Welcoming a newborn baby into the family is one of the greatest joys in life! For everyone, the anticipation of meeting the newest addition, is exciting! Thoughts turn to who they may look like, and what colour hair they will have. The wonderment is endless.
But for some of the youngest in the family- the older brother or sister (more often than not a toddler), as well as thoughts of curiosity, a new baby might also mean thoughts of jealousy or feelings of anxiety as their daily routines are thrown out the window, Mum and Dad are both tired and have a shorter fuse and suddenly Mum has someone else in her arms ALOT! Mum might also have a sore tummy and can’t pick them up as much as before the birth. For so many reason’s, a toddlers behaviour can be challenging just after the birth of a new brother or sister.
Now let’s throw in a photography session where the focus is on the newborn not the toddler, and if it’s not done with sensitivity and planning, a whole lot can go wrong!
Firstly, I ask the parents to explain prior to the session and on the way to the Bubbalicious Studio to the child what is going to happen. A lady with a camera is going to take some photos of them cuddling their new baby. Once they have arrived, I introduce myself to the whole family and explain that I am going to take some photos of their family. I say to the child “I am going to take your photo today, won’t that be great!”, and start the session with toddler/older sibling photos, then family photos, this is so that the younger children can then relax and not become too imaptient and distracting whilst waiting to have their portraits taken. A responsible adult can then take them for a walk to the local park, or have a rest while I finish the portrait session with the newborn. If the child is capable of having a short conversation or a little laugh I go for it to break the ice. However, sometimes a new face, a new environment, and a camera pointed at them may induce a huge amount of shyness and trepidation. To help warm the toddler up, I talk as I normally would, take the newborn and wrap them, chatting happily to the parents and marvelling at the newborn squishyness placed on my lap. Whilst doing this, I try to engage the toddler as well, and ask questions such as “have you had a cuddle yet”, trying to ask all “yes”questions. I want the child motivated to have fun with me, and comply to gentle coaxing. This happens to go pretty well for the majority of my clients.
I also advise parents that it is best to come to me as soon as is possible. Preferably within the first week. In those first few days of having a new baby, everything is a novelty, and mostly the younger children are happy to have a new member of the family. After the first week however, things can change as they realise that the baby is not going away. This can be a very sensitive time for the toddler when they realise that their baby is here to stay, and they are not the sole entertainment for their parents.
For some younger children, a little more than just chatting and asking is needed. For the more anxious, non compliant toddlers, I use a couple of techniques. Firstly, I always have a teddy or a balloon handy as a bribe. Secondly I try to capture them doing normal things such as touching, and smelling their new baby sister or brother. And thirdly, if all else fails, I use a composite of two photos (merging them in Photoshop) to make sure I get that magical shot that all parents want, a beautiful portrait with all their babies in the one photo.
This ensures that baby is safe at all times, and has minimal adverse reactions to the fractious toddler. The little chap in the photo above is a ball of energy, and has just turned 2 years old, so keeping his attention and asking him to do certain things such as hold his baby sister was a little too much for him to handle. Rather than insist and stress him to the point of no return, we just went with the flow and what his needs were and managed a composite and him and some interacting with his baby sister. He needed minimal sitting, and looking at camera- Dad was holding a video up for him to watch in the sitting photo, and some action/doing shots, asking him to smell his baby sister “what does she smell like? Does she smell like chocolate?”, counting her toes etc.
Knowing that the parents will cherish these portraits forever is a grand feeling.