It's no secret that having a new baby brings with it an undeniable sense of joy, hope, and purpose into a family. Sometimes, however, that joy is offset by the pain of a loss, making the baby's presence feel all the more important. Having a sunshine baby exemplifies this range of emotions tenfold. But, what is a sunshine baby exactly, and why are they so special for families in the midst of loss?
You have probably read terms like rainbow baby and sunshine baby used by parents on social media. Even in real life, parents will often refer to their children in this way, especially when they’ve experienced a loss. A sunshine baby refers to a child who was born prior to the loss of a pregnancy, baby, or child.
Although the use of the term rainbow baby is usually more common than the use of sunshine baby, there is actually a significant difference between the two. Both refer to the way a new baby can soothe the pain of a loss, but the timing of the loss is where the terms diverge. While parenting a rainbow baby is special from the moment parents find out they're expecting, a sunshine baby doesn’t typically take on this same comforting role until after a loss is experienced. That’s not to say that every pregnancy isn't special and exciting, there is just a heightened combination of anticipation, excitement, and fear after already experiencing a loss with a rainbow baby.
Because a sunshine baby is a baby that is born before a pregnancy loss as opposed to afterward, sometimes sunshine babies are actually toddlers or even older children. They’re not necessarily still in the baby stage, but they provide a level of comfort nonetheless.
Because of the important role sunshine babies play in the lives of parents who have experienced a loss, January 22 is designated as Sunshine Baby Day, according to BabyGaga, a day which can help parents acknowledge their loss while also celebrating their beloved child.
After a pregnancy loss, it may feel especially difficult to do even the simplest of things, but having a sunshine baby to care for can help establish a sense of normalcy. Despite the heavy fog of grief, a sunshine baby can also serve as a reminder of all of the wonderful, joyous parts of life and parenthood that still exist. Loving on them and watching them smile, blissfully unaware of the pain you’re experiencing, can also bring about a certain level of comfort.
When you’ve experienced a pregnancy loss, a sunshine baby can also be a major source of hope. Knowing that you have successfully carried a healthy baby to term before can help re-establish a sense of optimism about the possibility of that very same thing happening again one day.
Some families also use the term sunshine baby to refer not only to a baby born before a pregnancy or infant loss, but before the loss of any loved one. Sometimes this means that a baby is born when a parent or family member is in the midst of a terminal illness. While it might seem a bit ominous to have a term for a baby before the family has even experienced a loss, in reality, a sunshine baby will take on a very needed and important role once the loss happens, be it expected or unexpected.
Of course, each and every baby plays a significant role in their family’s lives, but in the face of loss, a sunshine baby can provide a whole new sense of comfort and security for a grieving family.
This article was originally published on