The following is a letter we created to help guide Healthcare Professionals shortly after the death of an infant. This kind of document can be important to families. The blog post “Wish I Had Known” can provide further insight about why it is important to us.
Dear Healthcare Professionals,
Thank you in advance for reading the enclosed “Letter to Parents“. The document is meant to help guide parents who have experienced the death of a baby through late miscarriage, stillbirth or as an infant or toddler.
When I was in labour with our first child, we arrived at the hospital excited that we were finally going to meet our little one, but our baby died unexpectedly during birth. We went home without our son Keaton, but did have memories of being with him, a few mementos and a camera full of digital photos. Our journey towards healing had begun.
We hope that that the “Letter to Parents“ may be an added tool for birthing professionals to provide support and that newly bereaved parents may be encouraged to read it. This letter highlights important things to think about in the short time that parents have with their baby before saying a final “goodbye”.
From our experience, we know that the support and guidance given to parents within the first 12 hours of losing a baby is important in the healing process. Here are some suggestions that may be helpful for bereaved families trying to cope;
* Have a system that signals to all staff entering the room that the baby is gravely ill or has died eg. teddy bear and butterfly stickers on the door.
* Remember that both the mother and father, as well as close family members are suffering the loss of the child. Reassure parents that they can spend time alone with their son/daughter without pressure to hurry checking in from time to time to see if assistance is needed.
* Research supports that physical contact with the baby and photos are essential to the grieving-healing process for parents
* Arrange for someone to take many different photos of the baby if the parents agree to this. In some areas, a Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep volunteer photographer may be available to assist. ** See below for key tips.
* Gently clean the infant before pictures are taken and ask if the parents wish to do the bathing. Encourage both parents to hold, bathe and dress the baby as they may be tentative to do so.
* Ask if the baby has been given a name and if so, note the exact spelling. Specify the child’s given names on the “Recognition of Birth” certificate and crib card.
* Have a hospital ID bracelet made for the baby as a keepsake. Use the infant’s first name when speaking to the parents as this validates the child’s life.
* Provide a timeframe and let parents know how long they have before having to say final “goodbyes”
* Ask if the parents would like a clergy member to bless the baby, discuss funeral questions etc.
*When the parents are discharged, have someone accompany mom if dad has gone down to get the car so that she is not left alone.
* Keep photos taken by the hospital on file, especially if the parents initially do not wish to see them. It is likely that parents will change their minds.
Please note that the parents will likely be in shock and may be angry. These emotions might be directed at you, but try not to take this personally. Simply show that you genuinely care.
Thank you for your support! A few resources specifically for caregivers who work with bereaved parents are included below. Please contact us if you have any feedback or suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Baby Keaton’s Parents
Stillborn at 39.5 weeks, Jan. 2009