Not All Newborns Sleep


April 2, 2021

not all newborns sleep, awake boy on cream backdrop

Today I would like to clear up a common misperception about newborn photography: not all newborns sleep through their sessions. I know, we all have that vision of that sweetly slumbering baby, curled and scrunched into those adorable poses, frozen in time forever. However, as Burtonsville’s premier newborn photographer for the last four years (it was me, I gave that award to myself), I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t always happen.

sleepy newborn boy on blue, starred fabric

Before every newborn session, I send out a prep guide to new moms and dads. I *used* to have on there something about keeping baby awake for a period of time prior to the session because I had been taught by my mentors to suggest this. I have since found that this isn’t necessary. Newborns have normal sleep cycles with periods of awake time and longer periods of sleep times. I have slowly come to realize that forcibly keeping them awake beforehand does nothing except interrupt their normal sleep patterns and cause them to be irritable and touchy during their session. Not all newborns sleep for the majority of the session but they all sleep for some part (however tiny it may be) of it.

collage of sleeping baby on neutral fabric

Some babies are peacefully and drowsy and fall into slumber with no issue. These babies settle into the warmth of the studio and the lulling sounds of the white noise and they are just floppy (in a sleepy way, not a deoxygenated way – sorry, nurse here), delicious, maleable bodies that are easily posed. Other babies fall into the “not all babies sleep” category.

not all newborns sleep, this guy did briefly

The babies who make up the “not all babies sleep” category are the curious ones. The ones who would rather stay awake and watch than doze off. They are wide awake and alert. They don’t stay in the positions they are put in because their arms and legs want to go where *they* want, not where *I* want. These babies need different treatment. These babies do best swaddled. The reason they’re awake is because their limbs have too many options. Why rest when you can punch your arms and kick your feet?

big sister cuddles newborn brother

Matthew was just such a baby. He was as cute as he could be but he Really. Did. Not. Want. To. Sleep. His mission was to stare me down and make me WORK. I tried to get those squishy, sleepy poses but he had a different game plan and, in my studio, the babies are in charge. I will work with the babies would want to be in charge because their mommies and daddies have paid me to achieve a certain goal – but in the end, they make the final calls on every play. And as much as it makes me job harder, not all newborns sleep.

not all newborns sleep but wrapping helps

What ended up working for this guy was using wrapped set-ups (where he caught a tiny micro-nap, like, seriously, the blink-and-you-missed-it kind), lots of feedings and the newborn photographer’s understanding that Matthew was the one in charge. At the very end, he had exhausted himself to the point that I managed to get ONE sleepy, unwrapped pose. Shortly, however, he realized what was happening and that was over really quick (I literally got two shots before he wised up). Thankfully, we got lots of great family poses to add to the gallery and this session was exactly perfect for Matthew because he is a strong guy who calls the shots.

big sister, baby brother on white studio bed

Not all newborns sleep…but that doesn’t mean we can’t get you a great gallery. It just takes a little more finesse but I’m up for the challenge 😉

sleeping newborn in Burtonsville photo studio

Liz Viernes Photography is based near Cloverly, Maryland, and specializes in maternity, fresh 48, posed and lifestyle newborns and first year milestone portraits.

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