Why Are Newborns Asleep in their Images?
If you've ever looked at newborn photographs, you may notice that many of them are of the baby sleeping. Us newborn photographers do everything we can, including sending prep guides to parents, having a nice warm studio, and using white noise to keep those babies asleep! But why do we try so hard to keep them sleepy?
The main reasons are for the posing and facial expressions. While some babies are perfectly content with their eyes open, many are not. Young babies often have a hard time holding focus and making eye contact and often leads to eyes looking crossed. Or they just make lots of facial expressions that are definitely adorable, but you aren't going to want an entire gallery filled with those looks. Then it would be a little more "lifestyle" and a little less "posed". If baby does have their eyes open I will usually snap a few for mom and dad anyway, especially if they are content. As far as posing goes, most poses are so much easier to get baby to stay in if they are asleep. Newborns wiggle and startle a lot, and having a sleepy little baby is so much easier. Safety is also very important with posing and some poses require the baby to be very sleepy to perform safely. Someone needs to be within an arms length of baby at all times regardless if they are asleep or not, but some poses just simply can't be done with an awake squirmy baby.
So, what are some ways to assure a sleepy baby? Some things I include in my prep guide are asking parents to give baby a bath before coming over, change their diaper, and dress them in a button down or zipper outfit that does not need to be removed over their head. This keeps them awake at home so hopefully they'll be nice and sleepy when they arrive. Also, a nice full belly helps them to stay asleep. I make plenty of time in my sessions for soothing and feeding to help baby stay comfy. I also keep white noise in the studio during photo shoots and have a space heater to warm up the room. I check often to make sure the air is not blowing to close to baby, or over warming them. Pacifiers are also very useful for soothing into a pose. Even if you don't plan to keep using one after the session, having one at the session is very helpful.
Many parents will be surprised that their normally super sleepy baby is resisting sleep once they get to the studio. But something to remember is at home baby is probably snuggled up with mom or dad or in their nice cozy bed with nobody disturbing them. At the session baby will often times be naked which they are not used to. We are also gently moving them, straightening their fingers, and turning their faces toward the light to get those perfectly posed photos. They aren't used to being moved around and touched so much so they may get irritated. Some babies don't mind at all, but others don't like it as much. And all babies are so different! Some will be more stiff, some will feel like jell-o. I get to know each one a little by just holding them and moving them around what they will or won't tolerate. I hope this helps to give a little insight as to why we like the newborns sleepy for the sessions and try so hard to keep them asleep :)