Tips for a Successful In-home Newborn Session
Newborn sessions are one of my absolute faaaaavorite things to photograph. No matter how often I do them, I forget exactly how tiny a days old baby really is. They grow so incredibly fast at that age, so they're only that tiny for a very short time, and when you have older kids like I do, the contrast between a five YEAR old and a 7 DAY old baby is so big! Babies are just the sweetest things, and while once in a while I get a super chill baby who is content the whole time or will sleep through anything, most babies are not quite so accommodating. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to help your in-home newborn session go as smoothly as possible.
First, one of the best things you can do to make your baby super comfortable (and therefore more agreeable) is to turn up your heat or turn off your air conditioning. Here in Massachusetts, winters can be frigid and summers can be oppressive. Newborns like to be warm. A lot warmer than you might typically think. They've just come out of a space that is a good 98.6 degrees, so a 68 degree house isn't going to feel warm to them. I recommend turning your heat up to about mid to upper 70s for newborn sessions in the winter if you can. I do bring a space heater that will warm up a room quite nicely, but it helps if the house is already a bit warmer to start so that any surfaces we place the baby on, or any blankets and outfits that we use are already warmer and more comfortable for baby. In the summer, turn off that AC and let the house heat up. Yes, you and your partner (and the rest of the family if there are other children) might be a little warm for a bit, but trust me, it's worth it!
Next, I advise parents to feed and burp the baby about a half hour before I'm due to arrive. I think everyone will agree that we're all a little happier with a full belly than with an empty one, and babies are no exception. A good burp will help to eliminate any extra discomfort due to gas, as well. If they need to be topped off at any point during our session, we will absolutely take a break for that! Going along with this idea, if there are older siblings who will be included in the session, make sure they get a good snack in before you change them into their picture clothes. This way they won't be hungry and you won't have to worry about stains.
Speaking of older siblings, if this is not your first, then I'm sure you'll want any older kiddos included in these photos! Depending on their age, they can make the session more tricky than the newborn. Expect it, and don't stress over it. I have 3 kids and trust me when I say nothing your child does will shock, offend or bother me. Talk to them about me and what I'm coming over to do. Explain why you're having these photos taken and what's expected of them. Remaining calm throughout and tantrums or behaviors, giving some extra love and sometimes offering a small bribe can help keep things on track. Smarties are great treats because they don't leave a mess, but fruit snacks can also work well. If there's something your child will do anything for, use it! If you have the option, a grandparent or favorite aunt or uncle could also come over to entertain your older children during the times when they're not going to be in the photos. That extra attention and set of hands can take some of the stress off of you, also. Remember, siblings won't always go for exactly what we want, but by remaining calm and trying different things we'll get some really sweet photos that you'll be sure to cherish forever.
Have you heard of the 5 S's for how to soothe a baby? I use 3 of them for newborn sessions, and they are swaddle, shush and suck. A good swaddle helps them to feel safe, warm and calm. We can use my swaddles or your own. For shushing, noise machines like the Baby Shusher (you can find this on Amazon) or a white noise app via Alexa or Google Home can help keep baby from startling out of sleep, and make them feel comforted. They just listened to all the noises happening inside your body for 9 months, after all, it's a familiar sound for them! And finally, sucking. This can be controversial, as not every parent wants to use a pacifier, and I will never force you to do so if that's the case. Babies do love to suck, though. It's how they self soothe, and sometimes they just need to suck on something for a few minutes to really get them to tip over the edge into sleep. Usually I can sneak it out after a few minutes and they'll remain asleep while I snap away.
Hopefully you find these tips helpful, and as always, I'm here for any other questions that you might have!