What to do when a baby dies

There is no right or wrong time to call

There are no words for the unfathomable loss felt by any parent upon the death of a baby. It just seems so wrong that a parent should be arranging the funeral of their precious baby. Yet, it’s at this time, when you’re wrestling with the agony of a broken heart, that you are expected to make practical arrangements for the funeral. You don’t have to tackle this alone: we are here to help.  Our staff will support you in laying your precious baby to rest. We are dedicated to the highest levels of compassionate care and will look after you and your baby with the utmost respect and dignity. The funeral you want to have for your baby is entirely up to you and we will do our best to realise your every wish in saying goodbye.

First steps when a baby dies

Step 1

Looking after your baby

The first thing you’ll probably want to know is where your baby will go and who is caring for them. We realise how important having your baby at home with you may be – even for a brief time. Or we can look after them in our funeral home. We will support you whatever your preference.

Sometimes there can be delays, particularly where the death was sudden or unexplained. In this situation your baby may need to stay in, or be taken to, hospital until the medical cause of death has been confirmed. You don’t need to wait for medical certification to make plans; you can make arrangements whenever you feel ready.

Step 2

Spending time with your baby

There’s also no right or wrong when it comes to spending time with your baby. Parents frequently tell us that spending time with their baby helps them with the grieving process as making memories is so important. For some, it provides a sense of peace, closure and a chance to say goodbye gently.

If you would like to spend time with your baby, we can arrange this in your home or our funeral home. This is often a very special time and you may wish to read a book, play particular music, bring a favourite toy, drawings, cards or letters to leave with your baby.

Step 3

Dressing your baby

Despite the loss, you are still able to care for your baby. This may include providing clothes, blankets, toys, jewellery or other familiar items that have meaning. For pre-term babies, we can provide cosy handmade pouches, as even the smallest of clothes may be too harsh on delicate skin. Our experienced team will do whatever is required to make your baby comfortable.

Step 4

Keepsakes

You may wish to leave personal items with your baby such as a toy, photographs or other keepsake. If you choose to have a cremation, certain items cannot be cremated and we would return these to you before the funeral. Many hospitals provide keepsake items as part of their support to you.

Where possible, we can arrange prints of your child’s hand or foot or a tiny lock of hair for you to keep.

It’s so important that you feel able to ask us anything and we encourage questions, no matter what. Your baby’s funeral is unique and you can personalise it in your own special way.

As part of our service we offer you a little keepsake bear. Made by hand and in pairs, one small teddy can be placed with your baby in the coffin, if you wish, and the other is for you to keep.

Step 5

Registration

Registration is the formal process required for all babies older than 24 weeks of pregnancy. It is necessary to have done this in order to finalise the funeral arrangements which may have already started as you can contact us at any time you feel ready. The death certificate will be issued by your GP or hospital doctor and we can advise and help you with registration. For babies under 24 weeks, certificates of pregnancy will be provided from the hospital or midwife.

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Step 6

Arrange the funeral

For babies, it’s common to have a private and personal time to say goodbye. Sometimes this may include family and close friends and it’s helpful to know whether you want a religious or non-religious, formal or informal goodbye. We are here to guide you if this is a difficult decision.

To help you decide whether to have a cremation or burial, we’ve set out the key considerations of each.

Step 7

Choice of burial or cremation

If cremation is your preferred option, a very likely consideration will be your baby’s ashes. Ashes include everything remaining after the cremation process; your baby, their coffin and any clothing or keepsakes that were placed with your baby before cremation. Ashes can be significant: you can keep them close to you, bury or scatter them at any time, now or in the future – there are options and you can have the space and time to consider what is right for your family.

For babies, the quantities can be very small. In very unusual circumstances, no ash can be returned. For pre-term babies under 24 weeks, where the hospital arranges a shared cremation on your behalf, no ashes will be returned.

In Scotland, there are no cremation fees from a Council crematoria for registered children under the age of 18. Also some private crematoria do not charge for services for under 18s. Your funeral director will guide you when it comes to choosing the most suitable crematorium depending on the number of people attending, location and technical facilities you might need for sound or weblinks.

If burial is your preferred option you’ll need to decide whether there is an existing family grave that is right for your baby, or whether to consider a new lair which other family members can use in time. For new graves, the main decision is which cemetery to choose: a church, council or privately owned cemetery or a woodland burial site. In Scotland, there are no burial fees applicable in Council cemeteries for registered children under the age of 18. Some private cemeteries do not charge for fees related to under 18s.

Step 8

Arrange a service or memorial for a baby

The event we arrange with you to lay your baby to rest will be unique to what’s right for you. Let us guide you through the considerations, from choosing someone to lead the service, roles for friends and family as well as finding the best way to take care of flowers, music, transport and notices.

Memorials offer parents a place to go and remember their baby in years to come and there are many options available. You can read about these considerations in our guide which can be downloaded below.

Step 9

After the funeral

Whenever there is a death in the family – even for babies up to a year old – sadly there are other tasks which can be hard to face. However, if you don’t advise some of the organisations below that you’ve experienced a tragic loss, you may continue to receive correspondence which can be distressing.

The ‘Tell us Once’ service

This is triggered at the registration of death and central and local Government agencies use your National Insurance details and the baby’s death certificate to update their records. This is particularly relevant if you are receiving Child Tax Credits, Child Benefit or any other benefit from HMRC. It will also be used for a passport as well as Council Tax.

We’ve put a small list of typical organisations you may want to contact – if relevant – to help with this process.

Financial

  • Banks and building societies/premium bonds
  • Holiday/family insurance policy provider
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Personal

  • Nursery or childcare provider
  • GP, hospital, dentist, optician and anyone else providing medical care: NHS or private provider
  • Libraries, children’s services
  • Church, synagogue, mosque, temple or other place of worship

Remember to include your online apps and email subscriptions relating to fertility, pregnancy or parenting. These are often highly personal and you may wish to review your settings.

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