Newborn safety is paramount when it comes to handling and working with the most fragile and vulnerable populations, and in my opinion, should be the primary concern of all photographers when meeting their tiny clients. Being a qualified and extremely experienced Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) nurse gives me an amazing insight into this, and something I know my families value when choosing me to photograph their precious little ones. After all…we have their most valued possessions in our care during a session.
As a NICU nurse, we are trained to focus on important factors such as comfort, thermoregulation and nutrition….or, in NICU lingo….pink, warm and sweet!! The same principles can be translated to newborn photography.
Keeping a baby comfortable during a session is so important….if baby is happy….mumma is happy, and then of course, the photographer is happy! An experienced photographer will remember, every baby is different, and not all will go into each pose. Some babies prefer their tummies, some their backs, some are happy to be curled, others prefer to be swaddled and wrapped. Ensuring we treat each baby as an individual and let them guide us with their cues during the session is invaluable. We must watch each pose and observe how well the baby is tolerating it, changing if and when necessary, also closely monitoring little ones circulation particularly with their limbs curled or tucked….remember, keep them pink! It’s also important that your photographer takes care to collect information from you as parents prior to the session in regards to your little ones medical history…. was there any trauma during delivery, have they had issues with their hips, have they been circumcised. If you have any other considerations that may effect the way your baby should be handled, be sure to share this with them. Rescheduling a session to ensure a little one is most comfortable is easily done, and very important.
Another important consideration is comfort and safety when using different props and poses. Many images in complicated poses or props are created using a composite image, ensuring safety of the baby is maintained at all times. Other simple elements such as having a second person, either an assistant or mum/dad to spot the baby and stand close for support, keeping a hand on bub at all times, and weighting baskets securely before putting a baby in to create a firm base of support during posing are also important. Another factor is newborn anatomy, keeping in mind their head weighs approximately 25% of their total body weight, which in proportion makes them very top heavy and is definitely something that needs to be considered when posing. Always keep a baby low when hanging, and use bean bags underneath when suspending. We must also take extra care with firm surfaces and always use towels, beanbags and pillows for support if able.
Keeping tiny neonates warm is essential in the NICU, and the same goes for a photography session. Newborns have an inability to regulate their own temperatures and therefore need more support than an older client. Add to that they are usually undressed and exposed. It is important to keep the session environment warm with the use of air-conditioning or heaters, I set mine to 29 degrees Celsius. Considering these tiny ones have spent the past 9 months in a snug warm environment…it can be a major adjustment. Warmth ensures comfort…that is for sure.
Another thing to consider when it comes to the safety of such a vulnerable population is health and hygiene. Photographers should always wash/sanitize their hands prior to handling little ones and after cleaning up ‘spills’!! Also laundering linen and wraps in between clients, and if the photographer themselves are at all unwell, they should consider rescheduling a session. A common cold for an adult can be catastrophic in a vulnerable newborn. Their immune systems are functionally immature in the first 4-6 weeks of life and they should never be put at risk if you are at all unwell. Of course both my assistant & myself are up to date with our immunizations, something we consider extremely important.
And finally….while it doesn’t influence newborn safety during a photography session as such, it is the most important thing in relation to comfort and that’s nutrition…..keeping tiny one’s sweet (with stable blood sugar levels) and nourished. Read a newborns cues, stop for feeding breaks. A baby that is unwrapped and being handled may want to feed more frequently than usual, and that’s ok. Your photographer should always work on with your baby’s timetable, and the rewards will be limitless!
I hope that all of my families feel comfortable, safe and relaxed during their session and take away memories of nothing but comfort and love.