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Taking your child home - time together after death

  • Spending family time at home with your child after they have died can be very precious. This information is to help you care for your own health and safety while you have your child with you.

    It is helpful to talk with a funeral director before or soon after taking your child home. They can inform you about changes that will occur to your child's body some time after death such as stiffening and discoloration. How long this takes varies according to when and why your child died, whether autopsy has been performed and the environmental conditions. Some people find these changes distressing and a funeral director may suggest that your child be embalmed. The embalming process allows your child to be home for a longer period of time with minimal changes to his/her body.

    Changes may also be delayed by keeping your child cool, for example using ice in an 'Esky' or bath (which must be cleaned thoroughly afterwards), using a portable air-conditioner or fan. It is not safe or recommended to use a home refrigerator.

    The risk of transmission of infection from your child to members of your family is minimal. However, we do suggest a few basic precautions:

    • Wash your hands with soap and water after handling your child especially before eating or drinking
    • Cover any open cuts or abrasions that you might have with a dressing·
    • Ask your doctor about specific infections your child may have had.·

    Your child is likely to have a disposable nappy on. This is because it is not unusual for bowel and bladder movements to occur after death. There is also likely to be other dressings on your child to minimise any fluid loss.

    It is important that you take your child to a funeral director or organise your own burial / cremation as the law requires that your child be buried or cremated. If you plan to make your own arrangements you will need to seek advice as the law requires you to fulfil certain obligations prior to cremation or burial. There are regulations governing where and how your child is buried or cremated. Contact your local crematorium or see Information for medical practitioners & funeral directors: Cemetaries & Crematoria ( for more information.

    Developed by the RCH Bereavement Committee.  First published Feb 2007.  Not available through Kids Health Info website.


This information is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professionals. The authors of these consumer health information handouts have made a considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easy to understand. The Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in these handouts. Information contained in the handouts is updated regularly and therefore you should always check you are referring to the most recent version of the handout. The onus is on you, the user, to ensure that you have downloaded the most up-to-date version of a consumer health information handout.