Spending time with your stillborn baby

It’s your choice whether you want to spend time with your stillborn baby. Some parents say that it can help you to cope with the grief later on.

In partnership with Stillbirth Stories, this animation talks about making memories with your baby.

Although it can be a hard thing to think about, you’ll have to decide whether to spend time with your baby or not after the birth. It is your choice whether or not you want to do this, but it can be an important step in your journey of grieving. If you choose to do it, it will probably be hard and upsetting but it can also be a very special experience. One of the challenges is that you need to make these decisions quite quickly. 

For most parents, recognising your baby as a person is important. Taking time to create memories and acknowledge your baby’s existence in the world can be helpful. Parents have told us that it helped them cope with the grief later. Parents often describe having “one chance to get it right”.

You’re probably going to find it difficult to make clear decisions at this moment. Try to be kind to yourself and not be too hard on yourself if you regret making any decisions later. 

Holding your baby

After the birth, you’ll be able to choose whether you see and hold your baby. This is a very personal choice which you can discuss with your midwife and doctors looking after you.

In the past, many parents who had stillbirths were not allowed to see their babies. Some are still sad they never had this chance.

While you’re deciding, try to think about how you feel now, but also how you might feel in the future. Many parents told us that they were glad that they spent time holding their baby, even though they didn’t want to at the time.

If you’re frightened about what your baby might look like, you can ask your midwife to describe them to you first or take a photo for you to look at before you make the decision. You might choose to just see your baby’s hand or foot. Your midwife can help you with this.

Remember that it is ok to change your mind. Don’t worry about asking to see your baby even if you have already said no. If it is possible, the hospital staff will help you.

"It’s normal to change your mind. Any decisions you make around seeing or not seeing your baby don’t need to be final. Even if you don’t want to see your baby, having a photograph (even on a memory card), or a memory box you don’t open, is better than regretting your decision not to have anything at all."
Vicky Holmes, specialist bereavement midwife

Spending time with your baby

You might want to dress your baby in particular clothes, wrap them in a special blanket or bathe them.

You might want to sleep with your baby in a cot next to you for the night. The hospital can provide a special cool cot for this.

You might want to read a story to your baby or sing to them. Some parents may wish to say specific prayers with their baby. 

Take as much time as you need. It is your child and your decision. It is up to you who is with you and who is not. You will get support from hospital staff with this.

Some parents decide to take their baby home with them. Legally you can do this, unless a coroner or procurator fiscal has ordered a post-mortem.

Ask your midwife for information about taking your baby home. You will need to fill in a form and find out how best to keep your baby cool at home.

"Owen stayed at home with us until the funeral. His nursery was all ready for him so it felt natural to keep him there, in a coffin in his cot, for the following three days. It was comforting for us to have him with us at home."
Keith, who lost his son Owen. Read Keith's story.

This is your time, your baby and your memories. You will know what’s best for you and your family.

You may decide to name your baby. If there is any uncertainty around your baby’s sex, you could choose a name that could be suitable for either sex.

After being discharged from the hospital, you can still arrange to return to the hospital to see your baby. Contact the labour ward, mortuary or bereavement midwife who can arrange this for you. When the time comes for your baby to go to the mortuary, you can carry them there. This will also give you the chance to meet the people caring for your baby.

We have more information about creating memories of your baby and pplanning a funeral or arranging a blessing

Review dates
Reviewed: 11 February 2022
Next review: 11 February 2025