camera down for 20 minutes and let you just rock them back to sleep. It’s common for a newborn session to last anywhere from 2-4 hours, with much of that time being “down time” where photos are not actually being taken. I promise that the end result will be well worth both the change to baby’s schedule AND the extra time taken for careful comforting.
Bonus Tip: THE “OTHER” NOT-SO-BABIES
For newborns coming into existence blessed with a big brother or sister, their newborn session is as shared as the rest of their world. Of course the main focus here is on baby, but your other child(ren) are a big part of things. And, can be an added stressor for Mom & Dad with their (choose all that apply) loud, wild, jealous, bored, cranky, chatty, crazy little selves!
First, making sure to schedule the newborn session as much around your older child(ren)’s typical happy time is ideal. You might even consider scheduling it to partially overlap with a normal naptime – that way, photos with big brother or sister happen first, and when they’re in bed is when little brother or sister gets their own spotlight in peace.
Second, BE ALL ABOUT THE BRIBES. Treats that they don’t normally get? A promised outing at the end of the session? Even a surprise toy gift? Whatever it is – DO IT. Professional photos are infrequent and relatively a short period of time: you won’t train bad habits in an hour or two. A deviation from normal rules makes having abnormal expectations placed on them (sit still? kiss the baby a million times? hug mom AGAIN when I just want to run over there?) a little more bearable. ❤