The term “rainbow baby” sounds bright and joyful – but what does rainbow baby mean exactly?
The truth is, having a rainbow baby may come with a spectrum of emotions.
Why? Because this is the name given to a baby conceived after a loss.
Welcoming any baby into the world brings promise and hope, but rainbow babies have a particular poignancy for new parents and families.
It’s joy and love for your new little one; but also, it arrives with an undercurrent of grief – which in turn can make some parents feel guilty.
And while that’s not surprising at all, it can still be really hard to navigate.
But what are rainbow babies? Why are they called “rainbow” babies? And what can help you if you’re expecting one?
In this article: 📝
- What is a rainbow baby?
- What is a rainbow mommy?
- What do I do if I’m expecting a rainbow baby?
- Other terms to describe babies
- What month is Rainbow Baby Day?
- What do you name a rainbow baby?
- Raising a rainbow baby: one rainbow mom’s experience
What is a rainbow baby?
A rainbow baby may feel like your very own little miracle.
And that’s where the name comes from.
As a symbol of hope and comfort for many thousands of years, rainbows are seen by some as a sign of protection.
We must admit it’s hard to ignore the tingle of joy when a rainbow appears in the sky after a storm. And this is it summed up, really: brightness and color, after darkness.
Although many parents experience loss, it’s not something that is often talked about.
But through the simple symbolism of rainbows, it can be easier for mamas to reflect on the complexity of grief and joy, and use it as a way to connect with others who have similar experiences all over the world – like in our dedicated rainbow baby groups on Peanut.
When did the term rainbow baby start?
There is some debate about when the term rainbow baby started, but we know for sure that it dates back at least as far as 2008, in Christie Brooks’ book, ‘Our Heartbreaking Choices: Forty-Six Women Share Their Stories of Interrupting a Much-Wanted Pregnancy’ – and it was around this time that it became popular in parenthood forums.
The term has also appeared in lots of books about miscarriages and infant loss.
However, it’s likely that it goes back much further, probably spreading by word-of-mouth between parents connecting over a shared experience that goes back generations.
Why are rainbow babies so special?
Well, rainbow babies are special because they are mini-miracles.
Following pregnancy loss, it can feel as though maybe babies aren’t in your future, but a rainbow baby represents your strength, resilience, and love.
Is an ectopic pregnancy a rainbow baby?
Yes, a baby after a loss due to an ectopic pregnancy is considered a rainbow baby.
Is it considered a rainbow baby after abortion?
This is a bit of a tricky area when talking about rainbow babies.
While typically, a baby is considered a rainbow baby if an abortion is carried out for medical reasons, it’s up to you if you want to call your little one a rainbow baby after an elected abortion.
Will I get pregnant after miscarriage?
Yes, it certainly is possible to get pregnant after a pregnancy loss ‒ even as soon as two weeks.
Whenever you’re physically and mentally ready, you can start trying to conceive again.
But give yourself time to heal ‒ your wellbeing is fundamental, and you matter.
How long after a miscarriage can you have a rainbow baby?
There’s absolutely no time limit to have a rainbow baby.
Rainbow babies aren’t defined by any time period for arrival.
It’s about how you experience your life, and whatever labels you want to use are fine.
Everyone experiences loss differently, and sometimes people need to take some time before trying for a baby again.
And even if you need to take a few years, you can still refer to your little one as your rainbow baby if you want to.
And for other parents, trying for a rainbow baby can be part of their healing process earlier on.
There’s no right or wrong here.
If using the term rainbow baby feels good for you and helps you describe your experiences, then go ahead and use it.
What is a rainbow mommy?
A rainbow mommy (also called rainbow mom or rainbow mama) is a mom who has a baby after a pregnancy loss.
If you want to call yourself a rainbow mom when you’re having a rainbow baby, that’s totally up to you.
What do I do if I’m expecting a rainbow baby?
If you’re expecting a rainbow baby, it’s okay to be afraid.
It’s okay to be sad.
And it’s also okay to feel overwhelming joy.
In fact, you might just pivot between dozens of different emotions on any given day.
The truth is, while rainbow babies are a beautiful thing for all the happy emotions they bring to families, there may well be bittersweet moments, too.
Treasuring your new arrival while holding love for the child you miss isn’t easy.
This isn’t simple and straightforward: it can be heart-wrenching at times.
It’s important to give yourself space to express these feelings, rather than quash or dismiss them.
You can also connect with other women who are expecting a rainbow baby, or mamas who have recently welcomed a rainbow baby into their lives on Peanut.
There are thousands of women out there who can help offer mutual support and advice.
How do you announce a rainbow pregnancy?
You may be worried about doing a rainbow pregnancy announcement or even a rainbow baby announcement once baby’s made their grand appearance.
This is also totally normal.
Some people prefer to share their news early on, so they can get support from loved ones throughout their rainbow pregnancy.
Others feel more comfortable waiting a little longer to share their news.
The important thing is to announce your pregnancy only when you are ready.
It’s also important to know there may be triggers at lots of steps down the road, as you experience “firsts” with your rainbow baby that you missed with the child that you lost.
That’s okay, too. You might feel scared or second-guess yourself.
That’s normal, and it does not mean you’re getting things wrong.
It’s also normal to feel overprotective of your new little one – or even to feel detached, as you’re afraid of losing this rainbow baby, too.
Those feelings will fade as your confidence grows over time, and there’s lots of help out there if you feel you need it.
How do you celebrate a rainbow baby?
We love the idea of using all the colors to celebrate having a rainbow baby.
Dress in multicolors, bake a rainbow cake, wear rainbow makeup ‒ even dyeing your hair rainbow colors!
But if you want to celebrate your rainbow baby in a more subtle way, you do you, mama.
Are rainbow babies healthier?
There’s no definite way to prove whether a rainbow baby is healthier than the pregnancy before it.
A rainbow baby is a baby who is born after a pregnancy loss, so in all likelihood, it’s healthier.
What percentage of babies are rainbow babies?
Rainbow babies are more common than you might think.
A lot of women experience pregnancy loss ‒ whether it’s earlier or later in their pregnancy.
The figures aren’t exact, but it could be that 26% of all pregnancies are a rainbow pregnancy.
Other terms to describe babies
“Rainbow baby” isn’t the only term used in the pregnancy and parenting communities when talking about loss.
Let’s explore the different terms and phrases used to describe babies born after loss, and what they mean for the mamas who use them.
What is a double rainbow baby?
A double rainbow baby is a baby conceived after the loss of two babies.
For some people, using the term double rainbow baby is a helpful way for them to acknowledge their two previous losses while celebrating the joy of a newborn.
But for others, it’s just too painful and complex to sum this up in a simple term or phrase.
It’s up to you.
Terms like rainbow baby and double rainbow baby are designed for people to get help and support, and describe their story without the pain of reliving details.
If it helps you, that’s great!
If not, try to develop a way of talking about your experiences that feels right for you.
What is a sunshine baby?
A sunshine baby is the name given to a baby born before the loss of a younger sibling.
Of course, having an older healthy child doesn’t lessen the grief of losing a younger one.
But celebrating a sunshine baby – their unique personality, milestones, and daily experiences – can help some grieving parents get through their toughest periods of hardship.
Of course, whether you choose to use this term at all is completely up to you.
What is a golden baby?
A golden baby is a baby born after a rainbow baby ‒ the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
So you could have a beautiful rainbow baby followed by a golden baby.
What is a unicorn baby?
A unicorn baby is a whole other type of baby ‒ they wake every 2 hours to feed.
What month is Rainbow Baby Day?
National Rainbow Baby Day is a day dedicated to remembering the babies we’ve lost and celebrating the rainbow babies we’ve since welcomed into the world.
National Rainbow Baby Day is held on 22nd August each year in the US.
There’s also National Rainbow Baby Week, which is held in the run-up to 22nd August, where many rainbow moms and mamas-to-be of rainbow babies hold events and memorials.
What do you name a rainbow baby?
Naming a rainbow baby can be especially tricky.
You want a name that’s poignant, meaningful, and hopeful, but also strong and powerful.
Here are a few of our favorite rainbow baby names:
- Aaron: Meaning “miraculous”.
- Amitola: Meaning “rainbow”.
- Bennett: Meaning “blessed”.
- Desiree: Meaning “desired”.
- Finlay: Meaning “sunbeam”.
- Iris: Meaning “rainbow”.
- Joy: Meaning “happiness”.
- Mireya: Meaning “miracle”.
- Patience: Signifying your wait for your rainbow baby.
- Phoenix: After the mythical bird, rising from the ashes.
🌈 Looking for more name inspiration? Check out our 80 Radiant Baby Names That Mean Rainbow
Raising a rainbow baby: one rainbow mom’s experience
Raising a child after a loss is meaningful and rewarding, but that’s not to say there won’t be difficult times ahead.
There may be moments when a rainbow mom wonders what life would have been like – the milestones, the events, and little moments.
In case you’re wondering what it might be like, we spoke to one rainbow baby mama about her experience.
“As you watch your rainbow baby grow into a child, teenager, and then an adult, you remember moments from the past that can be painful,” she says.
“But at some point, you start to experience milestones for the first time.
This is really wonderful, and can actually be a relief – but there are still heartbreaking moments.
You may also remember the deep excitement you felt while expecting the little one you lost.
This comes with imagining what their future would have been, and wondering how your rainbow baby would have got on with their older sibling.
It was important for me to acknowledge and address any guilt, because it was based purely on my deep love for both babies.
But loving one doesn’t diminish what I feel for the other, and I learned that it’s okay to feel like this as I processed multiple emotions all at the same time.”
The truth is that the feelings you’ll experience are very real, and very complicated.
However you feel about your loss and your rainbow baby, is valid. Remember that.
And if you need a space where you can talk about your loss, your worry, and your excitement for your rainbow baby, you’re always welcome in our Peanut community.
🌈 More from The 411:
What Does a Miscarriage Look Like?
Meghan Markle, You’re Not Alone - Here’s Why
What to Say to Someone Who Had a Miscarriage
What to Know About Stress While Pregnant
Beautiful Rainbow Baby Quotes