It is a time of magic and wonderment, love and joy. The birth of your child is a celebration like no other. We promise ourselves that each moment will be cherished and preserved. From gleaming Grandparent to hourly Facebook updates, we share with the world our exuberance and the precious gift before us.
Today, Professional Baby Portraits have become an exploration of baby and family, love and uniqueness. Creativity has reached new levels unlike those ever seen before. Creativity, by nature, insists that we approach boundaries and take chance by exploring what is unknown. A common synonym for chance is Risk.
As I discuss portrait sessions with my clients and their newborns, we invariably reach the subject of slings, hammocks and other various “props.” I immediately turn this topic to safety. I feel keeping your newborn’s safety close at hand requires a greater understanding of holding techniques and your baby’s limitations. To aid in this, I have enlisted the guidance of my dear friends at Welcome Baby Care. The sage advice below is practical and written with one thing in mind, the wellness of your baby. Thank you Jen for the words of wisdom.
Baby Handling Safety Tips for Photographers (From a Professional Postpartum Doula)
By Jen Wittes
Newborn photography is not what it used to be. Even seven years ago, when my daughter was an infant, the standard practice for new parents seeking baby photos was to head to the mall to book a session at either JC Penny or The Picture People.
Now, parents undoubtedly favor individual photographers, who bring something personal to the experience and approach their subject with a wildly imaginative eye.
When my clients excitedly tell me that they hired an artistic newborn photographer, and proudly pull out their new portfolio to share, I can pretty much count on seeing at least one of the following: babies with props, babies propped up against props, or babies seemingly dangling in mid air.
The pictures are always amazing, but often make me bristle a bit. I can’t help but wonder about newborn safety. As someone who handles babies for a living, I think back to my extensive training and I think about the constant continuing education required to keep on top of the latest health and safety recommendations.
I am certain that most professional photographers are extremely careful, valuing the child’s safety over the ultra-cool shot. That said, I thought I’d offer a few tips and reminders, both for seasoned baby photographers and those just starting out.
- Babies need to be warm, warm, warm. About 75 degrees would be the low end of the recommended range. I’d go with 78 if baby will be naked. Have blankets on hand.
- Newborns do not like their backs arched. Their natural position is curled inward, as in utero. Keep this in mind when using props and devices. A baby’s spine, neck, and head do not have the proper strength to sustain certain poses.
- Many slings sold by big companies are extremely dangerous. I can’t imagine that a home-made hammock would be better. The risks you most likely have considered include the sling untying or dropping, as well as the baby toppling out all together. You might not know that another important health risk here is positioning inside the sling. When a baby’s chin presses too close to the chest, they may suffocate…even if the nose and mouth seem free and open. This is because a newborn’s airways are extremely small, shallow, and thin. Please take care to make sure that the baby isn’t so bunched up that they can breathe. In fact, as you are positioning the child, you should always place a finger in front of the nose and mouth periodically to make sure that you feel breathing.
- Ever heard of hip dysplasia? Better Google it. Many devices, carriers, and seats designed for babies and sold to families daily are not developmentally appropriate for the supposed recommended age range. Babies naturally splay their hips, in an almost frog-like bowlegged fashion. It is unnatural to force the legs together and it can be harmful to place them in a contraption that demands that the legs drop straight down. This places too much pressure on the hips, too early.
- When carrying/holding a baby, always support the head and neck gently with at least one hand.
- If you have positioned the infant on a prop in such a way that a fall is even remotely possible, a parent’s hand should be right there—just an inch away. Pillows should be present as well so that if the worst actually happens, baby will land on a soft surface.
- Photoshop is your friend. Think about what kind of crazy reality you can create without actually putting the baby in a dangerous situation. If you feel nervous or uncertain about what you are trying to achieve, stop. Listen to your instincts.
- Know that babies are individuals. What worked with one child may not work with another. Furthermore, the same baby can change dramatically—day to day, hour to hour, even minute to minute. If a content, sleepy, and still infant suddenly becomes wiggly, change direction or call it a day.
Welcome Baby Care is a wonderful source of information and assistance for Mom, Dad and Baby. I strongly encourage you to pay them a visit. Let them know you read this article on SMHerrick Photography’s website.
Please note that this creative and beautiful portraiture can be safely attained. It is your and your photographer’s responsibility to ensure safety. I am not bold enough to educate photographers, or parents, on the proper methods of this type of portraiture, at least within a blog post. Please use caution and good judgment when taking portraits of a newborn.