Frequently Asked Questions
At what gestational age can you apply the watermethod?
The water method is applied to deceased babies of any gestational age. From 6 weeks of pregnancy to 42 weeks. Obviously, it has the greatest benefits in young children, when the skin is most fragile. When a child has deceased and been in the stomach for a longer period of time the skin is extremely fragile which is where the water method can be very beneficial, even in older babies. The baby’s posture is also more natural in the water. Photos are sometimes taken in the water and the child is then dressed or wrapped in a blanket and laid out in a dry area. Anything is possible.
Is special water required?
No, normal tap water is fine. Of course the composition of amniotic fluid, or strong water, is different to that of tap water. As the child will only be kept for a few days until the funeral or cremation, no special water is necessary.
What temperature should the water be?
Cold water is best for the long term in order to retain the baby’s colour. In order to say goodbye and to touch the baby, the child can also be placed in lukewarm water. The container can be kept either in or out of the fridge. If it is being stored in the fridge, the container can be comfortably kept outside of it for up to one hour with no additional cooling required. If it’s to be longer then ice cubes (in the shape of a star for example) may be added if necessary. Another option for keeping the container out of the fridge is by placing it on ice packs. Remember to place a cloth underneath as it could be slippery. Funeral directors also have special cooling plates on which you can put the basin. They must ensure that the cooling plates are not set too high as the water could freeze. This is another option for keeping the water cold if not using a fridge.
Should the water be changed?
It would only be necessary to change the water if it becomes discoloured or smells. A sickly smell may occur after a prolonged period.
You can take the baby out of the water and place it in a cloth with some plastic in it (for example an inverted cellulose mat or a part of a plastic bag). This prevents the cloth from sticking to the skin. Hold your baby tight while someone else is cleaning the bowl or container. If you prefer not to hold the baby, that is also possible. You put the container with the child in it under a gently running tap with cold water and let it run for a while. This way the water is clean again.
Ima afscheidszorg (farewell care) takes care of the funeral of babies who died around birth. Here people work who, from their own experience, know what it means if you lose your baby during pregnancy. They have a lot of experience, also with the watermethod.
More information can be found at www.ima-afscheidszorg.nl.
Can I show the baby to my children, family and friends? Wouldn't they be shocked?
A baby lying in the water generally looks very nice. A young child looks like a mini person. Especially the hands and feet often look very pretty. My advice is; first look for yourself after birth. If you don’t find the baby scary, your relatives and friends usually feel the same way.
It’s nice to be able to share the knowledge of how the baby looks like. You can talk about him or her later on, and they will know what he or she looked like.
Young children usually react very natural to a baby in the water. They find it interesting. Sometimes they say: ” he’s bathing”. They often want to touch the baby. Let them touch, no problem. You can explain children that the baby was in water in mammies belly too, also completely under water.They often look at the baby, pat the baby and start playing again. Some children like to help with changing the water and feel like a big brother or sister.
Can the water method be applied if the baby needs a post-mortem examination?
Yes, in general it can. Check with the hospital first as the doctor performing the post-mortem may not be fully aware of the water method. It may also not be possible in your case. It is recommended to take pictures immediately after the birth, before the child goes into the water. This could be important for the doctor carrying out the post-mortem. It should be noted by the doctor or midwife on the post-mortem request that the baby was placed in water straight after the birth. Following a post-mortem examination it is no longer recommended to place the child in water.
If the child has received a sturdy vest after the autopsy, he can sometimes go back into the water. Ask about this with your funeral director.
At www.sterrenkindje.nl you can order the ‘draagbox’, which includes a suitable container with wooden lid for use with the watermethod (age of the baby +/- 13-20 weeks gestational age) and a mini wrapping cloth.
How do transport the baby when it's in water?
There are two options. You can use a container with a lid. Put a nice blanket over it or wrap the container in a plastic bag. You can just walk in public with the box. If you do not have a container or bowl with a lid, drain the water from the container / bowl for transport, but leave the child in it. Now you put a cloth or bag around the tray and transport it. At home, refill the bowl or container with cold water.
Any tips on the funeral?
You can lift the child out of the water yourself, or take someone with you to do it for you. For example, place the child on a nice blanket, in a basket. Put some nice candles around it. Of course, there are several ways to think of the last goodbye. For example, you can choose to have the child cremated via the hospital. In that case, you leave it in the hospital. Thus, make sure you have taken beautiful photos, even if at that moment you think you will never look at them again. Experience shows that parents who have not taken photos almost always regret it later.
Boven De Wolken is an association that allows voluntary photographers in Belgium to visit parents who have lost their baby. They will then make a free photo session of your child.
How long can I keep the baby in the water?
We now know that you can keep a child looking presentable for up to a week in cold water. However, what you will see is that the skin absorbs more and more water whereby after a few days the child will appear swollen. After a while the child’s colour will also change. At this point it really is time for the final farewell, however difficult.
What can I do to make the baby look as beautiful as possible?
First, you can put the child in a beautiful glass bowl or plastic container. If it is transparent, provide a nice surface, for example, put a cloth under it. Soft, yellowish light can also be great for taking pictures. You can consider adding some flowers or herbs to the water.
Photographers prefer a glass square box. Curved glass (like in a bowl) can distort the baby’s measurements in the photo. You can also temporarily place the baby in a different container for taking pictures than you keep him or her in at home.
The colder the water, the better the baby looks.
On the day of the funeral or cremation, take the baby out of the water as late as possible, as the baby often darkens quickly. If you want to dress the baby, pat him or her dry with a cloth and put the clothes on quickly. Keep him or her cool.
If you have a funeral director, ask him or her for tips on keeping the baby as beautiful as possible.
On the Nova support site you will find a lot of information and practical help cards with everything you need to think about in this confusing time after the loss of your baby.