Family photos are such a beautiful way to document milestones and a new baby is a big one! However, with all the attention on the baby it can be challenging for some older siblings. Oftentimes it is chaotic when a new baby comes home – new routine, responsibilities and dynamic for all family members. Remember that a photo shoot is a new experience, too, and it’s a good idea to prepare yourselves just like you had to prepare before the newest bundle entered your family’s life. To make your newborn family session run smoothly, I’ve compiled some tips, strategies and advice for how to prepare older siblings for a newborn session.
With all the focus on the new baby, some older siblings feel left out while others embrace their new role with authority and pride. It is a great idea to let me or your photographer know a bit about your family and child(ren) prior to our session. (An informed photographer is a happy photographer). The pre-session consultation is a great time to tell me about the family dynamics and about your children’s personalities aside from just colors and props. I will want to know how they are dealing with their new family member, a bit about their temperament and even their favorite color, activity, game or program.
I like to talk to the siblings before I even get my hands on the baby, that way they feel like the session is about them too and not just their new family addition. I like to chat them up, talk to them about how the session is going to work and find our common ground. Eventually I will ask them if they’d like to introduce me to their new baby brother or sister. Sometimes they will and sometimes they won’t and that’s okay – children are unpredictable and if you are a parent I don’t need to tell you twice!
I always like to capture images with siblings first because then it’s about the siblings right away and their patience hasn’t been worn too thin. It’s also important to make them feel involved. I will ask their opinion and advice throughout the shoot such as “Which hat do you think will look best on ___?” or “What do you think the baby is crying about?” As a former teacher it is invaluable for cooperation if children feel like they are involved, that their opinion matters, and that they are cared for.
The safety of your little newborn and your children is of utmost importance to me. It is hard to expect a toddler to hold pose after pose for a few *minutes* at a time and unrealistic to expect them to hold their new tiny sibling. If you wouldn’t try it at home, don’t try it at the session for the first time.
Try a mock shoot prior to coming to your newborn session or have your family practice posing. Ask your child(ren) to lay next to the baby on the bed, lean in to kiss the baby or have older siblings practice holding their new brother or sister so that they are comfortable and confident. Not only does this encourage your child’s competence with the baby, it gets them ready to be in front of the camera (if they’re not already).
Newborn sessions can last anywhere from 2 to 4 hours and patience is not always part of the package with toddlers or even five year olds. Therefore, I always advocate planning an activity for the older siblings after their portion of the session is complete. I have had dads take the kids out for a snack, to a playground, to grandma’s house or any number of other fun diversions post photo shoot. If screen time is approved, I have a sitting area with a big couch and television to entertain and some snacks and water, too.
Planning ahead may also include a reward. This is completely up to the parents but sometimes it is helpful to have a little incentive for the siblings. You know your child best so deciding on what that may be is up to you but a little ice cream, game or other small token of fun can do the trick to secure some good family photos.
From crying hungry newborns to impatient toddlers it is easy to get frustrated or apologetic. Don’t! I (and all newborn photographers) know all too well that newborn sessions are dictated by the newborns and their siblings. This is okay. Remember to breathe and try to laugh and remind your family to do the same. It’s a snapshot of real life during a posed photo shoot and no one is perfect!
I can’t wait to meet your little ones for their newborn shoot!
How to Prepare Siblings for a Newborn Session article by Newborn Photography NJ Idalia Photography, located in Howell, NJ.