What baby is considered a rainbow child?

A rainbow baby is a baby born after a miscarriage, stillbirth, neonatal death or infant loss. The term rainbow baby refers to the joy, beauty, and color such a baby can bring to a family that has endured the storm of loss. Rainbow babies are seen as symbols of hope and healing after a family’s dark time of grief and mourning.

What is a Rainbow Baby?

A rainbow baby is a baby born to a family that has previously lost a child due to miscarriage, stillbirth, or death during infancy. The term “rainbow baby” comes from the idea that a rainbow shines bright and beautiful after a storm passes. For families that have endured the “storm” of losing a baby, the arrival of a new baby brings color, joy, and hope back into their lives.

Some key characteristics of rainbow babies include:

  • Born after pregnancy or infant loss
  • Brings renewed hope to grieving families
  • Symbolizes light after a dark time of grief and loss
  • Celebrated as a miracle baby who helps heal broken hearts

The rainbow baby concept recognizes the beauty of new life despite enduring a previous tragedy. It honors the grief parents feel while also celebrating the blessing of another chance to welcome a baby into their family.

Reasons for Rainbow Baby Terminology

There are several reasons why subsequent babies born after loss are referred to as rainbow babies:

  • Represents the calm after the storm – Just like a rainbow appears after a storm passes, a new baby brings peace, calmness, and reassurance of better days ahead after the storm of losing a baby.
  • Symbolizes hope – Rainbows are an age-old symbol of hope and promise. For grieving parents, a rainbow baby represents the hope for the future and the promise of a healthy baby.
  • Brings color and vibrancy – A rainbow bursts with vibrant, vivid colors. Similarly, a rainbow baby brings color, light, and new energy back into the lives of grieving families.
  • Acknowledges the previous loss – Calling the subsequent baby a rainbow baby honors the loss while conveying this baby is not a replacement, but rather a renewal of hope.
  • Celebrates the miracle – After suffering the crushing blow of losing a baby, the arrival of a new baby is seen as an incredible blessing and miracle worth celebrating.

The rainbow baby concept validates the grief parents have endured while also allowing them to celebrate the unique joy, comfort, and wonder a new baby brings into their lives.

When is a Baby Considered a Rainbow Baby?

A baby is considered a rainbow baby when they are born after the loss of a previous baby due to:

  • Miscarriage – A miscarriage is the loss of a baby before 20 weeks of pregnancy. Rainbow babies can be born after one miscarriage or multiple miscarriages.
  • Stillbirth – A stillbirth is the loss of a baby after 20 weeks of pregnancy. If the subsequent baby is carried to term, it is considered a rainbow baby.
  • Neonatal death – Neonatal death is the passing of a live-born baby within the first 28 days of life. Babies born after this loss are rainbow babies.
  • Infant loss – Infant loss is the death of a baby between 1 month to 1 year of age. A healthy, living baby born after this loss is termed a rainbow baby.

The common thread is previous pregnancy or infant loss. Any baby born after such a tragic event, regardless of the exact circumstances, is viewed as a rainbow baby.

How Rainbow Babies Impact Families

For a family that has endured the devastation of pregnancy or infant loss, the arrival of a rainbow baby brings a powerful mix of emotions. Rainbow babies impact families in the following ways:

  • Renewed hope – A rainbow baby renews optimism about the future and faith that the family will be able to realize their dream of raising a child.
  • Healing – The process of carrying, birthing, and bonding with a living, healthy baby begins to mend the hurt from the previous loss.
  • Joy – Rainbow babies fill families with incredible joy as they finally welcome home an eagerly anticipated baby.
  • Gratitude – Parents feel blessed and extremely grateful for the gift of life represented by their rainbow baby.
  • Purpose – Rainbow babies give grieving parents a sense of purpose and a reason to look ahead with hope.
  • Worry – Anxiety may linger even as excitement builds. Fear of losing another baby is normal.
  • Validation – A rainbow baby reinforces that the lost baby was real and is forever part of the family.

Rainbow babies are an acknowledgement of painful loss coupled with the profound joy of new life. These special babies change families in incredibly meaningful ways.

Unique Characteristics of Rainbow Babies

While all babies are miracles to be cherished, rainbow babies hold a distinctive place in their families. Some unique characteristics of rainbow babies include:

  • Double celebrations – Milestones like pregnancy announcements, baby showers, birthdays may be celebrated twice to honor both babies.
  • Mixed emotions – Joy overlaps with grief surrounding the lost baby that should also be present.
  • Extra cautiousness – Anxiety surrounding the pregnancy and baby’s health can be elevated.
  • Overprotectiveness – Families may be very guarded and hyper vigilant about safety concerns.
  • Uneasy bonding – Fear of reattachment and losing another baby may hinder early bonding.
  • Cherished mementos – Mementos like siblings’ photos, bracelets, or artwork memorialize the lost baby.
  • Candid discussions – Talking openly about loss and using the lost baby’s name is encouraged.
  • Sensitivity – Friends and family should understand the raw emotions parents feel.

Rainbow babies are both a reason to rejoice and a reminder of what came before. Their presence engenders a range of unique thoughts, behaviors, and sensitivities.

Celebrating Arrival of a Rainbow Baby

The much-awaited arrival of a rainbow baby deserves thoughtful celebration. Here are some meaningful ways families can rejoice over their rainbow baby:

  • Have a special photoshoot featuring any siblings, parents, grandparents, and rainbow baby together.
  • Document baby’s arrival on social media with tact and tenderness regarding previous loss.
  • Send birth announcements that recognize the loss while announcing the joyous news.
  • Display any memorial keepsakes like siblings’ photos or hospital bracelets around baby’s crib/room.
  • Plant a tree, dedicate a garden plaque, or create other living memorials in lost baby’s honor.
  • Send baby gifts to NICU or hospital wings where family received care during loss.
  • Donate to organizations that support families through pregnancy and infant loss.
  • Have friends/family gift children’s books exploring themes of loss/hope to read with siblings.
  • Commission an artist to create custom art piece incorporating both babies’ names.
  • Have a naming ceremony or blessingway honoring both the rainbow baby and lost baby.

The arrival of a rainbow baby is a complex mix of grief and joy. Taking thoughtful measures to celebrate this unique time helps families process and reflect.

Supporting Families with Rainbow Babies

For friends and family looking to support parents of rainbow babies, here are some thoughtful ways you can help:

  • Lead with love – Offer sincere congratulations on their rainbow baby, while also acknowledging their previous loss.
  • Check in gently – Continue to follow up even after the initial baby excitement dies down.
  • Learn their story – If parents want to share, listen compassionately to what they’ve endured.
  • Tread lightly – Avoid trite cliches. Don’t point out every positive or minimize their loss.
  • Help practically – Offer meals, childcare assistance, grocery/errand runs to ease their load.
  • Give memorial gifts – Donate to a related cause or gift a remembrance bracelet in honor of lost baby.
  • Use lost baby’s name – If parents use the name, do so as well to affirm the baby’s place in the family.
  • Share stories/photos – If parents share pictures or memories of the lost baby, reciprocate with interest and care.

The best thing friends/family can do is follow the parents’ lead. Offer unending love while respecting boundaries. Rainbow babies heal many hurts but do not wholly replace profound loss. Gentle, genuine support makes all the difference.

Explaining Rainbow Baby Concept to Older Siblings

When a rainbow baby arrives after the loss of an older sibling, parents need to thoughtfully explain the “rainbow baby” concept in a way older children understand:

  • Reassure siblings the new baby does not “replace” or diminish their love for the lost baby.
  • Use simple nature metaphors – storms/rainbows, night/sunshine, winter/spring – to convey hope after sadness.
  • Explain rainbows can’t happen without rain; this baby was able to come because they still love and miss their lost sibling.
  • Encourage siblings to gift their love and guidance as a caring big brother/sister to the new rainbow baby.
  • Consider having siblings draw pictures or write letters to the lost baby expressing how they feel.
  • Let older children help choose special mementos, like necklaces or stuffies, to represent the lost sibling.
  • Read age-appropriate books together exploring themes of change, loss, and new life after loss.
  • Engage siblings in nurturing activities like decorating the nursery and assembling gifts to welcome the rainbow baby.

Above all, parents need to reassure siblings that while emotions may be complicated, love is not divided – it simply grows.

How to Explain Rainbow Baby to Young Children

When a rainbow baby arrives, parents need to use simple, honest language to explain the term to very young children:

  • Use brief, age-appropriate explanations about where the new baby “grew” (in mommy’s belly/tummy/uterus).
  • Children understand things coming and going; explain in basic terms that another baby was in mommy’s tummy before but couldn’t be born.
  • Use nature metaphors – the previous baby was a tiny seed that didn’t grow. This new seed became a beautiful, healthy flower/plant/rainbow baby.
  • Keep responses simple and focused on the new baby as an exciting new member of the family to love – not as a replacement.
  • Let young children participate in care routines with the rainbow baby so they feel involved.
  • If they ask questions about loss, answer simply without details beyond their comprehension.
  • Reassure them that feelings of loss and grief are normal, but now there is joy and celebration for the new rainbow baby.
  • Read simple books together that explore welcoming new babies after saying goodbye to others.

For very young children, parents can focus explanations on the baby as a new source of joy while preserving age-appropriate understanding regarding the previous loss.

How to Tell if You Are Having a Rainbow Baby

For hopeful, expectant parents, here are signs you may be carrying a rainbow baby:

  • You have a history of pregnancy loss through miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death.
  • You become pregnant again after actively trying to conceive or surprisingly conceiving.
  • You are filled with exciting anticipation but also anxious worry given your loss history.
  • Milestones like hearing the heartbeat or making it past the loss timeframe feel poignant.
  • You feel your lost little one looking out for you, sending this rainbow your way.
  • You treasure the miracle more given the painful road it took to arrive here.
  • Your hope is tempered by fear of losing this baby too.
  • You start dreaming of and making plans to welcome a rainbow baby.
  • You want to honor your previous loss(es) while also celebrating this joyous news.

If you sense your growing baby represents restored hope after profound grief, you may be carrying a precious rainbow baby.

Things to Know About Rainbow Babies

Here are some important things to know about rainbow babies:

  • The term rainbow baby is not meant to negate grief over loss but rather to acknowledge the beauty rising from it.
  • Rainbow babies bring purpose and meaning back to families after tragic loss.
  • Expectant rainbow baby parents may need extra support throughout pregnancy as anxiety is common.
  • Milestones and pregnancy announcements involving a rainbow baby are often bittersweet.
  • Rainbow babies can renew parents’ zest for living and give extended family optimism too.
  • Rainbow babies are deeply cherished but do not replace lost babies who are still loved and missed.
  • Having a rainbow baby does not mean the grief over loss is “cured” or forgotten.
  • Parents deserve tremendous compassion as rainbow babies stir up many emotions.
  • Hand and foot molds are often taken to honor rainbow babies as well as lost siblings.
  • Rainbow babies teach valuable lessons about patience, resilience, gratitude, and hope.

The rainbow baby concept has powerful significance. It validates the spectrum of emotions families feel. Most importantly, rainbow babies bring tremendous joy and comfort.


A rainbow baby is a baby born after pregnancy loss, infant loss, stillbirth, or neonatal death. These special babies are called rainbow babies because they represent the beauty that can follow profound grief, just as a rainbow shines bright after stormy weather passes. Rainbow babies bring a sense of renewal, purpose, and optimism back into the lives of grieving families. At the same time, rainbow babies honor the deep, lasting love families have for their lost babies. The arrival of a rainbow baby deserves celebration for the miracle it is while also remembering the loss endured. Rainbow babies teach poignant lessons about the fragility and resilience of life. Most of all, rainbow babies symbolize light conquering darkness, hope healing heartache, and the gift of life even after experiencing death. A rainbow baby bears an extraordinary beauty all its own.

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