What Is a Rainbow Baby?

Medically Reviewed by Jabeen Begum, MD on October 25, 2023
5 min read

A rainbow baby is a term for a baby that's born after the parents have a pregnancy loss. The name draws on the symbol of the rainbow, representing beauty after a dark time.

Nearly one in four pregnancies end in loss. That could be a miscarriage, stillbirth, or ectopic or molar pregnancy. Parents who are pregnant again after a loss might go through a wide range of emotions like grief, joy, confusion, sadness, and anxiety.

A mom who welcomed her own rainbow babies after a journey through infertility and pregnancy loss came up with the idea of a day to recognize and support families in the same situation. She started National Rainbow Baby Day in 2018, and the event quickly spread on social media. Now, every August 22 is an opportunity for families to publicly celebrate their living children and to honor the siblings that did not survive.

It's important to take time to grieve after the loss of a child and to understand the grieving process. Grief is a very personal and complex emotion. Even if you're anticipating the joyful arrival of your rainbow baby, you can still mourn for the baby you lost.

Some steps may help you through the grieving process:

Create memories of your baby. This could mean planting a garden or tree in honor of your child, making a box of memories, or talking about your loss with your other children. Some hospitals offer to make hand and footprints of your baby as a keepsake, take pictures, or give them a christening or other religious acts.

Talk with others who've been there. This could mean joining a grief group, talking with people you know who have lost a baby, or even just talking with your spouse. This helps you realize that you're not alone and could bring a measure of comfort.

Communicate with your partner. We all deal with grief differently, and during this time, our emotions can be everywhere at once. Talk to your partner about how they're feeling and communicate throughout the pregnancy about your wishes and worries.

Pregnancy loss resources

Many organizations are out there where you can find information and support, both when you've lost a pregnancy and when you're having a rainbow baby, such as:

Most women who lose a baby will get pregnant again. Your body takes time to heal, but it's your mental state that will often take the longest to recover.

Expecting again can raise a slew of conflicting emotions like guilt, relief, excitement, and sadness. You can go through every emotion, grieve the way you want to grieve, and celebrate this new pregnancy however you like. You might want to keep it to yourself until your pregnancy becomes visible, and that's OK, too.

Take care of yourself and your new baby by making sure you're getting the right nutrition. This includes:

Vitamins. Vitamins and minerals will help make sure your rainbow baby is developing the way they should. Folic acid is particularly important because every cell in your body requires it to develop. Experts recommend 400 micrograms of folic acid daily.

Regular checkups. This will offer some peace of mind that your pregnancy is on the right track.

A healthy weight and proper diet. Talk to your doctor about how you can keep a healthy weight during pregnancy. Often, rainbow babies come with the help of fertility treatments, which can make you gain or lose weight. Staying active brings mental benefits, which can help you cope with anxiety and work through emotions.

Avoiding smoking or drugs. Reach out to your doctor if you need help.

Rainbow baby announcement ideas

The people who mourned your loss along with you will likely welcome the news of your rainbow baby with enthusiasm. But even with the best intentions, people may have questions or comments that can upset you. If they haven't been there, they don't know what you're feeling.

You can use your pregnancy or birth announcements to set the appropriate tone. You may want to start by telling your closest family and friends in person first, so you can get their support. A lot of parents use rainbow imagery in their announcements because it keeps in mind the baby that was lost while you celebrate the baby that's coming.

One idea you may see on social media is a photo of a rainbow painted on the baby bump. You could also superimpose a picture of a real rainbow over an ultrasound or a family photo. If you have older kids, you could enlist them to draw rainbows to decorate a traditional paper announcement.

If you go through pregnancy loss, you're at a higher risk of postpartum depression and anxiety. You might have anxiety about losing this baby, too.

Some tools and strategies can help ease your mind:

  • Remember that this pregnancy isn't the same as your last one. Just because you lost your other baby doesn't mean you'll lose this one, too.
  • Manage stress. Avoid stressors from your life during this special time. If you work, talk to your boss about how you can delegate some responsibilities to reduce stress.
  • Talk to a therapist or counselor about your fears. Often, talking openly can help us manage fears and anxiety by eliminating what-if scenarios.
  • Try meditation. Mindful meditation allows you to focus on the present without judgment. Meditation has been shown to improve depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder.
  • Think about what you're grateful for. Practicing gratitude makes us happier. Recognizing all the good in your life, even outside of this new pregnancy, can lead to more satisfaction and help build stronger relationships.

A rainbow baby is a term for a child born after a family has suffered a pregnancy loss. The experience often comes with complicated emotions. It's normal to feel anxious when you're pregnant again and even guilt about being happy. It's important to take care of yourself and reach out for support.

What are rainbow twins?

Twins born after a pregnancy loss can be called rainbow twins.

What is a sunshine baby?

The older sibling of a child lost during pregnancy is sometimes referred to as a sunshine baby.

What is a double rainbow baby?

A double (or triple or beyond) rainbow baby is a term for a child born after more than one pregnancy loss.