The New Baby
Your new baby will bring joy but maybe also sorrow, as you remember the older brother or sister whom he or she will never know.
You may initially find it more difficult to feel a special bond with this baby. Many parents worry about allowing themselves to get close to or love their new baby too much, for fear of being hurt again. Usually this passes fairly quickly, as you get to know your new child. Sometimes people find that after their new baby has passed the age at which their other baby died, they seem to feel more relaxed and are more able to enjoy this new baby. However, this may not be a comfort for people whose children were older when they died.
You may also feel scared. This is normal. Even people who have never experienced death of a child will feel frightened by the responsibility of a new baby, so it is to be expected that you will feel afraid at times!
“I initially held back from loving too much to protect myself…for fear of being hurt again or of losing her.”
“Initially, my husband would check our sleeping baby constantly but I would never go and check particularly if she overslept. I always felt that if she was dead I wanted to postpone the agony of finding out. It is something I still cannot do.”
“I was surprised and unprepared to find that I grieved for Jacob all over again following Luke’s birth – Jacob should have reached milestones Luke was reaching, Jacob would have been as adorable as Luke. Jacob should have grown and flourished as Luke was.”
“Once the baby started to move inside me, I started to panic. I was frightened. I quickly convinced myself that I had never really wanted another baby. I felt that I would be unable to hold it, love it, breastfeed it or care for it in anyway. However I couldn’t stop myself from loving him, holding him and caring for him in every way.”
“Because Zoe died when she was 20 months old, we didn’t sleep properly until Lily was well over 2 years.”
“I also remember feeling so angry at times. It was bad enough that Jenny had died, but living with the fear that it could happen again seemed to be so unfair. The fear did seem to increase as the 10 week mark approached [the age that Jenny died]. The night that Allison was the same age as Jenny had been, was one of the hardest.”
“How many children do you have?”
It is probably a good idea to plan how you will answer questions from strangers who do not know about your child who has died, questions such as “Is this your first child? You may feel more in control if you decide beforehand what you will tell strangers.
“Personally I feel I need to acknowledge Julia (our baby who died) even more so after the birth of Matthias.”
“I choose who I tell. Sometimes I say I have four children, and sometimes I say I have had five. I am only interested in talking to people that I feel comfortable with, about my child who has died.”
It is normal to look for similarities and differences throughout the pregnancy and when the new baby arrives. If your child had not died you would certainly have compared a new brother or sister to them. You will still do this and when others compare them too, it will reassure you that your child is not forgotten.
“I was pleased at how much Kaitlyn looked like Daniel. Not identical, but she looked like his sister.”
“No-one in the family, not even my husband, could see a resemblance between my lost Geoffrey and my new Jonathon. No-one wanted to acknowledge that Geoffrey had ever existed. But I knew that Geoffrey was very special and he would always live in my heart.”
“I never realised how soft a baby’s skin is and how wonderful that baby smell is until after Jenny died. Allison and Christopher brought back those smells and touches.”
Choosing a name
You will be conscious that this next child has his/her own distinct identity. Occasionally parents make a link with the child who has died by including that child’s name as a middle name. There is no rule about this.
Your child’s belongings
Some parents decide to keep in a special place a selection of the clothes and toys that belonged to their child who has died. The remaining items then might be used again for the next child, or given away. There are no right or wrong choices about this – do whatever feels right.
“We had decided that we wanted as many things different from when we had Mitchell as possible. For example Jacob slept in the same room as us. Mitchell slept in his own room. Mitchell had slept in a bassinette. Jacob slept in a cradle. Jacob and Mitchell were born in opposite seasons so I didn’t have to face the issue of Jacob wearing Mitchell’s clothes. I did however use the same nappies, singlets etc.”
“I had made a couple of quilts for Daniel and was happy to use these for the other babies. Likewise, with many of his toys. But a couple are kept out of reach and remain Daniel’s.”
“As Megan died at the age of 4 months, a lot of her clothes were never worn. However she did have some special dresses … we decided that Sarah would not wear these.”
“We decided not to use any of Joshua’s belongings for Trent, as Trent was a new person and had to have his own clothes, bed, etc.”
“Our new daughter wore some of Zoe’s clothes, just as she would have if Zoe had lived. It gave me a sense of continuity within the family.”
Some parents find it reassuring to have an intercom between rooms monitoring noises in a child’s room. These intercoms are for reassurances and allow parents to be responsive to children who are in another room. They are not used for monitoring breathing or sleeping position.
Parents who have had a child die suddenly or unexpectedly may make enquiries about the use of monitors to detect the possibility of a cessation of breathing. An apnoea monitor is a piece of medical equipment, which detects changes in a baby’s breathing pattern. Apnoea is a medical term which means that breathing has stopped. It is known that short periods of apnoea are normal in infants.
There is no evidence that using an apnoea monitor prevents SIDS, or that there is any scientific benefit from the monitors. Some parents may feel more relaxed and reassured using a monitor for a subsequent child, but others may find that using a monitor increases their anxiety, especially if “false alarms” are often experienced.
More detailed information on monitors can be obtained from Red Nose Grief and Loss. It is important if you decide to monitor that you contact a recognised hospital based Home Apnoea Monitoring Program so that you have technical support and learn how to perform infant resuscitation in case you should need it. Red Nose Grief and Loss can advise about this and can arrange for you to speak with other parents if you wish. You may also like to read the information on monitoring on the Red Nose website.
“We knew a monitor was not a lifesaving device. We wanted to focus on ‘the positive’ and for our new baby to be part of our family in as normal a way as possible. We were afraid the technological intrusion of a monitor would inhibit the adjustment process for all of us.”
“Living with a monitor can be challenging. Looking back, I realise how silly some of the things I did may have seemed to someone else. Like having a shower with the door propped open and the control box up on the bed, so I could see the little green light. I knew from experience that I would hear the alarm even with the door closed, but it was ‘just in case’.”
“We decided before I have even conceived that we would have a monitor… It would give us more of a feeling of control and that if he did die we had done everything we possible could.”
“I wouldn’t walk into the room if I couldn’t see that light flashing… I couldn’t put her (next child) in a cot without a monitor, because Ben died in a cot.”
“We decided against a monitor… we became our own monitors though. Kaitlyn went everywhere with me during the day. She was wheeled from bedroom to bathroom to kitchen to laundry to lounge – awake or asleep. She wasn’t left with anyone else until well over 12 months and slept in our room until she was nearly two.”
“We monitored James, Andrew’s surviving twin. The monitor instantly became a family friend. Patrick, our subsequent baby was also monitored – even in hospital – again with a feeling of real relief. Monitoring was a really important issue for our older children who were young teenagers. It lessened their anxiety enormously.”
This article was prepared using extracts from Another Baby? The Decision is Yours.1 The full text is available online or contact Red Nose Grief and Loss Services on 1300 308 307 for a printed version.
Last reviewed: 4/7/20
1. Bereaved Parents & SIDS and Kids Victoria. (2003). Another Baby? The Decision is Yours: A Booklet for Parents Whose baby or Young Child has Died and are Considering having Another Child. Malvern, Vic.: SIDS and Kids.