One of the questions asked most frequently in our parenting after loss group is for recommendations of books to read to our babies born after loss. Families are looking for books to explain their loss in age-appropriate ways to their living children, to honor their babies gone too soon.
Over the last few years, more books have become available, and we wanted to compile a list to help you choose the right books for your family.
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1. Perfectly Imperfect Family, written by Amie Lands and illustrated by Natia Gogiashvili
Perfectly Imperfect Family has quickly become a favorite for our community since its release in 2019. It is told from the perspective of a little boy who was born after the death of his older sister, Ruthie Lou. Throughout the book, he describes his family and how they include his sister in their daily lives, on special occasions and holidays, as well as how they celebrate on her birthday.
With precious illustrations, Perfectly Imperfect Family is written in simple and concrete language with which even the youngest lap readers will connect. It also provides language to toddlers and preschoolers to describe their family. Perfectly Imperfect Family really captures the experience of family life after loss and the rituals we create to remember our babies who died.
This book avoids religious metaphors, including “angel baby” and “rainbow baby,” making it accessible to the wider loss community. Read our full review, written shortly after it was released in September 2019.
From the book’s description: “Perfectly Imperfect Family acknowledges the stigma associated with pregnancy loss, infant death, sibling grief, and including a baby who has died by demonstrating loving ways in which a family can continue to celebrate their beloved baby.”
2. Happy Tears & Rainbow Babies, written by Natasha Carlow and illustrated by
Happy Tears & Rainbow Babies is written by Pregnancy After Loss Support contributor, Natasha Carlow, and is such a sweet story about a family taking a walk to the park, pointing out everything they see along the way. As they sit in the park, they see a rainbow. Seeing the rainbow makes the mommy cry, and she explains that they are happy tears. It opens the door for her to talk to her children about the babies they said goodbye to before their two living children were born. They talk about God’s promises and love. It’s a beautiful faith-based explanation of rainbow babies.
From the book’s description: “Set against the backdrop of a rainbow, Happy Tears & Rainbow Babies tells the story of how faith brought healing and hope to one family after the pain and loss of miscarriage. Written from a mother to her children, this story engages the reader in a conversation that families everywhere can share and benefit from.”
3. Whirlwinds to Rainbow: The Story of Us, written by Mark Morrison and illustrated by Michael Briones
Whirlwinds to Rainbow tells the story of a family that has experienced challenges on their journey to parenthood, celebrating the strength of the courageous mama as she lives through the heartache of loss and shows her as the superhero she is. It embraces the rainbow after the storm metaphor, showing the mama as the fierce warrior fighting through the storm for her family. It’s rhymed verse makes it a fun and engaging read for young children. It uses age-appropriate language and avoids specific language about the type of loss experienced, saying about their journey to building their family, “But it’s not an easy path for everyone,” making it relatable for different types of loss and infertility. It also avoids “angel baby” and other religious language and metaphors. The illustrations are charming, bright, and fun.
Read our full review of this engaging board book.
From the book’s description: “A tribute to the women who’ve carried the world…Whirlwinds to Rainbow is a hero’s tale. It’s a recount of actual events, narrated by a father telling his newborn Rainbow Baby the story of how Mommy saved our world. Daddy watched as the women he loves, through unyielding resolve, overcame the most ominous of storms to achieve our dream. Because of this unwavering warrior’s spirit, the future is bright and full of endless possibilities.”
4. It Had to Be You, written and illustrated by Loryn Brantz
It Had to Be You is a precious love poem to a new baby. Loryn Brantz wrote and illustrated this simple and striking board book for her daughter, who was born after a miscarriage. While the book has wide appeal, it is extra special for families who have experienced loss and infertility. “For every one of our wishes, for every bump along the way, now that you’re here, we’ve known all along…it had to be YOU!”
The delightful, high-contrast illustrations accompany the poem so beautifully and make it perfect for even the tiniest of babies. This book does not use any rainbow or religious imagery.
From the book’s description: “This sweet and playful board book tells in simple, beautiful verse how the journey that parents take to have their baby leads them to their perfect little one. By bestselling Feminist Baby creator and two-time Emmy Award winner Loryn Brantz! With lyrical text from parent to baby, It Had to Be You is perfect for fans of I’ve Loved You Since Forever and Guess How Much I Love You, and complemented by bold, high-contrast black-and-white illustrations that babies can actually see.”
5. Welcome to the Party, written by Gabrielle Union and illustrated by Ashley Evans
Welcome to the Party celebrates author Gabrielle Union’s daughter born via surrogate after years of multiple losses. They’re welcoming this sweet baby to the world with a party fit for a queen. “Say hi to your guests. They’re happy to meet you. They’ve waited so long and can’t wait to greet you.” Told with simple language and stunning illustrations, this book celebrates the baby born after heartache.
This book does not use any rainbow or religious imagery.
From the book description: “Inspired by the eagerly awaited birth of her daughter, Kaavia James Union Wade, New York Times bestselling author and award-winning actress Gabrielle Union pens a festive and universal love letter from parents to little ones, perfect for welcoming a baby to the party of life! Reminiscent of favorites such as The Wonderful Things You’ll Be by Emily Winfield Martin, I’ve Loved You Since Forever by Hoda Kotb, and Take Heart, My Child by Ainsley Earhardt, Welcome to the Party is an upbeat celebration of new life that you’ll want to enjoy with your tiny guest of honor over and over again.”
6. Someone Came Before You, written by
Someone Came Before You was the first available book for babies born after loss, and it is still many families’ favorite book. The story shows a couple meeting, falling in love, and realizing they wanted a baby. But, their baby dies, and you see them at the funeral with a small casket. They are very sad, and nothing can make them happy. But, they discover there is room in their hearts for another baby. The book also shares a few ways that the family remembers their baby who died.
The language used is very direct and is written to the child who is reading the book. The illustrations are sweet and engaging. The baby who died is shown as an angel baby in a few of the illustrations, and there is a mention of prayer. But, there are no rainbows in the book.
From the book description: “There are books for children to help them when the baby they are waiting for dies. And now there is a book for the child who comes after the one who died. It s a perfect gift just for them. It explains in a gentle way the parents desire for a child and the sadness that comes over them when that baby dies. It then shares how the parents, with the help of the baby, get to the point of wanting another child to come into their lives. The illustrator, Taylor Bills, who has an extraordinary gift of capturing feelings in his drawings that tell the story beyond words. Includes suggestions about keeping your baby’s memory alive.”
7. A Rainbow Baby Story: The Rainbow After the Storm, written by Crystal Falk and Kim Roman
A Rainbow Baby Story: The Rainbow After the Storm tells the story of a baby bird and his family. One day, while his mother is out looking for food, a storm rolls through, and it scares baby bird. When his mother returns, she comforts him and uses the opportunity to tell baby bird about the sister he was never able to meet. She explains that after a storm there is a rainbow of hope, and that he has brought his family great joy, but they will never forget his sister.
While this book uses the rainbow metaphor, there is no other religious language, making it accessible to families with a wide range of beliefs. The opening pages are filled with the names of “angel babies” and “rainbow babies,” which makes it feel even more personal. The illustrations are lovely and very colorful.
From the book description: “A Rainbow Baby Story – The Rainbow After The Storm is a book for young children, ages 2 to 6 years old that helps parents open the lines of communication explaining the loss of a sibling through miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss in a way that children can understand.”
8. The Baby Before You Died, written by Katrina Villegas and illustrated by Sandra Herrgott
The Baby Before You Died introduces the reader to William, a baby who has just been born. William’s older sibling died and his mama is feeling many different emotions after his birth. As William gets a little older, he starts to have thoughts and questions about his older sibling who died. This book walks through some of the questions a subsequent child may have, as well as the unique emotions they may experience, having never met the baby who died. It shows a family filled with love for each child and how each child is their own individual, much-loved and important in their family. It uses age-appropriate, concrete language and correct terminology, and has simple, colorful illustrations that help the child connect with the story.
This book is part of a series of five books written specifically for families who have terminated for medical reasons. You can see more about this special series in our book review.
From the book description: “A book for children of all ages who have a sibling that died before they were born- specifically for families that went through termination for medical reasons.”
9. Patiently Waiting for Hope, written by Arnold Henry and illustrated by Valeria Leonova
Patiently Waiting for Hope is a gorgeous book that just released, and the author sent us an advanced reader’s copy to review. We don’t want to spoil the story yet, but I can tell you that it’s a really sweet book with bright, beautiful illustrations. It is a faith-based story of hope and the power of prayer. We’ll also have a full review coming soon.
The description from the author’s website: “Patiently Waiting for Hope is a story for parents and children about faith after miscarriage. Inspired by the scripture Romans 12:12, the journey follows a young boy as he experiences the challenges of becoming a big brother. When his wish upon a star isn’t coming true, his parents take him on a spiritual path that introduces him to God and the power of prayers. Will his prayers be answered?”
10. Our Little Rainbow, written by Sabrina M. Crawford and illustrated by Mark Nino V. Balita
Our Little Rainbow is a newly-released (February 2020) children’s book, written to rainbow babies. “We wished for you,” it writes. The loss story in this book is very subtle, explaining, “We had quite the fight before you, my dear.” The simple rhyme of this book makes it a fun read. My favorite part of this book, though, is that it walks through each color of the rainbow, using the colors to explain how special the rainbow baby is. It’s a unique telling, making this book a nice addition to the available books.
While this book uses the rainbow metaphor, there is no other religious language used and no mention of “angel baby.”
From the book description: “20% of pregnancy’s end in miscarriage, infant loss, neonatal death or stillbirth. The numbers are likely higher, but all are not reported. A ‘rainbow baby’ is a healthy baby that is born after one of these tragic losses. In this touching children’s book, after some tears and sadness, a Mommy and Daddy dreamed about finally welcoming a precious little one! Come along on their sweet and special journey, as their adorable RAINBOW BABY is finally welcomed into the world!”
11. These Precious Little People, written by Frankie Brunker and illustrated by Gillian Gamble
These Precious Little People is written by a member of the Pregnancy After Loss Support community, and it really is a precious book. It shows a diverse group of families throughout the book and uses concrete language and rhyme to talk about loss and life after loss. It gives children permission to feel anger and sadness about these losses, and it also gives them ways to remember and honor the babies who died.
This book is also appropriate for any living child who has been affected by pregnancy and infant loss. While there are rainbows in the illustrations of this book, there is no mention of rainbow babies or any other religious metaphors or language. And the illustrations are just stunning. These Precious Little People is not available for purchase in the United States, but it can be ordered internationally through Joel the Complete Package, the non-profit that benefits from its purchase.
From the book description: “This beautifully illustrated book was created in loving memory of all babies gone too soon. The author knows from personal experience just how painful it is for a family to have to say goodbye to a precious little one and how difficult it can be to explain what happened to any living children affected. Anyone supporting children affected by the death of a baby can use this book as a way to provide a more positive focus and to help remember these precious little people with love and pride.”
12. To My Rainbow Baby with Love, written by Tamekia McCauley and illustrated by Serineh Eliasian
To My Rainbow Baby with Love is a letter written to a rainbow baby after she has discovered pictures of another baby hanging on the wall, letting her know about her sibling who died before she was born. I especially appreciate the message, “Please remember you are not a replacement for your sibling. You are your own person: happy, kind, and super amazing.” It uses clear and simple language to describe loss and life after loss.
The illustrations are super simple and very sweet. While the book uses the term “rainbow baby” there are no other religious metaphors or language used.
From the book description: “To My Rainbow Baby with Love is the heartfelt discussion a parent has with her child conceived after a prior loss. The parent wants her child to know in an age-appropriate way that sometimes babies are sick and are unable to come home. Moreover, reassurances are given to the child that she is not a replacement for her sibling and that she has her own special place within the family. This children’s book is intended for parents seeking to have an open dialogue about miscarriage and infant loss with their children. The book was written from the author’s own experience with neonatal loss. Her daughter was diagnosed with Trisomy 18, a rare chromosomal condition. It is the author’s hope that this book helps families heal together. The paperback version has a resource guide connecting the family to various miscarriage/infant loss organizations. Additionally, there is a section to personally dedicate or write a special reflection message to your rainbow baby.”
13. You are My Rainbow, written by Mary Kovacs and illustrated by Kayla Phan
You are My Rainbow is written by Mary Kovacs a member of the Pregnancy After Loss Support community and PALS Bump Day Blogger. It’s a letter to a rainbow baby, telling them about how special they are and about the baby who came before them. “You are my rainbow, my darling, my joy,” is a short and sweet verse at the beginning, and repeated at the end. Their rainbow baby is helping to heal their hearts, but there will always be a part that holds another heart.
While this book uses “rainbow baby” there is no other religious metaphors or language.
From the book description: “This book is perfect for any parents that have experienced a miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss. This book is also not of a religious nature and does not refer to the loss as a storm, as some books often do. The birth of a “rainbow baby,” a child born after loss, is a complex and emotional journey. This story depicts the love parents have for their rainbow baby. Though the parents are overjoyed, they still remember and honor their child who passed away. Through their rainbow baby, they remember, love and honor the sibling that has a place in their hearts forever.”