One of the main questions I am asked when someone first contacts me about a maternity/newborn photoshoot, is why must it be done so soon after birth?. It is 'recommended' that newborn photoshoots take place before the baby is 14 days old for many reasons and I will go over them here now, but I do want to stress that every single baby is different as is every photographer. I also want to stress that it is a recommendation, NOT a RULE.
So.... Why before 14 days?
To start, newborn babies are born with nearly 300 ‘bones’, while a full-grown adult has only 206. That's nearly 300 bones & cartilage pieces, which after that 10-14days (2 weeks) mark, start to fuse together into calcified bone, making it much harder for them be posed in positions such as 'in-the-womb'. It is much more comfortable for them to be moulded into the adorable positions while they still have the luxury of flexibility. As I said before however, every baby is different, and it depends on their individual growth speed whether or not they are safely able to participate in a true newborn session.
If these are the sorts of photos you are interested in I would personally recommend scheduling the session after 3-5 days, especially for breastfeeding mums, as by then most feeding issues (if any) have been resolved so baby can be well fed and therefore sleep soundly. (Think 'Milk Drunk')
I'll be honest, Newborn shoots are hard work. Often in very warm rooms with heaters and white noise. I don't personally time newborn shoots in order to help parents and baby to be as relaxed as possible. So if the baby is younger than 10 days old it does make my “job” a little easier, but it’s not something I strictly enforce. I try and do my best for every single client no matter how old the baby, no matter how hot I get.
Of course posing and expectations may change, but regardless of the age, mom and dad will receive gorgeous images from their session with any GOOD professional photographer. They may not be the elaborately posed setups, but they will capture beautiful portraits their baby and give the family images to cherish forever.
I have one more strong suggestion; that mom should be included in these images no matter what the circumstance of how she thinks she sees herself. You will always be gorgeous mama to your baby!
Between 5-10 Days a baby is more likely to be:
* More Sleepy: During this period, they are sleeping the majority of the time, and this makes it very easy to get them into poses without causing them too much discomfort.
* Easier to pose: because the newborn hasn’t been out of the womb for a long period, they are typically more “malleable” for lack of a better word. Essentially, from being scrunched up in the womb, they are more flexible making it easier to move from pose to pose without causing any discomfort.
* Have established feeding (Occasionally) Not always the case, but it is more common that if breast feeding, mother and baby hav established 'some sort' of routine and baby will be more likely to have a good feed, and help to keep him/her to sleep more soundly.
* Baby's umbilical cord: After 5-7 days there is a good chance that the newborn’s umbilical cord will have fallen off, so you won’t have to compromise poses to try to hide the cord. However, in general, it can take anywhere between 1-3 weeks for the stump to fall off, but if it hasn’t then this is usually removed in post processing.
* Newborn's skin should be more free of jaundice/baby acne: During that magic window, the baby should be doing quite well and hopefully, mostly clear of any early set Jaundice. Again, this is a general rule, and circumstances will vary. Also, within that first 2 weeks, the baby should also be mostly clear of any baby acne which typically occurs 2 weeks after birth and can last a few months. Of course these issues can be rectified in post processing, but it can be time consuming.
* Mum has some time to recover and parents have time to bond with their new baby. Can you imagine giving birth and then having to go home to a photo shoot? Shooting at least 5 days after childbirth gives mum some time to recover. Newborn shoots are tiring and can take hours, and when you leave the mum still has the newborn to take care of.
* Paternity Leave: In the UK, dad's usually are allowed 2 weeks of paternity leave. This is another positive to the newbprn session taking place during dad's time at home. An extra set of hands is always a bonus.
NOTE: These, of course, are just “general tips and rules of thumb” based on my experience. Of course, every newborn is going to vary. Some may be jaundiced for several weeks while others may not have any. Some may have flakey skin, but no baby acne.