1. Limbo, Rana PhD, RN, PMHCNS-BC, CPLC, FAAN
  2. Kavanaugh, Karen PhD, RN, FAAN

Article Content

Response to: Capitulo, K. L., Huang, Z., & Lu, X. (2014). Should parents and families of stillborn babies be encouraged to see, hold, and have funerals for the babies?MCN, The American Journal of Maternal Child Nursing, 39(3), 146-147.


The last issue of MCN, American Journal of Maternal Child Nursing (volume 39, number 3), for which we were the guest editors, was a special issue on Perinatal and Pediatric Bereavement. The Second Opinion column discussed the issue of parents seeing and holding their baby born still. The topic was the focus of much debate just after the referenced study (Hughes, Turton, Hopper, & Evans, 2002) was published. It is important to recognize that there are resources based on extensive cross-cultural research that support guiding parents in doing what they wish to do in all aspects of caring for their baby.


The position statement Caring for families experiencing stillbirth: A unified position statement on contact with the baby (Warland & Davis, 2011) was written by an international group of professionals and parent advocates and supported by perinatal bereavement organizations worldwide. It includes a background of research and evidence-based clinical guidelines that support providing parents of babies born still with the option of caring for the baby in ways that are consistent with their values, beliefs, goals, and cultural and spiritual practices. The statement reflects a perinatal bereavement culture of caring that values the uniqueness of each family's experience and expectations. The authors support offering options (including, but not limited to, seeing and physical contact) to families. They recommend that professional caregivers use a guided, rather than prescribed, approach; avoid coercive behaviors or language; and provide time for parent decision making (e.g., asking more than once about critical elements of parental caregiving). Prominent organizations such as the Pregnancy Loss and Infant Death Alliance ( and Resolve Through Sharing(R) ( also provide evidence-based position statements, education, and professional and parent materials consistent with the position statement's guidelines to assist professionals in caring for families whose baby died. The statement summarizes the work of researchers and clinicians who have found parents benefit from spending time with and creating ritual for their babies, as doing so affirms their experience of parenting and provides lifelong memories. In recent research on caregiving (Limbo & Lathrop, 2014), final acts of caregiving emerged as a highly relevant parenting task and supported the need for mothers to participate in the action that served as a transition to the baby's final disposition.


Professionals who care for families of babies born still have precious moments of time to make lifelong impact on their lives. Extensive research has provided the evidence that is needed to direct care that is given. Clinicians are encouraged to use these resources that have been developed by expert perinatal loss researchers and clinicians to provide the most compassionate and individualized care for families while considering family values, goals, and beliefs.




Hughes P., Turton P., Hopper E., Evans C. D. (2002). Assessment of guidelines for good practice in psychosocial care of mothers after stillbirth: A cohort study. Lancet, 360(9327). 114-118. [Context Link]


Limbo R., Lathrop A. (2014). Caregiving in perinatal hospice mothers' narratives. Illness, Crisis, & Loss, 22(1), 43-65.


Warland J., Davis D. L.(2011). Caring for families experiencing stillbirth: A unified position statement on contact with the baby. An international collaboration. Retrieved May 9, 2014,[Context Link]