First Neonatal Death


  • Specializes in NICU. Has 7 years experience.

Hi all,

I have worked in a Level II NICU for about 2.5 years. I absolutely love my job. Luckily, our babies are mostly stable so deaths are few and far between, but I knew I wouldn't be spared forever.

A few nights ago we had a baby born with a very low chance of survival. This little boy only lived for a very peaceful couple of hours as his parents didn't want any extreme measures taken. Because we were so incredibly busy, as NICU charge I was the only person available to perform bereavement care. After he passed I completed his photographs and his foot prints and plates, as well as all the paperwork and getting things settled with his parents.

I have to say, I handled it so much better than I thought I would. Of course, there were tears, but I feel like I was composed when it was most important. There is something so intimate about providing this care. I feel honored to have been such a big part in helping this family grieve and being able to provide them with tokens of their son's memory. It was devastating, yet in a way, it was beautiful.

I just wanted to share my feelings on the experience for any new or prospective NICU nurses worried about this aspect of working with sick newborns. It is so different than I anticipated. I do realize this was much different than a code situation, however, I will no longer be fearful of the actual postmortem and bereavement care. I imagine this is similar to the feeling that draws people to work in hospice. I understand the beauty in it now, which is something I never thought I would say.

I have always felt it was an honor to take care of someone's child, or be witness to a birth and be part of someone's most important part of a parent's life. I've rocked infants that had non compatible with life defects when the parents couldn't bear to. Those babies left this world knowing they were loved and cared for... there is a serene beauty to it. Some deaths will be harder than others and will stay with you for the rest of your life..It's the circle of life I become comfortable with death, talking about death, helping others deal with death


63 Posts

As a hospice nurse, just wanted to say that this was a nice post to read, a lot of folks in acute care rarely get to the place where they can see the beauty and care that goes into End of Life care and being there to help the family (no matter the age of the pt) get through such a difficult time. Peace to you.

Elvish, BSN, DNP, RN, NP

17 Articles; 5,259 Posts

Specializes in Community, OB, Nursery.

I have taken care of many stillborn babies and those who die soon after birth (extreme prematurity, anomalies not compatible with life, etc.). It is not easy but it is a privilege. I remember being terrified of the first time I had to do this as well. If parents can't hold baby for whatever reason I will, because no one should die alone.


113 Posts

Specializes in Psychiatric, Aesthetics. Has 10 years experience.

I didn't get through the 2nd paragraph without choking up. My nephew spent many weeks in NICU.

It takes a special strength to be a nurse... But a NICU takes something I can't imagine.

SoldierNurse22, BSN, RN

13 Articles; 2,058 Posts

This topic is also very relevant to L&D nurses. Many of us are with the parents and family all the way through the diagnosis, labor process and right through delivery. In the case of stillbirths and extremely premature deliveries (pre-viable) where treatment is not going to happen, we are often the ones who deliver these kiddos and help the parents and family members make use of the limited time they have to make memories with a child they'll never know. For the ones who go to NICU, it's a matter of balancing caring for mom's physical health as well as her emotional health as it pertains to baby.

I must agree with the OP--it has been one of the greatest privileges of my career to help women and their families through stillbirth, fetal loss and newborn demise.


4,083 Posts

Specializes in NICU. Has 8 years experience.

We cast molds of the baby's feet (and hands, when the conditions are ideal). I heard a story from another nurse when she was finishing the casting of the baby's feet. A mother walked past and asked how does she get a casting of her baby's feet, she was told why we make the castings. Unfortunately, a few weeks later the mother got her baby's feet casted when her baby died.


404 Posts

The death of a dream is infant loss. You are so correct in saying what an honor it is to assist families in time of such loss.