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What if my Newborn doesn't sleep for the photo session?

Updated: Apr 4, 2023

This is a question I know tons of parents have occupying their head prior to a newborn session: "What if my newborn doesn't sleep?" In short, the answer is it really doesn't matter if they don't sleep. In fact, most newborns start their Session with us awake, and gradually get sleepier and sleepier with the help of a calm, warm and comfortable environment.

If a newborn baby comes into the studio wide awake, I usually start with some gorgeous natural wide eyed awake shots that you will wholeheartedly adore. Capturing all those scrunchy, sometimes even cross looking, facial expressions. Within these shots the baby is swaddled, and most newborns therefore given the warm room, a belly full of milk and white noise will begin to drop off into a nice sleep.

However, if bubba still doesn't want to sleep, as long they are happy and settled thats all that matters. It can take a little while to capture the wide-eyed awake shots as newborns have no control over their muscles and can sometimes can fling their arms around which startles their relaxing. I will then ask parents/siblings if they can just place their hands over bubba's arms gently to generate that feeling of safety and comfort - This pose also generates the most gorgeous photographs. Alongside this particular pose, given the recent birth of a newborns nervous system and weak facial muscles, newborns pull the funniest and cutest of faces because their eye muscles are not strong enough to hold their gaze in one place or to focus on a single object. I will therefore wait patiently hovering above for the perfect expressions. Although the funny outtake faces are also some of my favourite images too.

After i've captured these natural awake shots, and possibly family or sibling images (depending on your preferences) and baby isn't showing signs of falling asleep, I'll usually move into the "potato sack" pose. This is where I wrap your little bundle up in a very snuggly swaddle and tuck their little feet and fingers in. The potato sack pose is very warm and 'womb like' for newborns, giving them a real sense of security and comfort. Within my years of photographing newborns, I have only ever had one baby not fall asleep when being settled into this particular pose. Most babies will soothe almost instantly as this swaddle holds their arms and legs in, which also prevents their startle reflex to keep themselves from waking up.

From the "potato sack" pose, working with a base layer of wrap, I can then change the outer layer of the wrap to give different colours, texture and variety. With baby also being swaddled I can place them into different props and set-ups safely, giving you a larger range of set-ups in your final gallery. At this point within the session babies will usually start to yawn and fall asleep. If baby does close their eyes, I can then move into the more posed sleepy shots, however if not, I am an absolute sucker for those gorgeous awake newborn shots too.

Before booking with me you will receive our detailed client prep guide that has a few tips on making sure baby is sleepy for our newborn photography session together. Nine times out of 10, if this prep guide is followed I can assure you we'll have a smooth sailing newborn session together capturing those gorgeous awake shots as well as those all important newborn sleepy poses. Rest assured, even if your baby doesn't fall asleep right away, we can still capture beautiful photographs for you. We may not be able to get every single sleepy set-up you wanted, but you will still have the have most wonderful memories, preserving all those tiny details that pass all too quickly.

Newborn Photoshoot Tips for Parents

Here are a few more tips on helping your baby become super sleepy prior to the session.

  1. If you are breast feeding, it may help not to eat spicy or acidic foods 24/48 prior to our session together as this can unsettle the baby.

  2. If you can, in the morning of your session, please try and keep baby awake for a little while, maybe give them a bath. Usually if your newborn has slept solidly for around 3 hours prior to your session with us, we may not be able to get many posed, sleepy shots.

  3. Try to feed your baby just before you leave, or as you arrive at the studio. A full belly of milk means a sleepy baby.

  4. Please dress baby in a loose sleeper suit so it doesn't have to be lifted over the head, so if your baby is sleepy we don't have to disturb them too much.

  5. If you are considering the use of a dummy, please bring it with you. This can be an absolute life saver with settling your little one during the session.

Thank-you for reading,

Amber xo

Panda Creative Photography, Worthing, West Sussex.


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