Welcome! This page is designed to be a resource for women photographers who are either planning to become pregnant, newly pregnant or who plan to breastfeed while they continue to work. Of course, daddies are welcome too!
After having 2 babies in 2 years, breastfeeding both kids, and shooting weddings all the while, it seems I have become the go-to-gal for questions that my colleagues have regarding booking while pregnant, shooting while pregnant and nursing at weddings. I have received so many emails, calls and messages from new moms who are totally overwhelmed by the prospect of balancing mommyhood and their career, that I decided to write it all down here. I made this a private page, mostly so my clients don’t have to read about Round Ligament Pain and Mastitis, but feel free to pass along the link to whomever you think it might help. Also, if there are questions that I have not answered, feel free to email me and I will try to add it to this page.
And one disclaimer – I am not an expert. I am not a lactation consultant. I’m just a mom who shoots weddings for a living and who is devoted to helping out my colleagues. What I write here is not the gospel truth and is only meant to express my opinion.
Planning for Baby: When to get pregnant, when to tell your clients and how long can you shoot?
Q: When is a good time to have a baby and not miss out on bookings?
A: I struggled with this a lot with my first baby. I wanted to have a baby in December, so that I wasn’t too pregnant for my Fall weddings but would still have a couple of months off before my Spring season started up. So my husband and I started “trying” in earnest around March of that year. March became April, April became May, May became June and still no baby. Long story short, Baby #1 was born in the middle of February; otherwise known as 4 weeks before my biggest booking of the year. Then came Baby #2. Figuring it would take at least a few months of trying before I got pregnant, I stopped my birth control in January and – what do you know? – she was born the first week of November; otherwise known as one week after October, my busiest month of the year. The moral of the story is, Winter babies are best, but don’t count on the stork delivering at your convenience. A back-up plan and some savings in the bank are highly recommended.
Q: I’m pregnant! How should I tell my clients?
A: Congratulations! Now the fun really begins. I am sure there are different schools of thought when it comes to when and how to tell your clients that you are pregnant. I am sharing MY approach and what worked for me.
Although many people like to keep their Big News private for the first trimester, I felt an obligation to tell my clients who were affected by my pregnancy asap. Out of fairness to them and to give them time to hire a replacement if necessary, I chose to tell my clients nearly as soon as I found out I was pregnant.
So who are the clients that are affected? I chose to tell the folks whose weddings were scheduled during my last 5 weeks of pregnancy or during the first 4 weeks after my due date. In my opinion, these are the only people whose weddings might realistically be affected by my either (a) going in to labor or (b) not being cleared by a doctor to go back to work. I considered my pregnancy as a private health issue and my decision to work through my pregnancy as a personal issue. Other than those few clients, I did not feel the need to discuss my pregnancy with my other couples. Now, certainly, it became quite obvious to some that I was pregnant, but I did not address it unless they expressed concern, in which case I would reassure them that I planned to shoot their wedding and that my pregnancy would not interfere in any way with the quality of my photography or service.
Now HOW you tell your clients is a different issue. I emailed them each individually and explained to them that I was expecting a baby near their wedding date. I explained that it was still quite early in my pregnancy, but that I felt it was fair to give them as much advanced warning as possible. Next, I expressed my sincerest apologies for creating or adding to any stress regarding their wedding plans. I would then outline my plan for ensuring that my pregnancy did not impact their wedding day.
I learned that there were two basic scenarios. Either, (a) their wedding was too close to my due date and I would have to cancel my contract, or (b) I would likely be able to photograph the wedding, but for my own comfort and the clients’ confidence, I needed to have a back-up plan. In the event that I would not be able to cover the clients’ wedding, I offered a full refund of their retainer and assistance in finding a qualified replacement. Yes, my contract gave me the option of keeping their money and sending a replacement, but I did not, personally, feel this was a fair option. Note that this option means you have to actually have enough money in your business to give refunds. In my opinion, that should be considered when making plans to become pregnant.
In the more likely event that I would probably be able to shoot the wedding, but the client needed some extra protection, I explained to the client my back-up plan AND also offered them the option of canceling their contract and getting a full refund. Again, I didn’t have to give them the latter option, but I felt that should be offered out of fairness to the client. During my second pregnancy, I had 4 weddings booked from 36 weeks and on. I actually booked a very talented and highly sought-out photographer in my area to shoot with me. This means, I paid him a retainer and he signed a contract agreeing to shoot those last four weddings with me. In addition to him, I also arranged to have my regular second shooter cover the wedding day. The client was then given the option to either cancel my services and receive a refund, or to the honor their contract, knowing that, although I would shoot their engagement session and perform all of their album and processing work, I could not guarantee I would be there on the actual wedding day. To my surprise, every client chose the latter option.
Q: How far in to my pregnancy can I keep shooting weddings?
A: This is really a personal decision that no one can make for you, and is highly dependent on your health, fitness level and willingness to tough it out. During my first pregnancy, I chose to stop shooting weddings at the beginning of my third trimester; this was very easy to do, because it basically meant I was not booking weddings for December and January, which are very slow months here. I was grateful to have the time to rest and enjoy my last weeks of pregnancy, but I certainly felt that I could have worked a bit longer. With Baby #2, I was already completely booked for the month of October and my due date was middle of November, so I did not have the same luxury. My last wedding, while pregnant with Baby #2, was at almost 38 weeks pregnant.
Although I did manage to continue shooting through my last month of pregnancy, it was very difficult, both physically and emotionally. I was worried I would go in to labor, my husband was worried for my health and, frankly, the clients looked a little scared too. lol. I did have my third photographer with me for those weddings, plus a second shooter and I truly needed their help and support. Considering I am fit, healthy and I had two very easy pregnancies, I would not personally recommend shooting in your last month of pregnancy. Your mileage may vary.
I also want to mention something very important which is, at any time, your doctor can put you on bedrest and you will have to stop working, As each week of your pregnancy ticks by, this becomes more and more of a possibility. So plan accordingly if you’re a worrier like me.
Shooting Weddings with a Bun in the Oven: Tips and Tricks
Some things I’ve learned through two pregnancies -
1. Wear a maternity belt. Although not sexy (or comfortable), it made a huge difference for me in the later months of my pregnancy. A maternity belt is designed to cradle your tummy and take some of the pressure off of your lower back. It also helps A LOT with the wonderful Round Ligament Pain (aka, horrible stabbing sensation in your lower belly) that you get when you’ve been on your feet for too long.
2. If swelling becomes an issue, put on support hose in the morning before you shoot and wear them throughout the wedding day. Again, not sexy, but these will help to keep the circulation in your feet and ankles moving.
3. Drink plenty of water and eat plenty of snacks. It sounds obvious, but I found a direct correlation between my happiness and the amount of food and water in my tummy.
4. Pack light. Eight months pregnant is not the time to be dragging along that extra 25 pounds of camera. Pack what you need and leave the rest in the car.
5. Don’t forget your smile. Your clients and their guests are going to notice (and possible feel guilty) that you are shooting while preggo. Smile, be positive and never let them see you sweat. Now is not the time to be vying sympathy points.
6. Wear comfortable shoes with good support.
7. Plan to rest the day before and the day after each wedding.
Here are some random links to things that made shooting while pregnant and little more tolerable for me -
Breastfeeding and the Working Photographer Mom
So, your baby is born and you want to give nursing a try. Good for you! I am a huge proponent of breastfeeding and I personally choose to nurse my babies. While it is a challenge and can, occasionally, complicate your workday, nursing and shooting weddings is possible! On that note, I think there’s waaaay too much Mommy Guilt as it is, so if it doesn’t work out for you, that’s ok too!
One other note, this section is fairly graphic and includes lots of info about nursing and boobies in general. I feel that I can’t really help if I can’t talk about the nitty-gritty details, so enter at your own risk.
Q: How long should I take off from weddings after the baby is born, if I plan to breastfeed?
A. It will take several weeks for you and your baby to get in sync with nursing. Most mom’s milk comes in 3-5 days after birth, but it will take weeks before baby’s demand and your supply even out. For this reason, I recommend at least 6 weeks off from shooting after baby is born, preferably 12 weeks. With Baby #1, I had 5 weeks before I had to go back to work. He was still eating every 2 hours, which meant lots of pumping at weddings. After about 12 weeks, most breastfed babies eat every 3 hours during the day and every 5-6 hours at night. This means you can go a little longer between pumping sessions at weddings, which is a huge help.
Q: Do I have to pump at weddings?
A. Unfortunately, yes. Breastmilk production is based on supply and demand. The more your baby eats, the more your body makes and vice versa. If you are away from your baby for 6-10 hours at a wedding, you have to pump, or your supply will suffer. What’s more, you will be very uncomfortable and risk clogged milk ducts or a breast infection called mastitis. Personally, I even notice a slight decrease in my supply the day after a wedding, whether I pump or not. For this reason, I always plan to nurse very frequently the day after a wedding, to get my supply back up.
Q: What kind of breastpump do I need?
A: A good question. With Baby #1, I got a Medela Swing, which is a single electric pump. I never had very much luck pumping and really struggled at weddings because it took forever to empty my breasts. I never really could fully empty my breast at weddings and so I was basically very uncomfortable the whole day. It sort of soured my whole outlook on nursing and made for a pretty cranky momma on wedding days.
With Baby #2, I was bound and determined to have a better experience and so I sprung for the Medela Pump in Style, a double electric/battery-powered breast pump. Let me tell you…. SOOO much better. I can pump both sides and empty very full breasts in about 10 minutes. This has the benefit of allowing me to pump more often on stay-at-home days (to create a stockpile in the freezer – see below) but also allows me to take care of my business and get back to shooting when I’m at work.
All in all, a good breastpump is worth the money. I highly recommend the Pump in Style, but if you’re exploring your options, here’s what to look for:
-double pump (i.e., you can pump both breasts at once)
-should be able to plug-in and use batteries (a car adapter is an added bonus)
-should have replaceable parts (and don’t forget to carry replacements with you at all times!)
-lightweight and a reasonable size (a discreet bag to carry it in is a plus) – remember, you may have to drag this thing around all day!
Q: How often will I need to pump and when should I do it?
A: How often you have to pump will depend on how often your baby likes to eat. Remember, you are trying to fool your body in to thinking that you are with your baby; so, if baby eats every three hours, you should aim to pump every three hours.
Realistically, I’ve never been able to slip away that often when shooting a wedding. I usually feel pretty lucky if, during a typical 8 hour wedding, I can pump one time. So, I would pump right before my coverage starts, once in the middle of the day (right before the ceremony starts, during cocktail hour or during your dinner break is usually a good time), and again before I head home. I do generally get a little uncomfortable, but it’s tolerable.
One bit of good news is that, as your baby gets older, he/she won’t eat as often, particularly after you introduce solids. With Baby #1, by 8 months, he was only nursing about 4 times a day, which meant pumping at weddings became less of an issue. I say, if you can make it through the first 6-8 months pumping at weddings, you have made it through the tough part.
Q: How do I tell my client I need a break to pump?
A: Truth be told, I managed to shoot an entire season of weddings without my clients knowing I was nursing. I never actually have told a client I need to pump. I usually just slip away to the restroom and no one is the wiser. If there is a wedding coordinator (who is female), I do generally email her ahead of time and let her know my situation. I was so pleasantly surprised that most coordinators I worked with were very understanding and some even set aside a little time in my schedule for pumping breaks.
But if you need to tell a client, I would just be very honest. I’d let them know that I have a new baby at home and am breastfeeding and that, for my own comfort, I need to step away for about 10 minutes to pump. Honestly though, I don’t think it generally needs to be discussed. I certainly wouldn’t be expected to announce or ask permission to use the restroom, and I don’t see this as too different.
Q: But won’t I miss stuff when I take a break to pump?
A: Yes. That is why a good, confident second shooter is a MUST if you plan to pump at weddings. I would never sacrifice my clients’ wedding coverage by leaving the action to pump. It is essential that there is at least one person there to photograph whatever is happening. If your client hasn’t paid for a second photographer, hire one anyway. Think of all the money you’re saving on formula and spend a little of it to ensure you treat your client right.
Choosing when to pump is also important. I always take a long, hard look at the schedule of the day and mentally note a few times where I might have an opportunity to slip away. I never leave of I feel that I will miss something or compromise my clients’ coverage. But there are many times, when a little break will not interfere. Some good times might be: while the bride is touching up her makeup and hair before the ceremony, while the couple is eating, during a private, religious ceremony where photography is not permitted, during the drive between ceremony and reception, or any other time where there is a short lull in activity.
Q: What do I do with the milk once I’m done?
A: Unfortunately, you have to drag it around with you all day. Expressed milk is good, at room temperature, for about 2-3 hours. If it will be out for longer, I recommend carrying a small cooler and ice to keep it cold. The Medela Pump in Style includes a cooler that fits in the bag with the pump. You will want to keep the milk and take it home to replace what baby ate while you were gone.
Q: How much milk do I need to have saved up for baby while I’m gone?
A: At least enough for the baby to eat his/her usual amount while you are gone, but I like to have LOTS more. I am a big proponent of having a huge, Doomsday freezer stash before heading out to a wedding. I never felt like I had enough milk saved up with Baby #1 and it was very stressful. For me, I like to feel like if the client asks me to stay an extra couple hours, the baby has all he needs to get by. Then, of course, you replace what baby ate with the milk you pumped that day.
Q: When should I start building my freezer stash?
A: The sooner the better! Wait a week or two after your milk comes in and then start pumping once or twice a day and freeze it. It’s good practice for pumping on the wedding day and buys you a little freedom away from the baby even when you’re not working. Milk lasts in a regular freezer for 3-6 months and in a deep freezer for up to 12 months.
Q: What if my baby won’t take a bottle?
A: This was something I OBSESSED about with Baby #1. I was so worried he wouldn’t take a bottle and would starve while I was away working. It was really much ado about nothing. My pediatrician recommended that we give him a bottle at two weeks old. This was definitely against my better judgment, but he was totally right. In my experience, babies are very pliable and open to new things at this age and, for me, it turned out to be a good time to introduce a bottle. I did have daddy give the bottles, to avoid any confusion and to help baby to remember that momma has the good stuff. I also used a natural nurser bottle, which mimics the feel of a breast. Again, I’m no expert, but this worked for me and my babies.
Also, I love this site for all things breastfeeding related – www.kellymom.com
I hope that this has been helpful and, as I said, please pass it along to anyone you think may benefit from it. If there is a question I didn’t answer, feel free to email me and I will try to add it to the post. If I don’t know the answer, I will seek out some moms with more experience who may be willing to contribute.