First time parents generally have no idea what to expect at their newborn session so preparing for it can be stressful. But it doesn’t need to be. I’ve put together a short list of things I find important to keep in mind and always tell my parents before and during their shoots to help create a smooth, enjoyable experience for everyone. And you may be surprised that this is not just about warming up your home or what colors work best. Being aware of your physical and emotional state are incredibly important. Both for you, Mama, and your sweet new baby.
1. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY MAMA
Postpartum is real and every mother experiences it differently. Because my primary focus is not on posing a milk-drunk, sleeping baby, I allow for an extended time frame to schedule your newborn session. There is never a bad time to photograph your child and I’m not here to pressure you to get this done right away. My job is to make sure everyone is content and comfortable allowing the space needed to get those precious first shots of your new family.
Depending on labor and delivery, and so many other factors, a new mom may not be up for photos within that 4-10 day window that more traditional newborn photographers require. The physical aspect of listening to your body can often be overlooked. Especially when a mother has had a cesarean. The recovery time is much longer than a vaginal birth and can require more assistance moving around.
Know that I do not ask you to lie down on your belly or do anything your body is not comfortable doing whether you have had a cesarian or not. Again, listen to your body Mama. If it hurts, we don’t have to do it. There are many ways to get beautiful photos of you with your child.
Hormones. As women, we know they are real. Pregnancy and birth throws them into a state of chaos that can produce tears and desire all at once. They can also lead down a darker mental path that you never saw coming. It’s important to talk about these feelings and seek the assistance of a medical professional. Hiring a certified postpartum doula can also help with the more physical aspects that we don’t often think about. Things such as preparing healthy meals for you and your family, watching your baby as you take a much needed nap, or even doing a load of laundry to take that stress off of you and your partner.
Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. In fact it requires a lot of strength. Parenting is hard and those first few days, weeks, and months can be some of the hardest. Listen to your heart and mind. If what you hear doesn’t seem like you, doesn’t feel healthy, let’s talk about it.
2. LESS IS ALWAYS MORE
I enjoy photographing newborns in a very natural way. They are just so ridiculously adorable as they are that I see no reason to add anything else. Making sure they are well fed and warm is key to a content baby during a session. As long as they are happy, I don’t mind whether babies are asleep or wide awake during my sessions.
More often then not, I begin a session with swaddles. I bring my own solid colored, organic cotton swaddle blankets from Cloth Apothecary as an option. But they are just that. I actually prefer to use blankets and quilts that have been passed down or swaddles you have chosen that include a common thread through our your home or nursery.
Typically, when we begin, your baby will have just eaten so their belly is full and swaddling them keeps them warm and cozy. It’s the perfect recipe for a content newborn. And it’s the best time to focus on all the teeny tiny features such as that button nose, pursed lips, and ears.
Once your little one is settled and we’ve gotten the photos of all the details on their face and head, I begin slowly unwrapping them to expose those delicious baby toes and hands. Eventually I’m able to get photos of your little one only in her diaper and stretched out in her own natural pose.
When they aren’t swaddled, babies naturally pose themselves in the most adorable ways. As they stretch and squirm, they begin to settle, resting their little hands on their chest or above their head. A solid white diaper helps keep the focus on all the tiny details of your precious little one.
Including Mom and Dad’s own baby blankets are game changers for photos. These items are meaningful and help tell your family’s story in a simple, authentic way. Also, it becomes such a beautiful gift for Grandma. Get the tissues ready!
Family members often show off their knitting and quilting skills when babies are on the way. Using these items provide yet another personal trait to your family photos. In the photo below, Baby Boy is sleeping cozy, nestled in the quilt his dad’s mother hand knitted for him. How precious is this?
Don’t sweat it if you don’t have hand made blankets or items passed down. You are creating new heirloom items and traditions within your own growing family with the things you’ve chosen for the nursery. You invest a lot of time and money making sure this room is warm, inviting, and yes, beautiful. It’s important to document this special place that you have created for your child. And I love including Baby in these photos, whether in the crib or on the changing table.
3. THERE’S NO RUSH
Newborn sessions typically last around two hours. Occasionally, a little longer but that’s fine! There’s no rush. I don’t schedule more than one session a day so that I’m not rushing my families. Newborns run the show. If they need to eat, you feed them. If they need to be changed, and they will, you change them. If you need a break and a cup of coffee, then we will make sure that happens.
The focus is on your little one and I want you to enjoy the moments I have you snuggling your partner and gazing at your sleepy babe. These are the moments I want you to think about when reminiscing about our time together. Not that you were starving the entire time or your baby was fussy. We go with the flow and allow the space for these precious moments to happen.
4. COMFORT IS KEY
I photograph your new family in your home a reason. To start, everyone is more comfortable in their own space, allowing for a more authentic experience. This helps so much with older siblings too. They can come and go as they please, watching their new baby or playing with their toys. Obviously this is a big change for them too and while the focus is on the baby, the comfort of being in their own space lets your older child feel relaxed and confident. It helps that I ask them to show me their favorite toy or their own bedroom. Kids love sharing all the things with me!
Let’s not forget that getting ready for a shoot does require some time and energy. Two things that new parents don’t have much of, if any. So while I’m photographing all the tiny details of your baby, you can finish getting ready or finally enjoy that cup of tea you made yourself before I arrived. Again, there’s no rush and if you feel good, you look good. I promise.
You can’t talk about comfort without addressing attire. Mama, again, listen to your body. If it’s not comfortable to stand, sit, or lay in, don’t wear it. I’m not opposed to leggings and a cozy sweater. I am opposed to any outfit that doesn’t make you feel like Beyoncé. And Dad, there’s no need for the dress socks and office shoes. Shoes are not required here!
Your head is full of things to do and not do when you bring your baby home. You’re literally just trying to survive and get any sleep you can. I want to be sympathetic to these thoughts and feelings so that you are comfortable when I arrive. My goal is to make our time together relaxed and fun.