“Can we get some photos of him awake?” “Why does she need to be asleep?” These are questions that I’m sometimes asked during a newborn session and there are very specific reasons why babies are asleep in the majority of my photos.
*It’s important to note that newborn sessions in my studio are posed. If you are doing an in-home lifestyle session with another photographer then this article will most likely not apply to you.
Why does my baby need to be asleep for a posed newborn session?
1. Safety first, always
If I had to pick only one answer, this would be it. Safety is the number one reason we want a newborn to be asleep while being posed, and for good reason.
Newborns have very little control over their limbs and tend to kick or flail when they are awake. If a newborn is posed on their tummy and they wake up, the first thing they do is lift their head (which can cause them to roll) and stretch out their legs, launching themselves forward.
If your little one goes through an awake period during their session, you’ll notice that I will immediately swaddle them. This allows baby to relax their limbs and is a great opportunity for some sweet open-eye images. If they are discontent or wiggly, I will not put them in a prop of any kind until they’ve relaxed.
2. Newborns aren’t awake much during the day
It may not feel like it when you’re up for yet another late-night feeding, but newborns sleep an average of 16-20 hours a day. Mood is also something to take into consideration, as every baby is different. Some newborns are content and bright-eyed when they are awake, while others are only happy when they are being held or fed. I always take baby’s lead as far as what poses we can safely and comfortably achieve.
As the weeks pass and your little one grows and changes, their awake time increases and daytime sleep slowly begins to lessen. Because posed newborn sessions are done within the first 3 weeks of life, you should expect that your baby will be sleeping for the majority of their photo session.
3. Variety in posing
We can get a much larger variety of poses when baby is sound asleep. As I mentioned, tummy poses (especially in a prop) are out of the question with an awake newborn for safety reasons.
If your little one is awake, I typically do a fully swaddled pose to help them settle and relax their limbs. You may have noticed at home that your little one loves to not only stretch, but also grab things with they are awake. This includes grabbing their cheeks, which can be a problem with those sharp little fingernails.
If your newborn is the type that is content while awake (as mentioned above), then we may do a different type of swaddle or even a pose on their back in an outfit or covering.
What if my baby doesn’t sleep during the photoshoot?
They will. In 95% of sessions, baby eventually settles comfortably into dreamland. Sometimes it takes an hour or more, but they almost always give in. This is why posed sessions are 2-4 hours long, giving us the time needed to ensure your baby reaches that deep sleep needed for safe posing.
The only exceptions, in my experience, are babies that are struggling with gas. I’ve had just a handful of babies in my 13+ years of experience that have had to come back for a reshoot and every time it was due to gas pains. When they came back the second time, they slept nicely and we got all of the poses we needed!
Can we still take awake photos if I want them?
The honest answer? Maybe.
Every newborn is a unique little human and they call the shots. (No pun intended!) If baby wakes up during the session I will absolutely try and capture those beautiful bright eyes. Just remember, some babies aren’t always happy when awake (especially if they’ve been intentionally woken up) and others sleep so soundly during the entire session that it’s simply not possible to get them awake.
But should the opportunity present itself, I will definitely try to get those sweet open-eye images for you!
If you are expecting a little one, I would love the chance to create some beautiful portraits for you! Most Moms book in the second or early-third trimester in order to guarantee my availability when their little one arrives. Head on over to the newborn page to learn more. I can’t wait to see what we’ll create together!