Congratulations! Your family has added another little family member, and it’s such an exciting time to capture this moment in your lives! One of the best things about newborn sessions is the opportunity to get new photos of the whole family, including any older siblings. But it can sometimes be a challenge to get little ones to cooperate with the photo session. And that’s ok! Toddlers especially can be tricky and sometimes have a mind of their own… But a good photographer can make this process go more smoothly and capture images you’ll love. Here are a few tips for including older siblings in your newborn shoot.
An older sibling of a newborn is sometimes still adjusting to having a new baby in the house. They may feel that their parents don’t pay as much attention to them with all the needs of their new sibling, and that can spark jealousy or trigger developmental regressions or behavioral issues. This is completely normal! Take time to make sure your older kids feel involved in the photo session, both in photos with your new baby and poses of the whole family together. Your newborn session is a great way to let older siblings know that it’s not just about your new addition, but about your growth as a family, and to reassure them that they are still important although their role has shifted.
Your older child may still feel unsure or uncomfortable around the new baby, and that newborn photo session can be a great way to help them loosen up and get to know their new sibling. Some of my favorite photos are images of the older sibling holding, kissing, or snuggling the new baby. If you feel that it is safe given their age and behavior, you may encourage them to gently touch the newborn and to get close, which can lead to a lot of giggles and smiles and some great photos.
One of the most important things is not to be forceful in asking your older child to participate in the session. Stress levels can be high for everyone in the weeks after a birth, and children really pick up on that. The last thing you want is a tantrum or a grumpy face in your photos! Instead, encourage them to participate without forcing them. You may be surprised how much they enjoy being involved and having a “job” to do (helping the photographer, for example), and giving your older child space to explore and relax can result in more natural, genuine images of your family.
Your newborn baby won’t be the only one who needs breaks. Have some non-messy snacks handy for older siblings, and give them a chance to step away from the camera and just play or relax for a little while. Sometimes it’s best to take photos with the older sibling first, and then let them go with Grandma or a friend so they don’t get bored and agitated as the session goes on. Regardless of how your photographer organizes the session, be sure to include regular breaks throughout.
Rather than just telling your child what to do, give them a few choices, if appropriate, to help them buy into the process and be more engaged. For example, “Would you like to hold the baby or sit next to me while I hold her?” This trick works especially well for toddlers who love feeling a sense of autonomy and control. Just remember to make sure that both options are ones you are comfortable with, so it’s a win-win no matter what they choose
Sometimes young children behave much better for strangers than they do for their parents. This doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong in your parenting; it’s quite common and something you can actually use to your advantage in your photo session. Allow the photographer to take the lead and engage your child if they are comfortable. As soon as you’re sure your child is feeling secure and confident, try stepping just outside the room and allowing the photographer to work their magic without you there. Sometimes taking away the distraction of a parent in the room can help a child be more focused and intent on what the photographer is doing, which will result in better eye contact and attentiveness.
It’s so important to let your older children know what to expect from a photo session. Whether they love to be in front of the camera or are a little bit shy, talking to them in the days before your session about how things will go can really ease their minds and make them more comfortable with the process. Be sure to sit down with your older child throughout the week before your session and talk to them about how you’re going to have photos taken with their new baby sibling. As always, try not to stress because they will feed off your energy. With a little preparation, you may find that they’re excited to participate, which makes for wonderful photos!