Over the years and amount of newborn sessions I have done, I have learned a ton. I try and schedule the session within 7-10 days of their birth date when they are nice and sleepy (or at least should be?). I have had 5 day olds that have been awake during their session and 2 week old, bigger babies sleep almost the whole time, so you just never know!
I usually set the session for 10:30 am. It is a good time for how the light hits in my studio and it gives the parents who haven’t slept all night time to get out of the house. I’ve noticed that typically the baby that is awake all night will sleep for a good amount of their session. The babies who sleep most of the time at home, seem to be awake more during their session. I’m not sure what it is, but it seems to just happen that way. It’s the new environment, or the question “why am I belly down in this random prop with lights flickering in my face.” It is out of their routine and they know it. I have also noticed the bigger babies, 8-10 pounds tend to be better sleepers. The smaller babies 5-7 pounds, fight sleep more often during their session. I can remember my 6 pound 13 ounce child needing to eat about 10 times during his session and as soon as he would fall asleep he would wake up screaming. Not easy! Again, you just never know.
What I tell parents before the session:
• If you are nursing, avoid spicy foods (or any food known to upset baby) 24 hours ahead of time.
• Try to keep the baby awake 1-2 hours before the session-if possible
• The baby should have a full belly right before the session, so feed right before you come or once you get to studio, up to you. (be prepared to feed if the baby is awake a lot)
• Dress baby in button or zipper up sleeper so we don’t have to pull clothing off head.
• Bring a pacifier as it tends to soothe them if they are awake and have a full belly.
• Always have a space heater, especially in the winter. The babies will sometimes be naked or just in a diaper cover…they like warmth.
• Have tons of nice wraps/swaddles, since most like to be swaddled tight and secure
• White noise (I have an app on my phone called Relax M.P. or I turn on my loud AC unit in the Summer)
• Sometimes I have to rock them and pat their butts to get them to doze off (I have also rocked them in a basket or crate)
• Rubbing their forehead down to the center of the eyes helps them to close their eye lids
• If a baby goes to the bathroom and is still asleep, wait to change them. Once they wake up you may have to feed and start the cycle over again
• If you are bringing a sibling or siblings (toddler age), make sure to have tons of bribes (I use toys as distractions, or I give stickers if they behave for their pictures)
• It is good to start with the sibling pictures since they tend to fade quick
• It is helpful to have an extra family member to get their attention if they are all going to be in the picture as a family
• I also recommend a family member bringing the toddler sibling(s) for a walk or somewhere out of studio once their group pictures are done so we can focus on the newborn in a relaxed environment
Keep shooting and the biggest piece of advice is to stay patient! The more you do the more you learn.