Things You Can Do:
Treat the baby as if he or she were alive.
Call the baby by their name. They are still a person.
Ask the family what their wishes are.
Encourage the family to hold their baby.
Encourage the family to have some skin to skin time.
Place a ‘tear drop’ next to the patients name on the door of their room. That way anyone entering knows that they have suffered a loss.
If possible have the family in a room that is not on the same level as the rest of the maternity ward. Hearing babies cries will be a knife in their heart. If this is not possible gently let the family know that they may hear other babies cries and that you know this will be hard for them.
If possible under hospital regulations ask the family if they would like to take their baby outside under some sunshine, or even take their baby home with them over night.
Let the family be angry. If they snap at you, try not to take it personally. They have just had their hopes and dreams for the future brutally shattered.
It is okay for you to show emotion in front of the family. It shows that you really care.
Take photos of the family with their baby
Help to bath the baby.
Take hand and footprints.
Take a lock of hair if possible.
If the photographer services are available such as Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep (USA) and Heartfelt (AUS) please ask the family if they would like these services.
Offer hospital services if they are available like grief counselors and Chaplins.
Send the family a card after they leave hospital.
With everything thing on these lists of things to do please ensure that the family gets some quiet time together with no interruptions by staff, family or friends. At the least a solid hour. Advise the family that you want to give them some time and that if they need anything to call the midwife.
Things Not To Do Or Say
Do not be overly happy around the family. While this family does need positive energy, being cheerful is not appropriate at a time like this. They need a gentle voice.
Avoid harsh medical terms to describe the baby like “fetus” Do not say things like “The baby needs to go back to the freezer now” Yes. A doctor did say this to his patient.
If you need to take the baby out of the room for any reason, make sure the family sees that their baby is wrapped and warm. Even though the baby cannot feel anything at all, the family wants to know is that their baby is warm and secure.
Do not tell the family that they are young and they can try again. Do not mention the possibility of another child at this time. This little one cannot be replaced.
Never tell the mother or father not to cry.
For 6 week postpartum checkups:
Advise the receptionist staff that the patient lost their baby and to be compassionate towards them.
If you have a spare quiet room they could wait in that would be so wonderful as seeing other women come in with their newborns could be heartbreaking for the patient who as no baby to care for.
Do not rush through the appointment.
Ask the woman if their was anything she felt the hospital could have done better.
We thank you for taking the time to read this information and if you are ever in the situation where the family you are caring for has lost a baby, know it is a great honour for you to share this experience with them even if it is completely heart breaking.