When Your Baby Has Died: Guiding You Through Grief
We are deeply sorry for your loss. Please know that there is not any one, perfect way to walk through this process, nor is there much anyone can do to prepare for such a heartbreak.
However, you are not alone. Other parents in your situation have contributed to this guide, developed to give examples of actions you might consider at this time to lessen regrets and make the your only moments with your child beautiful and healing.
We are passionate about giving parents access to helpful information when they need it most. Additional translations of this guide are available via the links below, and printed perinatal bereavement cards in English and Spanish may be ordered here for sharing with hospitals, doctors, nurses, etc. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions.
If your baby has died in-utero:
SLOW DOWN, there is no rush (unless medically necessary).
- Call a family member or close friend and have them make calls, letting others know that your baby has passed away.
- Look for a bereavement doula in your area that might be able to lend support to you and your family during the birth process.
- Request a room at the end of the maternity ward or on another floor to ensure a quiet space.
- Ask the nurses to give you a description of what your baby will look like after he/she is born.
- Plan to take photographs of your baby. You will only have this one opportunity to capture these images which you will cherish for the rest of your life. You can take the photos yourself or call a bereavement photographer, i.e., Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep (NILMDTS) 720-283-3339 (USA, Ireland), Heartfelt (Australia), or a local contact through your hospital. You can download a Remembrance Photography brochure here (includes a shot list for parents or family).
After your baby is born we recommend you consider:
- Naming your baby
- Having skin-to-skin contact with your baby
- Rocking, holding, kissing, and cuddling your baby
- Bathing your baby
- Putting a diaper and clothes on your baby
- Singing and reading a book to your baby
- Asking hospital staff for a lock of hair from your baby
- Taking photographs of and with your baby
You can request a religious service or ceremony in the hospital (i.e. baptism).
You can ask for a comfort cot or ice packs if you would like extended time with your baby, so that you can take the baby outside in the sunshine, moonlight, or garden, or simply spend more time with your precious child.
You also have the legal option to take your baby home for a home memorial/funeral should you desire it. If you do this, keep ice packs around and under the infant’s body at home. This can still be done if you ask for an autopsy. Visit When Your Baby Dies for more information.
After you leave the hospital we recommend you consider:
- Asking for someone to arrange meal delivery for when you get home.
- Deciding whether you would like to suppress or donate your breast milk. You may want to contact lactation consultant.
- Creating an online memorial on Facebook, Caring Bridge, or World of Remembrance to share pictures, your grief, and create community.
- Planning a memorial service.
- Sending out Born Still announcements.
- Fill out application for Certified Copy of Still Birth or Fetal Death Record (in California this is available through the California Department of Public Health Vital Records).
- Seek a support group in person and/or online.
If your baby will be born alive but is not expected to live:
- SLOW DOWN…re-read this guide as many of the suggestions may pertain to your situation.
- Ask the nurses to describe what you may see or hear during your baby’s dying process so that you are not feeling fearful.
- Ask if you can hold your baby while he or she passes. You may ask for privacy during this time.
- Hearing is the last of the senses to go, so sing, play music, read, or speak to your baby during this time. You will always be your baby's mother and father.
- You may want to consider organ donation.