Adorable newborn photos are nothing new to the Facebook feed. Most parents that I know go crazy for these newborn shots — not only because they are heart-wrenchingly adorable, but they capture a once-in-a-lifetime moment with a new baby. But when newborn photos of a 6-week-old baby with Down syndrome were shared on social media, even the photographer was unprepared for the overwhelming Facebook response.
Photographer Katy Hibberd’s unique photos of 6-week-old Florence Witt were shared on Facebook by the Kids with Down Syndrome page, snapped in her photography studio Amor-Amor in Poole, England. Hibberd says she “couldn’t believe it” when young Florence smiled without any coaxing for the camera during the photo shoot.
Hibberd told the Salisbury Journal, “I’ve been a newborn photographer for three years now, but this is just amazing. The pictures had over 35,000 likes and 11,000 shares in less than 17 hours on Facebook — and it’s not slowing down. Last time I checked there were over 120,000 people from across the world liking the photos.”
Besides the off-the-charts adorable factor, what makes these smiling newborn photos special enough to go viral? According to Hibberd, and as most new parents know, it can be really difficult to get a good shot of a newborn — even while sleeping. Hibberd says it is pure luck to be able to capture a smiling photo of a new baby, normally achieved by tickling the cheeks while sleeping.
For Hibberd, the experience of photographing a baby with Down syndrome was new. Florence’s first response to her first photo shoot was seen in the “massive grin” on her face. Hibberd says she couldn’t wait to see the response the pictures would get on social media.
Twenty-six-year-old Kathryn, Florence’s mother, appreciated the photos both for their sweetness and their ability to raise awareness about Down syndrome. She explains, “I absolutely love the photos. Florence is a blessing, and I wouldn’t change her for the world. She is pure sunshine. Katy captured the moment of her smiling perfectly.”
As a mom who has seen more than my fair share of newborn photos on the Facebook feed, I can’t help but to tear up at the message behind this. Newborn photos are captivating because they freeze a precious moment in time new parents are never going to get back. For most parents, this is one of the first opportunities to bond with their child and see glimpses of the person they will become.
Florence’s angelic photos look like any other newborn picture you might see on Facebook, but they became popular for a reason. Kathryn wants parents to know why — these photos capture Florence for who she is: A sweet little girl who is not defined by any condition. Kathryn says, “She’s not Down syndrome. She’s Florence.”