You will have been the person who had to handle the crisis, perhaps attempting resuscitation and contacting the emergency services. If you work in a nursery, you will have simultaneously had to calm the other staff and children. The police will have interviewed you, and you may feel as if your professionalism has been called into question.
The situation may have been made more difficult when the baby’s parents arrived, and you were not able to talk to them properly while the police still had questions for you.
Some parents have said they felt excluded at this early stage as the police and emergency services had more questions for the carer who was there at the scene, than for the baby’s own parents. Carers have told The Lullaby Trust that they wanted to refer and talk to the baby’s parents, but this was not allowed.
Having to speak to the parents will have been traumatic, particularly if they accuse you of causing their baby’s death. While hurtful, this reaction is natural as shocked and grieving parents try to find a reason for their baby’s death.
You may well have been reflecting upon your child-minding routines, checking that the baby received good care. The exact causes of sudden infant death are not known, but you may worry that the death could have been prevented. Even when you are sure you have done nothing wrong, and could not have acted differently, feelings of guilt can be strong.
While the death may have occurred in your care, and you may have been very fond of the baby, carers are rarely involved in the subsequent procedures, which may help many people come to terms with a death. You may not get the chance to say goodbye to the baby, grieve with the family or go to the funeral. Even though the baby who died wasn’t your own, you are likely to be experiencing shock and grief.
One nursery owner told us:
“Many people asked why I was grieving as the child wasn’t mine. Those comments really hurt and still do. I feel very isolated as there was no one that I could talk to who had been through a similar experience. I wouldn’t want anyone else to feel the pain and isolation I felt nearly ten years ago. There is a need to talk to someone who understands.”
The death of a baby may change the relationship between parent and carer and, while some friendships can be strengthened, some parents may not want to see the carer again.
One mum told us:
“It’s been six years now and I still can’t drive past the childminder’s road. I don’t blame her for his death, but I couldn’t meet her to discuss what happened that day.”
If you are a nanny, the death of a baby in your care can mean the loss of your job and sometimes your home and your circle of contacts.
How we can support you
While experiencing your own grief and trying to accept the bereaved parents’ actions, you may find it helpful to talk to an understanding person.
If you would like to talk, you can call our Bereavement Support Helpline on 0808 802 6868 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Our helpline is open 10am-5pm Mondays to Fridays and 6pm-10pm on weekends and public holidays.