When talking about siblings and newborns, this can always be a topic that is difficult to approach. There is a whole spectrum of emotions and viewpoints that siblings can have as they become the big sibling. So, let me show you some different methods I use and photo inspiration to help ease the stress of the new family dynamic when bringing a baby sibling home.
I think the main reason I love siblings at newborn sessions is you get to capture forever the first moments of their lifelong relationship. At Fresh48 sessions, you get the very first meeting of brothers and sisters. For lifestyle sessions, you see this bond forming and growing in the comfort of their own home.
And the other main reason I love newborn sessions with big siblings is the atmosphere. Sessions with siblings take an atmosphere that is soft, quiet, and delicate to something with more vibrancy and fun. When the first baby is born, there is no extra noise (yet). However, throw a 2 or 3-year-old into the mix and you get funny facial expressions, toy trucks driving over a baby’s leg, or jumping on the bed that adds a different life to a session.
Now I will say, entering into a documentary role of this emerging bond is not always rainbows and unicorns. While the focus at newborn sessions is obviously on baby sibling, we don’t want to forget that brother or sister has a very special place and time to be highlighted within the session. The session is mostly about the newest member of the family, but this is a both/and type situation. The sibling is very important to the over all story of the family.
So, here are some of the things that I do to make big brother or sister feel extra special.
Now I mean this in two ways.
First, parents should really try to keep the expectations light for how the session will unfold. I have been a photographer for quite a while now. Siblings and newborns are something that I deal with on the regular. While my title might say photographer, I do have experience in interacting with children to reach the desired outcome. I promise, you can trust me to handle whatever your big kid might throw at me (figuratively and literally).
Second, is to keep the expectation light for how your older child might behave. I know when I had kids 2 and 3 in my family, I treated my big kid like he should have matured almost overnight. On the outside I ca clearly see that isn’t fair to him. It’s helpful to keep in mind that they are still young. Any extra demands on them might cause them to pull away, or to act more child/infant-like than normal simply because their world has been completely turned upside down.
Triggers I look for are:
Again, their world has just been rocked. So, we want to be sensitive to what their little hearts and minds are experiencing in this new season.
Something I like to do is take advance of lull times during a session. This usually presents itself if mom needs to step away to nurse the baby. I will usually engage with the sibling by playing together with their favorite toy, or by asking them to show off their bedroom to me. Sometimes I even take pictures specifically of the sibling by themselves or even special sibling and dad photos. This is intentionally without the newborn in the photo (or even in the room). I find that it makes sibling feel like a visitor came to see them too, not just the new baby. Someone is excited to see them, talk to them and interact with them specifically. It really does go a long way.
Once the baby returns, I very intentionally try to ensure that my complete attention doesn’t go right back to the baby. A little trick I use is to try to make them my little photo assistant. I will ask them to go grab a toy phone or toy camera they have so they can help me take pictures as well. They can come along next to me and somewhat be in charge of their surroundings.
Let me be clear! When interacting with siblings and newborns together the main goal is the safety of the newborn. Big brothers or sisters will most likely not know the proper physical handling and care that their baby sibling needs. So, it’s my job to show them the way, while also making sure I use foolproof poses to keep anything from going awry.
Another added measure I will often utilize when photographing siblings and newborns together is to make sure that baby is swaddled. The younger the older sibling is the more that this is necessary. It’s much easier for the younger siblings to hold a football-shaped baby as opposed to one with arms and limbs that move involuntarily and at random.
I’ll say it again for the people in the back SAFETY IS #1!
With that out of the way, here are some poses I love!
This pose is an easy one that you can create for both Fresh48 and Lifestyle sessions. Simply sit big sibling in the corner of a chair or couch that has a sturdy arm. This will serve to be a support for sibling as the hold up the head and neck of the baby. What I will do is securely place the elbow and forearm of the big sibling on the arm of the couch. Then just rest baby right in the crook of their sibling’s arm. The other hand just comes right in over the baby’s belly for a cute hug (and safety support).
Now one big caveat with this pose in particular. I always will tell the big sibling to make sure to wait for be before they move. Often times a sibling will decide “I’m done” before we are expecting it. They will then move right away and attempt to just push baby off to the side. Giving them a little heads-up to wait for your cue goes a long way.
This pose is gold for really little siblings. I’m talking 18-months-to-2-years type little. Just plop that toddler flat on their back right in the middle of Mommy and Daddy’s bed. (Closer to the middle than all the edges) Then have the sibling stretch their arms out like an “airplane”. Once they are still and in this position I will lay the sweet baby right up on top of the sibling’s armpit. Then, again, I will bring in the other arm for a sweet “hug” *ahem, support*.
This next pose is a simple progression from the first. The baby will stay flat on the bed (but I might slide them closer to the window for better light). We will roll big brother/sister onto their tummy. Then I will ask the big brother/sister a silly question like “does baby brother have a butterfly in his ear?”. What will happen naturally is the big sibling will snuggle right up close behind the baby. This is part of a set of poses I like to use for those hesitant siblings. They are great if sibling does not want to hold baby, which actually happens more than you would think. With a pose like this, mom and dad still get their cute photo of their kids together. Yet, at the same time we respect the wishes of the big sibling who has their own reservations and preferences.
Another non-contact way I like to snag those sibling photos is to use a bassinets. Then I can create a more natural and documentary look. I will often step back from the baby and just talk to the sibling. “Hey Sally, will you go over there and check that your sister still has a nose?”. I will also take this shot for Fresh48 sessions because each room has one of those clear acrylic rolling bassinets. When sibling meets baby for the first time these shots are priceless for catching the various expressions big sibling might show.
And this last one is unique and special to me. Somehow I managed to score a special prop on my neighborhood Facebook page (They can be good for something)! I have a little white rocking chair with a teeny tiny bassinet attached to it able to hold a baby. Luckily, this little contraption doesn’t actually rock too much. I could see an eager sibling rocking that little baby right out of there with the purest of intentions. Ha. So, for this, I will ask the sibling to go find their favorite book. I’ll have them do their best to “read” it to the sibling. Sometimes mom will even have a specific book that she had made with big and little siblings as the main characters of the story. It’s just a unique way to capture the two of them together.
Adding a new member to the family is first and foremost joyous. However, for siblings this can definitely raise some red flags. By honoring them, and channeling their fun spirit we can make your next newborn session something that everyone truly enjoys.
Check out 6 Tips for What to Wear for Newborn Sessions
or this Apartment Newborn Session.
Melanie B of Mel B Photo is a professional photographer based in Tomball, Cypress, and The Woodlands, TX. I specialize in Newborn, Family, and Maternity Photography. For more information on packages with me and/or opportunities to book, feel free to visit my website.
Specific Newborn Packages can be found HERE.
Have more questions about Newborn Session?
Check out my Lifestyle Newborn FAQ or Behind the Scenes at a Newborn Session
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