How to Plan a Funeral for an Infant

hands clasped in prayer on church pew

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It's a question nobody ever wants to ask: "How do you plan a funeral for a baby?" Planning a memorial service for a baby, however, is one way in which parents can step back a moment to remember their baby along with friends and family if they choose.

Most people may have no idea where to begin to plan a funeral for an infant, and that's okay. There is no specific organization that must be met for a service, and the only thing that is important is that it honors your baby in whatever way best meets the needs of you and your partner. Let's talk about some of the things you may wish to include, from music to readings, as well as resources that are available as you grieve.

Deciding on the Type of Service

The first question before moving forward is to decide if you want a funeral or some sort of memorial service for your baby. Again, it's important to note that there isn't a right or wrong approach.

Some people wish for a small and private memorial, whereas others welcome the support of a larger group of friends and family. Your service can be similar to a traditional service for an adult, or as simple as a spending a few minutes in quiet prayer at the graveside.

Steps in Planning a Memorial Service

Your first step is to decide whether you want a funeral or memorial service for your baby, and then whether you want a traditional funeral or only a small gathering of a few people. The service can vary from a church service to a gathering at the graveside to spending a few moments in a garden.

If you will be choosing burial over cremation, your funeral home will guide you through all of the choices. With cremation, some parents prefer to wait a while prior to having a memorial to decide what they want to do with the ashes. Some people wish to keep ashes in a special jar, whereas others prefer spreading them in a special location that honors the baby.

Below we will share some of the readings—from Christian to secular—as well as music that parents may wish to have as part of the service. Keep in mind that it's not necessary to follow a certain program. Some parents may prefer only a short time of prayer.

If you are having difficulty making a decision, try to think of what you want rather than what you believe is expected of you.

Choosing Music

Music is often a very comforting part of a funeral or memorial service and allows you to express feelings for which words alone are inadequate.

As with the rest of the service, there are not right or wrong types of music to select for a funeral. Some people prefer somber songs whereas others prefer uplifting songs. Some people prefer religious music whereas others prefer secular music. The best selections are those which you believe will honor your baby and express your feelings of loss, and/or, for those to whom faith is important, your belief in hope to come.

Common contemporary music selections for a baby's funeral include Eric Clapton's "Tears in Heaven" (written for the funeral of his 4-year-old son, Conor) and express some of the emotions that are unique to the loss of a child.

Choosing Readings

From inspirational readings to poetry, there are a number of selections which may help express the emotions for which there are few words.

Christian readings for a baby's funeral include scriptures that may provide comfort for those who are finding it difficult to cope with the death of a child who has not yet had the chance to really live. They can also cast a different light on the reasons why suffering is sometimes a part of our imperfect world.

Other people may prefer secular readings for a child's funeral, many of which give a voice to the unique heartache of infant death.

Finally, inspirational poetry for a baby's funeral may help to express emotions and feelings in a way in which anything other than poetry may fall short.

Coping With the Death of a Baby

The death of a baby is always tragic, and there are myriad feelings you may experience. These can range from feeling powerless to feeling like life has lost special meaning, to relief for some parents, as their babies fight for survival is finally over. Coping with the death of a baby is never easy, whether sudden or after a long battle.

Leaning on family and friends can be helpful, as can looking to your faith. Many parents which to preserve their baby's memory in some way with transitional objects such as photographs, others may take a lock of hair, create a memorial garden, plant a tree, or name a star.

Tips for Supporting Parents Who Have Lost a Baby

If it is a friend or family member who has lost a baby, you may not have any idea what to say (or not to say) to the parents. If you've experienced a loss or grief yourself, you are probably familiar with how painful platitudes can be. Your best response is to listen to your loved ones and validate their feelings whatever they happen to be.

It can also be thoughtful to write the date on your calendar and reach out in some way to the parents on the anniversary days, months, and years to come. You can be certain the parents will still be mourning their loss as the rest of the world seems able to get on with life.

Bottom Line

A funeral or memorial service for a baby can be as simple as gathering with a few loved ones at the graveside, to as formal as a traditional funeral, and anywhere in between. Many people find music or readings helpful to portray what words alone cannot, but there are no requirements on what you should include in a service.

As noted earlier, the purpose of your funeral is to honor your baby and bring loved ones together to support you as you grieve.

2 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Kersting A, Wagner B. Complicated grief after perinatal loss. Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2012;14(2):187-94.

  2. LeDuff L, Bradhshaw W. Blake S. Transitional Objects to Facilitate Grieving Following Perinatal Loss. Advanced Neonatal Care. 2017;(5):347-353. doi:10.1097/ANC.0000000000000429

By Jennifer White
Jennifer White has authored parenting books and has worked in childcare and education fields for over 15 years.