I recently did a newborn session for a client who asked if newborn sessions should really take place within baby's first 5 days. While I've never personally gone through the process of giving birth, I have been in the homes of many families have done those things and I'm going to be honest... Trying to get a newborn session done within baby's first 5 days is ambitious to say the least!
That's not to say it cannot be done. But those first few days after coming home from the hospital are a whirlwind. If you're getting enough rest and the baby is doing well, you can certainly schedule a session within those first 5 days. However, when clients book a newborn session with me, I try to get the session done within the baby's first 6-10 days. Prior to the 6th day, the baby is still adjusting to life outside of the womb. Breast milk starts to come in between days 3-5, so scheduling the session before day 6 can lead to many breaks for breastfeeding, restlessness for the baby, and fatigue for mom. Of course if the baby is not breastfeeding, the complexity of this timing doesn't apply.
From day 11 and on, the sleep pattern starts to change and the baby starts to develop muscle tone in the arms and legs. The baby may start staying awake for slightly longer periods of time between feeding, which can make the newborn session last a little longer. And when muscle tone starts to form, it can make the baby a little less flexible for the tight swaddle wraps you see in newborn photos. So ideally, I try to get the session done within baby's first two weeks.
Some photographers lean towards only doing the session in the morning time, since that is when babies are most sleepiest. But I have found that morning doesn't always work light-wise with lifestyle newborn sessions that take place in my clients' homes. So I work to schedule these around times when the light is strongest in the rooms my clients like to use. Typically clients use a combination of the nursery, the master bedroom, and/or the living room. If you're not sure when those times are, no worries! I have a few resources for helping us figure that out. Especially since the light in those rooms will be different today as compared to 6 months from now, as we enter a different season with either shorter or longer days.
Hopefully this post has help shed some light (no pun intended) on when it's the best time to schedule your newborn session. Each baby is truly unique, so it's possible that some or all of these guidelines may not apply. But having been a lifestyle newborn photographer for over 10 years now, and photographing over 100 newborns, these general guidelines for scheduling have worked for most clients. If you're looking for more tips on newborn sessions, you can check out my post on how to prepare for your session here! And if you have any questions, drop me a comment below or shoot me an email. I'm happy to help!