What does rainbow baby mean? And why are rainbow babies so special

A rainbow baby has so many special meanings

Rainbow baby ilustrated by Baby on grown up shoulders under a rainbow outside
(Image credit: Getty Images / Future)

‘What does rainbow baby mean?’ has seen a recent massive spike in Google search, as parents nationwide celebrated Rainbow Baby day on Sunday 22nd August. 

The journey to becoming a parent looks different for everyone, for some it’s a smooth ride with no bumps, for others, there are bumps… and miscarriage (opens in new tab),  stillbirth (opens in new tab), heartbreak and tears. Rainbow babies are recognised as honouring an angel baby, they can be truly beautiful after a scary and dark experience. 

Registered midwife and co-founder of My Expert Midwife, Lesley Gilchrist, tells us; “Parents can experience a range of complex emotions following the birth of their rainbow baby."

Some of the emotions are joy and celebration, maybe gifting them with a Rainbow Baby name (opens in new tab) or cute onesie with a rainbow on the front, can help start and keep the conversation of baby loss going, encourage other parents to share their loss and help process it. Which many see as a good thing. 

Mum-of-one, Lisa tells us; “Leah is my rainbow baby. She was the light at the end of my dark heart broken tunnel. She’s three now and I celebrate Rainbow Baby Day every year as I want to be comfortable talking about my loss to help other parents do the same.”

 What does rainbow baby mean? 

It is when a healthy baby is born after the loss of a baby due to miscarriage, stillbirth, or neonatal death. The term ‘rainbow baby’ has been used widely in the baby loss community for many years and it comes from the idea of a rainbow following a storm. 

Lesley Gilchrist (opens in new tab), agrees; “A rainbow baby is a term used to describe a baby born after a previous pregnancy or baby loss. This could be after the parents have experienced a miscarriage, stillbirth or had a baby which died shortly after birth." 

However for some parents the term rainbow babies takes away from their loss, it over-simplifies their grief, for others, a rainbow baby symbolises light after a dark time. 

While some rainbow babies are described as ‘miracle babies’, as they can have a huge impact on helping parents overcome their loss, a rainbow pregnancy can be hard to navigate. 

Mum-of-twins Priya tells us; “My second pregnancy wasn’t as joyous. It was tinged with anxiety and guilt and worry. I was terrified of going to the loo in case I saw blood. The fear was very real and I didn’t enjoy my pregnancy. It wasn’t until they were here, safe and sound, that I started to really take it all in.”

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Why rainbow babies are special

A rainbow baby can bring with it a huge surge of love and joy at a very difficult time. Having a baby after a loss, whether it’s a miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal, can help you and your partner and family to process it, rainbow babies are treasured reminders. 

Lesley says, "Parents can experience a range of complex emotions following the birth of their rainbow baby, which can cover a whole spectrum: joy at having a newborn healthy baby, relief that the pregnancy is over, as well as guilt, sadness and mourning for their previous baby who is no longer here.”

The arrival of a rainbow baby is an emotional time in so many ways, it can bring up conflicting feelings and memories. 

Don’t be alarmed if, even after delivering your rainbow baby you still feel sadness over your previous pregnancy. This is to be expected and totally normal, be kind to yourself. 

Support with baby loss

People who have experienced infant loss are at an increased risk for postpartum depression and anxiety. It’s important to process the full spectrum of emotions losing a baby will cause you. Lean on your partner for their support, consult medical professionals, and connect with others who may have also experienced a similar loss.

While it might feel impossible to ever fully recover emotionally from the pain and grief of losing your baby, there are resources available to help.

Should you, your partner or your family need support try these charities; 

When is National Rainbow Baby Day?

National Rainbow Baby Day is celebrated annually on August 22nd, it started in 2018 and is a day when families commemorate and talk openly about their list infants.

What does 'double rainbow baby' mean?

This is the term used and recognised for a healthy baby born to parents who have experienced two previous losses. 

Is there a difference between a rainbow baby and an angel baby?

A rainbow baby is a healthy baby born after a loss of any gestation or any age during infancy, whereas an angel baby is the term for the baby who passed away at any point in pregnancy of after birth during infancy.

Can a miscarriage be a rainbow baby?

Yes, a rainbow baby is a baby born after miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, molar pregnancy, termination for medical reasons, stillbirth or neonatal death. 

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