When a baby’s life is brief, parents must fit a lifetime of love and memories into mere moments.
Without adequate support, resources, and options, many bereaved parents face regrets in the weeks and months following the loss of their baby.
While spending time creating tangible memories with their little one will not take away the devastating grief a parent experiences, offering options that give parents more time with their babies can help alleviate some of those regrets.
As a perinatal loss support professional, I walk with families experiencing miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death every day.
I have the distinct privilege of helping to take away some of the fear a parent feels when meeting a baby who is born sleeping so that they can see the beauty of their precious child.
There is no one more equipped to parent a baby, whether alive or not, than his or her parents.
My job is to help foster an environment where parents can feel comfortable creating memories with a baby who is no longer living.
We help them celebrate their little one because all babies are worthy of celebration.
There are many tools that we use to help ensure a parent experiences their time with their baby. Their story… their way.
One part of a more comprehensive perinatal loss support plan that helps provide a gift of time for grieving parents is a cooling device.
A cooling device helps keep the baby’s temperature low, preserving the baby’s condition.
There are several options for parents who may wish to use this tool to keep their baby in the room with them.
One of the most well-known cooling devices is Cuddle Cot. The Cuddle Cot was developed by Flexmort, a mortuary supply company located in the United Kingdom.
The machines pump cold water through the tubes and into a mat, which is laid in a Moses basket or hospital crib. A receiving blanket is laid over the mat.
The baby lies on top of the blanket and mat. Keeping baby cool helps to preserve her condition.
At first, I was skeptical of how parents would respond to the machine and if it would be a comfort to them. I soon discovered the benefits of the cot.
The condition of the babies who spent time on the cot improved drastically after just a few hours.
The skin returned to its original shade, and the babies’ general appearance improved continually, even days after they passed.
Mothers who experienced a C-section or other delivery complications no longer had to push themselves to create memories with their baby while feeling ill.
They could now rest knowing that their deceased baby’s conditions would not change quickly if they chose to nap for a moment.
Families could keep their babies with them rather than sending them to other areas of the hospital to be cooled.
Many mothers and families have been so blessed by the gift of time provided by the use of the Cuddle Cot, they have held fundraisers to donate cots to their local hospitals in memory of their children.
Some of these families have found comfort in knowing that because their baby lived, another family may get to spend more time with their baby as they say hello and goodbye.
More recently, an American company developed a cooling device called the Caring Cradle. It does not require distilled water or other additions.
A Caring Cradle is an all-in-one unit, cooling the actual bed. It is a relatively new device, but yields the same result, giving parents more time with their babies.
Many families have hosted fundraisers to donate Caring Cradles to their local hospitals and organizations as well.
Both the Cuddle Cot and Caring Cradle come with hefty price tags. The cost ranges from about $3500-$5000.
What can you do to help preserve your baby’s condition if you cannot afford one of these devices?
Or if you do not have access to them?
Alternative Cooling Methods
Before we had access to a cooling device, or in the situations when our Cuddle malfunctioned, we have used alternative methods to help preserve the baby’s condition.
– Ice packs are not ideal, but they do help. Place ice in a ziplock baggie, wrap baggie with a blanket and place around the baby.
– Large gel packs can be purchased or made using rubbing alcohol and water. They can be kept in the freezer at the hospital. Find out how to make homemade gel ice packs here.
– Purchase a cooling therapy pump for $120-600. Pumps, such as the Ossur Cold Therapy device, work with the same basic philosophy as the Cuddle Cot. Add water and ice, which pumps through a tube and into a mat. The mat lays in the baby bed, keeping baby cool. Replenish ice and water every few hours. Hospitals have access to plenty of ice and water.
Whatever method is used, grieving parents benefit from spending as much time as they want and need with their babies.
It is important to remember that a cooling device is an excellent tool in giving parents more time.
However, without adequate support, many bereaved families may still not feel comfortable creating memories with their babies.
A cooling plan should only be a small part of a comprehensive support program.
Quality perinatal loss support programs offer resources, support, memory-making, remembrance photography, and more.
Families are much more likely to utilize resources like a Cuddle Cot or Caring Cradle when a trained support person is available to offer options and resources.
Kelly Gerken is the president and founder of Sufficient Grace Ministries, an organization providing perinatal hospice services, bereavement support and Dreams of You memory-making materials to families facing the loss of a baby through miscarriage, stillbirth, infant death and the death of a young child. Kelly has walked through the loss of three of her five children, and now reaches out to walk with other grieving families as an SGM perinatal loss support doula and SGM Remembrance Photographer. She is a creator and facilitator of training for birth professionals on compassionate care for bereaved parents facing perinatal loss. Her memoir, Sufficient Grace, was published in 2014. You can read more about Kelly’s journey of grace, hope and healing and the outreaches of SGM, order resources or find her book here: www.sufficientgraceministries.org.