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Meeting, holding and bonding with your baby...

Your rights as a parent

After giving birth to your baby, you may feel differently as you first did at the proposition of meeting and holding them. This is normal and due to the “love drug” hormone, Oxytocin, has been released from your brain. You may still feel scared or worried to touch or move them. This is ok. First, it is important to know your rights as a parent:


  • There is no legal limit of time you can spend with your baby - You have the right to see them at any time prior to discharge and if a Cuddle Cot/Caring Cradle/Cooling bed is available, it should be offered to you to help give the gift of time. No one from the care team can dictate if or when the baby leaves your presence or how much time you can spend with them.

  • Meeting your baby when others are not on board - If your partner or other family members are not interested or able to meet or hold your baby, you still can do so. Grief is so personal and sensitive. We should still do what is in our hearts even if others do not agree. Please understand too, that their feelings may change throughout the process.

  • Holding your baby - If you are on board with meeting and holding your baby, there is nothing wrong with wanting to not put them down. It is ok also if you need breaks. You are this baby’s parent, and you are in charge of the experience and your opportunity to parent your baby.

  • Memory making/bonding - You have the right to bathe, groom, dress and parent your baby any way you wish or that feels right to you. Most families have stated that while this is overwhelming in the moments they are happening, they serve as a positive and helpful memory in their healing postpartum.

  • Specific birthing options – If you had a procedure that limits your ability to meet your baby the way you imagined, your baby’s remains can be placed in a special vessel that can be presented to you in a dignified way.


It is important to remember

  • Time is limited - Unfortunately, there is a very small window of time for you to spend together in these moments. While it feel overwhelming, most families will participate even though they are fearful. After it is complete, that overwhelming fear transforms to overwhelming gratitude.

  • Doing the “right” thing - It can feel impossible to fit a lifetime of memories in such a short time, but it is possible. There is no right or wrong way to do something that feels healing to your heart. We support your choices.

  • Opinions of others/care team – You are in full authority to request a new care provider until you find the one that is right for you and respects your wishes for your birth, your baby/family and postpartum support.


Bonding and making memories with your baby

We know it can be overwhelming anticipating the birth of a baby or a baby who has passed away. What is true is: Your baby is beautiful, they matter and deserve to be loved and celebrated. Below are some ways you can make memories and bond with your baby. Remember, there is no right or wrong way, but we do encourage you to spend as much time with your baby as you can.


  • Requesting a spiritual sacrament or blessing – Even if babies cannot be baptized, a spiritual blessing can be given to the baby by clergy, a family member or friend or you as the parent yourself. If your specific faith requires death rituals, please be sure to discuss with your care provider so that they can assist in coordinating on your behalf.

  • Bathing your baby – You can request the care team to bathe the baby for you (to remove bodily fluids, blood and meconium) or you can bathe the baby as a family. Using a small foot basin, warm water, soap and a washcloth, you can bathe and dry your baby, diaper and lotion them, dress and groom their hair. 

  • Bonding with baby/Memory making – It is normal to want to hold the baby to your breast/chest or face. In fact, hormonally, our bodies are encouraging that to happen as it does not know the baby has passed away. Skin-to-skin bonding can still occur and has a positive benefit. Dad/Non-birthing parent can also hold and bond with the baby similarly. Additionally, families can take hand and footprints and create items to take home.

  • Family bonding – Many families use this time privately simply to hold, talk to and cuddle their baby. Additionally, other families open bonding up to siblings, grandparents and other loved ones. Many families dress their baby in outfits, bring gifts/keepsakes, read books or sing lullabies to them. Some family want to take their baby outside in the sunlight, others have expressed them wanting to taste certain things like chocolate or ethnic foods. Some parents want to dance with their babies and some have even celebrated and mourned their baby with a birthday cake. There is no right or wrong way to create special traditions with your baby.

  • Photos and video – It is completely normal to want to capture the time spent making memories. Even if a volunteer photographer is available we encourage you to take as many photos as possible. You can never take too many.

Infant remembrance portraiture

Three Little Birds was founded in response to the lack of support, resources and encouragement received by the Co-Founders from their medical care team during both the experience of stillbirth and ectopic pregnancy. Months after being discharged from the hospital, they discovered an organization that dispatches volunteer photographers to capture bonding, memory making and family bedside. It was not offered by the hospital and unfortunately, there wasn’t much captured from their experience.


Looking back, they have said that because she was so overwhelmed by grief, fear and exhaustion, if it had been offered, they would have initially declined. However, she knows her immediate family would have encouraged her to reconsider and if it had been offered as a part of standard care and protocol for perinatal loss, she wouldn’t have even thought twice about it. Because this is something she wishes she had, they have dedicated their lives to ensure each family is offered these services, even if they ultimately decide, it is not for them. That is normal.


However, the families we have served will say, as hard as those moments were while they were in them, they were glad someone was thinking not only about them but for them in their grieving process now and in the future. Families do not have to immediately view or download the photos we offer to them, however, there does come a time when you may become curious and are comforted with joy and positive memories from these photos once you do view them. Many families hang these photos in their homes and share them on social media.


This gift is provided at no cost to you

When a volunteer bereavement doula is available, we will dispatch them to support you through our Bedside Bereavement Program. If a volunteer is unavailable, we can retouch any photographs taken by medical staff, family or friends (with a signed consent form). If you do not live in the Philadelphia and South Jersey region, you can seek availability of similar services from Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep ( They can dispatch volunteers by zip code throughout the country.


What you can expect

  • Sessions last generally 30-45 minutes, and the trained photographer will lead you and your family as you make memories together. They will help in posing and creating unique and lasting memories.

  • Photos will include a mix of the baby, their special details, photos with parents, siblings, grandparents, other loved ones, as well as images that capture memory making and candid family time.

  • You are free to include any personal items, clothing, religious relics or gifts/keepsakes in the photography.

  • Your photographer will also leave you with a card to explain the process to view and download your photos once you are ready through our free online gallery.

  • After carefully editing your images and converting them to black and white, a link will be sent to your email to an online gallery.Here, your images will remain until you are ready to view them. There are also options to purchase professional quality prints if you choose.

  • If a volunteer Bereavement Doula is not available, we can retouch any photos taken by the family or medical care team with a signed consent form.

Requesting our services...

If you are delivering at a hospital in our service region in the Philadelphia/Southern New Jersey metro region, please complete this form for details on our availability.

Support outside our region...

If you live outside our service region, there are other groups similar to ours that provide similar services. Below is a listing of groups that may be able to help closer to your community:

  • Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep - Nationwide organization that dispatches volunteer photographers to provide the gift of infant remembrance portraiture. See their website for details on how to request their support.

  • Sweet Grace Ministries - This group offer resources to families enduring ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, stillbirth, life limiting diagnosis, and infant death. We offer help and support in the form of baskets, comfort bags, photography, support groups, remembrance events, mentor couples, and more throughout central Pennsylvania.

  • Pittsburgh Bereavement Doulas - The mission of Pittsburgh Bereavement Doulas is to support birthing persons and their loved ones who are experiencing pregnancy or newborn loss by providing compassionate guidance through the process of birth, meeting baby for the first time, making the time together meaningful, and saying goodbye.

  • - A national directory of birth and bereavement doulas, many of whom provide photography support. You can search for support by state and region.

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