Toronto Newborn, Baby and Maternity Photography
Toronto Newborn, Baby and Maternity Photography

Newborn Photos: A Wakeful Session

wakeful newborn session

One of the biggest questions that gets asked is, ‘What happens if my baby doesn’t sleep during our newborn photo session?’ Ok, let’s talk about it.

There are a few reasons why your baby won’t sleep. There are three main reasons why and we’ll take a look at each reason more closely in the sections below. There are either medical reasons preventing your baby from sleeping, your baby is past the ‘newborn phase’ for posing, or your baby needs something.

Medical Reasons

One of the biggest reasons would be some sort of underlying condition. Colic or gas is the biggest culprit, followed by acid reflux and tied tongue/shallow latch or procedure. We’ll touch on the procedures below. When the baby is gassy, it makes it very difficult to find a comfortable position. A lot of the poses are on the back causing the gas bubbles to gather at the top of the belly. This causes a lot of discomfort and often wakes the baby. Because the baby needs to sleep, each disturbance causes them to get a little more upset. Feeding them to sleep (with good burping) and avoiding the back for posing is how we go about the session.

Seeing so many gassy babies come through Sugar Plum has really highlighted some key remedies. Changing the formula to a whey-protein based formula (Nestle Good Start) to avoid the inflammatory lactose into their system, introducing gripe water or Oval (available over the counter everywhere) and practising good burping help to alleviate their gas. Often times, mom has to avoid a few things too so that her breast milk doesn’t pass on things that will upset the baby. Dairy, onions, garlic, coffee are big ones.

My Baby is Older

The best time to do a newborn photo session is between 7 and 10 days, up to 14 days. After that, the baby’s sleep pattern will change and they become more wakeful and start stretching out. Things happen. Don’t beat yourself up about it, not every birth story is perfect. Not every mom has the best experience adjusting to motherhood. Sometimes, things are HARD. There’s no playbook, no instruction manual, and everybody is different. The important thing is that your baby is happy and healthy, and yes – your sleep and sanity DO take priority.

There is lots we can still do in the studio to create a newborn-inspired session. They may not sleep – but that’s ok. This often leads to lots of opportunity for expressions, smiles (yes! they happen!), and getting a good look at those baby blue’s. In the grand scheme, they are still very small and I have larger props to fit. My swaddling skills are at Master Ninja Level 10 – No Escape, which helps to fold them back up and minimize their size. Using parents holding the baby in their arms gives reference to the baby size, from that moment on – they are forever just a bit bigger.

Tongue Tied, Procedure, or Cluster Feed

Sometimes I have a baby that comes through that leaves my head scratching. Why on earth is this baby SO upset? And let me preface this section with the fact – this RARELY happens. Out of 10 years in business, I’ve seen a handful of babies total with issues that prevented us from having the session.

A paediatrician will quickly catch a tongue-tied baby very early on. That’s why they keep you in the hospital, to monitor feedings, bowel movements, and Mum. They will make a small cut to that skin under the tongue to release it and allow the baby to latch properly. Sometimes the sensitivity will prevent the baby from feeding properly and we’ll have a fussy baby on our hands come session day. Nothing we can do other then reschedule and hope for the best.

Another procedure that can impair a session is a circumcision. If possible, we would schedule our session prior to the procedure and match it to the 7-10 day window as closely as possible. If the timing doesn’t work, 1 week post procedure is our timeframe. I like to give the wound enough time to heal so that there is no risk of infection or any sensitivities.

Lastly, sometimes we have a wakeful newborn photo session due to a cluster-feeding day. Most of the time this is still OK, and we can proceed as normal. But once in a while the baby is SO hungry that they will not allow this. This is especially true if exclusively breastfed. I will always respect your choice of how to feed your baby and pass no judgements or recommendations that trump your wishes. We would reschedule the session for a few days later, or up to a week – depending on how much the baby is still feeding.

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