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Awake newborn photography – what happens when your newborn won’t sleep

Awake newborn baby boy in Mel Waite Photography studio

We’ve all seen them – the dreamy, delicious, peaceful newborn photos of a wee baby, curled up, fast asleep. We also know the reality of a newborn baby is far from that idyllic image most of the time. 

In newborn photography sessions, I always transform the studio into an ideal environment for a newborn to sleep. I keep it super warm, cosy and calm. Those perfectly sleepy newborn photos are usually captured in the small window between when a baby is settling and feeding, as well as working around background changes (and, of course, nappy changes!). 

 One of the most common questions I get asked by new parents, therefore, is – but what happens if my baby won’t sleep during the shoot? The simple answer is that we can capture plenty of beautiful awake newborn photos, with your bub’s looking alert and happy! 

 The full answer takes a wee dive into the world of newborn photography. 

So I’ll do my best to explain – I’d recommend grabbing a cuppa, settling in, and preparing yourself for some suuuper cute photos of wide awake babies…

Typically, a newborn will sleep between 16-20 hours a day – but the key thing to remember here is that the sleep is often in short stints, broken up by 30-90 minutes of awake time. However, if you find that on photoshoot day, your bub just seems to have saved up all of that energy to stay awake for your shoot, there’s no need to stress.

There are a billion different reasons why newborns won’t sleep during a photo session – from simply being hungry, to indigestion, and over-stimulation. Before your shoot with me, I’ll send you a blog post with some super handy tips to help you prepare for your newborn shoot to try and help with these. I also suggest that you don’t book any other appointments or activities prior to your shoot, to keep the little one calm and well-rested. (Another one of my handy tips is for breastfeeding mums to steer clear of spicy or rich foods before the shoot!) 

When you arrive at my studio, usually the first thing I’ll do is ask you to give your baby a full feed, and to try and keep them awake while they’re feeding to make sure they have a full tummy. I’ll then wrap your baby up nice and snug, to help settle them, and prevent their own arm and leg movements from startling them awake!

You can try every trick in the book –
but sometimes, they just really won’t want to sleep during the shoot. And that’s okay too! If these tricks don’t quite send them off to sleep, we’ll start things off with some awake photos on the bean-bag (which, by the way, is super comfy and makes it hard to resist sleep!). After about 20 minutes, if they’re still fussing or wriggling, we’ll run through a few things it might be and see how we can remedy it. Sometimes, it can be something as simple (and adorable) as falling asleep in mum or dad’s arms – so this makes for a perfect time to capture some family photos!

If, after trying everything we can, your little one is still not sleeping, then we just adjust the shoot to work around them! Being baby-led during my sessions is super important to me. We’ll choose setups and props that suit your baby’s energy levels and mood, whether it means focusing more on beanbag images and natural expressions, or even incorporating some of my awesome digital backgrounds to add variety to your image collection.

So don’t stress –
whether your baby drifts away to dreamland, or is as energetic as they come, I’ll work with you all to ensure we capture beautiful images of your growing family – and, most importantly, doing so as safely and enjoyably as possible.

Keep scrolling to check out some of my images of wide awake newborns – and, as always, click here to find out more about my family and newborn photography sessions! And, while you’re at it, pop over and follow me on Facebook to check out my latest work.