After the death of a much longed-for baby or child, thinking about what to do next can feel completely overwhelming. Whether your baby or child died at home or in a hospital, or hospice, you do have options. Every parent reacts differently and how each decides to say goodbye to their baby or child will vary. There is no right or wrong way - it is a very personal decision. Knowing that you have choices will hopefully help you to feel that any decisions made, or arrangements planned were the right ones for you and for your baby or child. Most UK hospitals and hospices now have special cots (also called ‘cuddle cots’ or ‘cold cots’), or special mattresses, which keep the baby or child’s body cool, enabling parents to spend longer with their baby or child.

Taking your child home

Some parents choose to say goodbye to their baby or child by having them at home for a time before the funeral. In most cases, this should be possible, even when a post-mortem examination has been performed.

If your child has died in hospital or hospice and you wish to take them home yourself, you should be given a form by the staff that confirms your child’s body has been released to you. Alternatively, you can ask for help with this from the funeral director who can bring your child home for you, if you prefer.

Creating memories

When an older child dies you may have many memories to draw on in your grief but when it is a baby that has died, memories may be few and you may have very little in the way of keepsakes or mementos. When a baby dies around the time of birth, having the opportunity to create memories and keepsakes can be important. Take time to do what is right for you. View our resource for guidance on ways to remember. 

The funeral

Very few parents expect to be planning a funeral for their child. Although arranging a funeral can be painful and distressing, it is an important step in saying goodbye. It can be helpful to take a few days to decide what is right for you as a family as your first reaction may not be your final choice. You can choose to have a burial or cremation, a religious or non-religious service, in a church, at the graveside, in your home or anywhere else appropriate. There is no requirement for a religious minister to be involved and indeed no obligation to have a funeral service at all. You can create something that is meaningful to you and that expresses your hopes and dreams for your baby or captures the essence of your child who has died.

When a baby dies in hospital, the hospital can make the arrangements for you if you feel unable to do this yourself. It is helpful to find out what sort of funeral the hospital would provide.

In England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, provided you have followed all the correct procedures for registering a death, you can legally arrange the burial of your baby or child at home, if you own the land. This will however be subject to guidelines from the Environment Agency for England and Wales, Northern Ireland Environment Agency or Scottish Environment Protection Agency. You will also need to check with your local authority with regard to planning permission, any covenants on property deeds and mortgage arrangements. Your funeral director will be able to advise you and help you with any relevant paperwork. 

Involving other children in the funeral 

If there are other children in the family, try to involve them in discussions about the funeral to help them feel included in this important event. If they are offered the option to attend the funeral or a special goodbye, they might like to contribute a favourite song, poem or reading. So long as they are prepared for what they will see and hear, most children find it helpful to attend the funeral. Even very young children, toddlers or babies can go to a funeral. They may not understand what is happening now, but when they are older they will be pleased that they were included. You may find it helpful to watch our short animations Explaining funerals to children: what happens at a burial and Explaining funerals to children: what happens at a cremation. 

It may also be helpful to ask another adult who is close to the children to help support them if they choose to come to the funeral. 

If a child does not want to go to the funeral, reassure them that this is OK. Perhaps they could join the gathering afterwards, or you could do something special together to remember their brother or sister who died.  Our short animated film Remembering someone special who has died has some suggestions for ways to remember, 

Visit our page: How we can support you for more on our services.

You can also call our Helpline 0800 02 888 40, email [email protected], or use Live Chat on our website.