So the baby is here. Congratulations! You're a parent!
You're tired, and recovering from a major physical health event (having a baby is hard work, regardless of how the actually delivery was performed). You are getting no sleep. The first week is by far the hardest adjustment period in bringing a new little one into your life.
And now your needy photographer demands that you pack up your diaper bag and bring yourself, your baby, and all the rest of your little family to their studio for a photoshoot.
What the heck?! Right?!
Please don't stress momma! You got this! It's really not that hard and any newborn photographer worth their weight is taking care of you properly. It really is very important that this photo session happen within the first 2 weeks of baby's arrival, ideally within the 5-10 days old time frame. Why? Because this is when baby is sleeping curled up still, they like to feel warm and pretend they are still in the womb. They also change super fast! By 4 weeks old that baby has started to plump up and many of them don't fit their newborn clothes any more. That's how fast they change!
So, what do you do? Here's some tips on how to prepare for your newborn session.
1. Don't worry about what you dress the baby in. The baby will be mostly naked, wrapped in the wraps the photographer has, or perhaps a cute outfit or two, but those are provided by the photographer as they know what fits and photographs well. Baggy onesies with cute sayings on them are adorable, don't get me wrong, but those are better suited for quick snapshots, not a newborn session. Just dress the baby in something that can be taken off without it going over their head, like a snap up or zip up sleeper. This way if baby is cozy asleep, the photographer can probably undress the baby without waking them.
2. To feed or not to feed? That is a tricky question! Ideally, it would be great to have baby come to the studio tired and hungry. That way the photographer can undress baby and get them swaddled, then you feed them, and they go into a nice full stomached sleep. I love to call this the "milk drunk" sleep. It's the same solid nap we get after a thanksgiving dinner. If you are coming from less than 20 minutes away, you can feed at home and be prepared to top off when arriving at the studio. HOWEVER, if you are driving from a ways away and you are leaving the house with a very hungry baby, it's not worth the stress to have your baby screaming the whole car ride! Go ahead and give them a light meal before you leave to keep them happy until you arrive.
3. What else should you bring? If your baby is on formula or being supplemented, then please bring bottles ready to be mixed. Also, if your baby takes a pacifier then bring that along too. If you aren't introducing a pacifier or waiting until they are older, that is totally fine! No pressure either way. Diapers, wipes, burp clothes, etc are nice, but if you forget them don't turn around. Most photographers have extras on hand (and usually have pacifiers too, but some babies are picky on brand).
4. Have something special that you want to include in the photoshoot? Be sure to communicate with your photographer just what it is and your expectations before the shoot. Some items work great! A cute stuffed animal, wedding rings, jewelry, etc have all worked out great in many sessions. But there are some items that cannot be attempted due to the safety of the baby. Balancing baby on something not sturdy, or laying baby in something that could poke or scratch them is not good. There are some items that baby can be placed on and the photographer can take a series of shots and composite together, so baby isn't actually balancing on said item. So just be clear with your photographer and any experienced photographer can tell you if your idea will work or not.
5. What should YOU wear? And your partner? Parents should come dressed for heat! The studio thermostat is usually around 80 to keep baby sleepy and warm while naked. So come dressed in cool clothes. Some photographers, myself included, offer outfits for you to change into for when you're in front of the camera. This is usually gowns for mom and maybe a short sleeved or long sleeved shirt for dad. So the only thing you need to bring is jeans or solid, neutral colored pants for dad to wear. If outfits aren't provided or you'd rather wear your own, then I suggest wearing solid, soft neutral colors. Creams, tans, greys, khakis look best. Bold colors and patterns create distractions in the image and can reflect the color onto your skin and the baby's skin. Also, have clean, short fingernails and your makeup should be there, but kept natural. Hair and and makeup for mom is another thing that some photographers offer included in the session (myself included).
6. Does the baby have siblings? Toddlers and older kids can change expectations, but proper planning can eliminate the stress on them and you. It's usually a good idea for mom and dad to arrive separately. That way the family and sibling photos can be taken right away and then dad (or grandma, nanny, babysitter, whoever) can leave with the siblings and the rest of the session is focused on the baby with out worry of keeping a toddler happy. Many photographer do have toys in their studio for toddlers to play with, netflix and a tv or iPad handy, and even outfits for the sibling to wear for their photos.
7. How long will it last? Most sessions run between 2-4 hours. I know, I know, that's not what you may expect if you are used to family sessions which take more like an hour at the most. But in newborn photography, taking time is important. Taking breaks to feed the baby, clean the baby up after babies do what babies do, and preparing and changing setups (backdrops, buckets, props) can quickly suck up time. If there are twins or triplets (or quads, quints.....etc) then the session will take longer. I have done a triplet session that took about 7 hours, but it was worth it!
So that about wraps it up. If you have any experience with a newborn session yourself and have suggestions on what to include in my prep guide, please let me know! I hope this helps answer some questions and removes some the stress from such a crazy time in your life.